Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why jokes make people laugh -- or not

During my first lecture this semester, the students were split into two groups in two different classrooms, and I taught the same half-lecture twice, once in each room. I made a few jokes, and observed that, in the first classroom, students laughed and seemed to appreciate them, but in the second classroom, the exact same jokes elicited, at best, a very lukewarm response.

Same jokes, same public, same context. Why do people sometimes laugh and sometimes not?

7 comments:

  1. maybe you told it differently the second time? maybe they sensed that you were expecting the audience to laugh?

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  2. Maybe the demographics weren't really the same. For instance, how were the classes split up. Was it the people who arrived later who went to the second classroom as were the people split at random.

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  3. One is French, the other is American?

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  4. The people who arrived later were the ones who went to the second room. Yes, it is possible that I said it differently the second time. One other possible factor: the second room was a sloped amphitheater, so I was much farther away from the students.

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  5. If the joke feels old to you, you cannot deliver it well. This is why I go to great lengths to not rehearse talks.
    -mihai

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  6. i don't rehearse the jokes, but i do rehearse the technical part, and that does improve with practice.

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