Chicago gets last laugh as funniest city in U.S., says CU-Boulder study

April 20, 2014 •

Chicago is the funniest city in the United States, according to a University of Colorado Boulder study.

Boston is the No. 2 wise guy, followed by Atlanta in third place. Denver made the top 10 list at No. 8.

The study out today is the most comprehensive analysis of humorous cities and was led by Peter McGraw, associate professor of marketing and psychology at CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. His team collected data across the nation using an algorithm created at his Humor Research Lab (HuRL).

According to the findings, the following are the top 10 funniest cities in the United States:

1.    Chicago
2.    Boston
3.    Atlanta
4.    Washington, D.C.
5.    Portland, Ore.
6.    New York
7.    Los Angeles
8.    Denver
9.    San Francisco
10.  Seattle

The project grew out of McGraw’s new book co-authored with Journalist Joel Warner, “The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny.”

“We found humor often has a local flavor,” said McGraw. “The jokes that get laughs at comedy clubs in Denver seem unlikely to fly with a cartoon editor at The New Yorker, for example. The kind of torturous game shows that some Japanese find amusing would likely fall flat to a sitcom producer in Los Angeles.”

Over a nine-month period, McGraw and his team surveyed the 50 largest U.S. cities to track the frequency of visits by community members to comedy websites; the number of comedy clubs per square mile; traveling comedians’ ratings of each city’s comedy club audiences; the number of native-born famous comedians; the number of local funny tweeters; the number of local comedy radio stations; and the frequency of humor-related Web searches originating in each city.

Co-authors of the study were Warner, Adrian Ward, senior research associate at the Leeds School and Caleb Warren, assistant professor of marketing at Texas A&M University.

“A city’s humor score isn’t just a measure of historic reputation or big-name productions,” said Ward. “It’s a way of looking at the day-to-day lives of people in that city. A city’s sense of humor is a living, breathing thing, created by everything from coffee shop conversations to Web videos shared between friends to the laughter that erupts at comedy clubs.”

The researchers also conducted a survey of more than 900 residents from the top 10 cities deemed funny by the algorithm. The team asked the residents about the kinds of funny entertainment they enjoy and whether they look for humor in their friends and partners. In addition the residents took a personality test assessing their “need for levity.”

Participants also described their city’s sense of humor and told their favorite joke.

“The result was a window into the humor profiles of each of the top 10 cities,” said McGraw. “Boston residents balance high-brow intellectualism with drunken rowdiness while Washington, D.C., finds humor in the absurdities of political systems. Portlanders are just plain weird."

Also involved in the study were CU-Boulder undergraduate students Christopher Miller, Alexandra Weiner, Allison Paul, Anthony Levy, Hayley Dunn, Alec Wilkie and graduate student Erin Percival Carter.

To see the study, including a list of all 50 funniest cities and humor profiles, visit http://humorcode.com/funniest-cities.

“The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny” details McGraw and Warner’s international journey inspired by McGraw’s benign violation theory of humor.

Contacts

Peter McGraw, 303-735-3661
peter.mcgraw@colorado.edu
Adrian Ward
adrian.ward@colorado.edu
Caleb Warren
cwarren@mays.tamu.edu
Joel Warner
joelmwarner@gmail.com
Elizabeth Lock, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3117
elizabeth.lock@colorado.edu

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