Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Muffin Joke - Is it funny?

So there are these two muffins baking in an oven.

One of them yells, “Wow, it’s hot in here!”

And the other muffin replies: “Holy sh*t! A talking muffin!”


I think it's pretty darn hilarious.

Tuesday's New York Times, however, has an article discussing laughter and the muffin joke, which the author, a Mr. John Tierney, rather haughtily disparages as NOT funny and states that "most laughter has little to do with humor," but is merely a social lubricant.

Occasionally we’re surprised into laughing at something funny, but most laughter has little to do with humor. It’s an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about getting along.

Thus, the article contends that the only reason anyone could laugh at or find the muffin joke to be funny is for purposes of "getting along" and that laughter arises or is particularly useful in social situations involving a disparate power dynamic, i.e., it occurs more typically in a situation in which social inferiors are responding to social superiors, rather than between colleagues.

As evidence of the assertion that laughter is just a social lubricant, and not a response to humor, the article states that when the speaker ("a lowly graduate student") was telling the muffin joke to his undergraduate class, the response was laughter, but when talking to a conference of (more prominent) neuroscientists, he got nothing.

Well, okay. But has anyone, in the entire history of the human race, ever said, "Oh boy! A conference of neuroscientists! That'll be a barrel of laughs!"

2 comments:

Norma said...

I don't agree with the analysis of humor--or why would I laugh sitting at my computer with no one in the house up, no one to respond?

But I also didn't laugh at the muffin joke. I don't get it. Maybe it just takes more to make a librarian laugh?

alvina said...

I heard that muffin joke a while ago and thought it was really funny.

But I do think perhaps that people tend to pay more attention to people they deem more "important"--so perhaps the neuroscientists just weren't listening.

Friends of mine tried a better social experiment. They told a joke that wasn't really a joke to see who would laugh. They found that some people would laugh anyway, even though they didn't "get" it (there was nothing to get!) while others, like me, kinda smiled and said, "I don't get it." I think some people are afraid to be excluded and choose to just laugh or pretend to laugh even if something is not funny, for various obvious reasons.

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