What makes a good joke? Self deprecation, odd numbers or quoting Sylvia Plath? Nope, turns out the answer is familiarity, meaning that a joke is funnier if we know it’s coming or have heard it before.
Well, that’s what science says. Specifically, a December 2013 study called Cognition and Emotion, by Sascha Topolinski, a psychologist at the University of Cologne in Germany.
As Scientific American explains:
"In his studies, Topolinski presented subjects with 30 jokes. But first they saw 15 words—one word from half of the punch lines. Subjects found those 15 jokes funnier than the others. They could not predict the punch lines from the hints, which means the words did not spoil the jokes; they just made the punch lines quicker to process."
In other words, jokes are funny when people can process the joke faster. The sooner the “haha” or the “ahaha” or the “rofl 4 realz” moment, the funnier the joke becomes. So a familiar joke, or joke pattern, gets an advantage.
So for example, Stefan is so funny that he makes himself laugh because we know he is going to say the most ridiculous thing you’ve probably heard that week, and you know how he’s going to say it.
It’s funny because we know it’s coming.
And it’s also why after 10 years, we Can’t. Stop. Quoting. Mean. Girls. They’re funny because we are familiar with the lines.
So much for being original.