[The Infinite Monkey Cage] Science of Laughter

Science of Laughter

13/01/2020 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: https://podplayer.net/?id=92701964
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p07ztlph.mp3

The Science of Laughter

Brian Cox and Robin Ince return for a new series of science/comedy chat. They are joined on stage, appropriately enough, by comedian Frank Skinner, as they look at the science of what makes us laugh, why we laugh at all, and whether humour and laughter are uniquely human traits. Joining the panel are experts in what makes us chuckle, Prof Sophie Scott and Professor Richard Wiseman. They look at why laughter is not only an ancient human trait that goes a long way to making us the social animal we are today, but that rats and apes also enjoy a good chuckle. They discover whether science can come up with the perfect joke and why a joke with the punchline “quack” is funnier than one with the punchline “moo”.

Producer: Alexandra Feachem

Listen date: mid February 2020


  • I remember very little of this, which seems to be a problem I have with IMC
  • Things I do remember: rats and gorillas also laugh
  • Laughing has a social purpose to display nonthreateningness / nonthreatenedness. Which ties in with what Because Internet says about emoji and the use of “LOL”.
  • Prof Sophie Scott talking about nonverbal communication was very tantalising and I’d like to see a program about only that.
  • The discussion about comedians doing lateral thinking made me wonder if quizzers are the same. That is probably a little too self-congratulatory as a first-level thought. But I’d like to see comedians and quizzers interact, or be studied, to see how their brains work either the same way or in other ways.
  • In fact, this goes to a lot of the discussions Alice Fraser has on Tea With Alice. I don’t think even comedians all think the same way or understand how exactly they do comedy.


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