By Bradford Hornsby

In a new pseudo-scientific study released by the University of Colorado professor Peter McGraw and the Humor Research Lab (HuRL), San Francisco has ranked ninth in a list of “The 50 Funniest Cities in America.”

McGraw along with Joel Warner wrote “The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny.” The book attempts at “a far-reaching search for the secret behind humor.”

As for the “The 50 Funniest Cities in America” list, the HuRL team created what they have termed the Humor Algorithm (HA).

Humor Algorithm (HA) is:

  • Frequency of visits to Cheezburger comedy websites, such as Lolcats and FAIL Blog
  • Number of comedy clubs per square mile in each city
  • Traveling comedians’ ratings of each city’s comedy-club audiences
  • Number of famous comedians born in each city, divided by city population
  • Number of famous funny tweeters living in each city, divided by city population
  • Number of comedy radio stations available in each city
  • Frequency of humor-related web searches originating in each city

Going beyond the Humor Algorithm, the team also did personal surveys of individual in the cities to try and improve the accuracy of the top ten.

The Top Ten:

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Atlanta, GA
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Portland, OR
  6. New York, NY
  7. Los Angeles, CA
  8. Denver, CO
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Seattle, WA

San Francisco Findings:

Summary: Comedic tension between “liberal” San Francisco and “high-tech” San Francisco

In the past, San Francisco-based comedy was rooted in the city’s liberal leanings and slightly zany personality (as opposed to the full-blown zaniness of Portland). As one resident put it, “San Francisco is full of crazy characters, in all neighborhoods. You can walk down the street at any given time and see wacky clothing, strange behavior, and overall craziness.” But lately, the growth of the tech sector has led to more intellectual humor. (“People who have been here longer are for the most part a little weird… The influx of tech people has made humor perhaps be a bit more nerdy/geeky.”) The tension between the two worlds generates lots of jokes.

Representative jokes:

“What does a gay horse eat? Heeyyyyy.”

“An electron and a positron walk into a bar. The positron says, ‘This round’s on me.’ The electron says, ‘Are you sure?’ The positron says, ‘I’m positive.’”


Other Northern California cities also made the top 50 with Oakland at 21st, Sacramento at 23rd, and San Jose at 29th.

Read the full list of 50 and learn about the study and “The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny” at

50 funniest cities humor code infographic 940px Study Ranks San Francisco As 9th Funniest City In America


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