Exercise 1

A. Listen. What is Edgar upset about?

B. Listen again. Answer the questions.

1   Why is Artur surprised?

2   Why didn’t the audience laugh at Edgar’s humor?

3   How many types of humor did Edgar use during his presentation? What were they?

4   What is Edgar likely to change during his next presentation?



His presentation didn’t go well. He told some jokes and they fell flat.


 because Edgar’s presentation did not go well

 Possible answers: They found the different jokes to be offensive, or they just didn’t understand them.

 three; a standard joke, a one-liner, and sarcasm

 Possible answers: He’ll avoid jokes that don’t translate well across cultures; he’ll pay more attention to the audience; he’ll avoid sarcasm; he may use slapstick humor


Artur:   Hey Edgar, you gave a presentation today, didn’t you? How did it go?

Edgar:   Don’t ask.

Artur:   Uh oh. What happened?

Edgar:   I totally bombed.

Artur:   You bombed? But you’re a great presenter.

Edgar:   Well, not today. I started off with a joke to break the ice, you know, the one about the salesman and the dog?

Artur:   Oh yeah, that’s hilarious!

Edgar:   Well, this group didn’t think so. Hardly anyone even cracked a smile, let alone laughed. It fell completely flat.

Artur:   Oh, no. That’s too bad.

Edgar:   You’re telling me. I just stood there, looking like an idiot. And things didn’t get much better after that.

Artur:   What do you think happened? You’ve told that joke before, and everyone always cracks up.

Edgar:   I’m not sure.

Artur:   Well, who was in the audience?

Edgar:   People from the global team—some from the U.S., some from Southeast Asia, others from the Middle East…

Artur:   Oh. Well, in some cultures, people don’t usually keep dogs as pets like in North and South America, right? Maybe that was the problem.

Edgar:   Of course, you’re right! No wonder they didn’t laugh. I probably offended them.

Artur:   I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Humor is a really tricky thing. It doesn’t always translate very well. Even if you don’t offend someone, they might not laugh because they just don’t get the joke.

Edgar:   I’m sure you’re right.

Artur:   Well, don’t beat yourself up. Even now, after working with people from different cultures all these years, I’ll sometimes hear a joke and think I’m understanding everything. Then they get to the punchline and everyone else is in hysterics, but I just don’t get it.

Edgar:   Yeah, that’s happened to me, too. I usually just pretend I get it and laugh along, hoping that no one asks me a question about it. But today no one was pretending. They just stared at me. And to make matters worse, I tried again a little bit later with a one-liner, and they stared at me again. And then I made a sarcastic comment about how they didn’t seem to like my jokes. Well, that didn’t help at all.

Artur:   Yeah, sarcasm is really hard to pull off in a cross-cultural situation.

Edgar:   Now what am I going to do? You know how much I like to joke around.

Artur:   I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Just be yourself—most of the time it works out. Today was just a bad day. Oh, and you can always use slapstick humor. You’re really good at it, and I’ve heard that it’s the one type of humor that’s universal.

Edgar:   Thanks. Next time I’ll just remember to bring out my inner clown…and I’ll avoid sarcasm.

Exercise 2

A. Listen. Which of the questions is not answered in the podcast?

 Which animals laugh?

 Why do humans laugh?

c   Why do only mammals laugh?

B. Listen again. Answer the questions.

 Why do we laugh?

 When do we laugh?

 Do animals laugh? How do we know?





Possible answers:

1   laughter leads to social bonding; laughter marks group territory; laughter is good for our health

2   when we agree with or understand someone; when we are in the same group as someone; when we are speaking; when we are with other people, not alone

3   We’re not 100% sure but we believe so. We believe this to be true because certain animals made sounds when tickled, when normally they do not make these kinds of sounds otherwise.


Good afternoon. Our topic today on That’s Fascinating is one that I’m sure you’ll enjoy: Laughter. We’re going to be talking about why we laugh, when we laugh, and whether other animals laugh, too.

So, let’s get started with the most basic question: Why do we laugh? Evolutionary biologists are always interested in why certain behaviors evolve. How did it benefit the survival of our species? After much study, scientists believe that laughter serves several important purposes. First, it leads to social bonding. Given that our species is highly social and we rely on each other for survival, it seems that laughter gives us an evolutionary advantage by bringing us together. Laughter can also be used to mark group territory—to create an in-group and exclude those who do not belong in the group. The creation of in-groups encourages bonding amongst group members. And finally, laughter helps us to alleviate stress and tension. When we laugh, chemicals that reduce stress are released in our brains. And that makes us feel better and is good for our health.

Now, let’s discuss when we laugh. When asked when they laugh, many people respond that they laugh at jokes, funny movies, slapstick humor, etc. But in fact, most of the time the things that we laugh at are not funny at all. And this goes back to the most important evolutionary use for laughter—to form and maintain social bonds. People laugh when they understand or agree with something, and when they are in the same group as others. Another interesting fact is that the person speaking is much more likely to laugh than those listening. This suggests that laughter might be a way to show control and domination. Another piece of research backs up the theory that laughter is mainly important to social interaction: people rarely laugh when they are alone, even while reading a funny story. Being alone, you’re not engaging in social behavior, so laughter serves no purpose, and thus is quite rare.

Our final question is about whether laughter is unique to human beings. There is evidence that apes and chimpanzees do something that looks and sounds very much like human laughter, as do dogs, and even rats. How have scientists tested this? By observing and recording animals’ play behaviors, and, as strange as it might seem, tickling the animals. Apes, chimps, rats, and dogs all make sounds when they’re playing and when they’re tickled. Given that these animals never make these sounds at any other time, scientists have concluded that they’re quite similar to human laughter. And since play behavior is found in all mammals, it’s likely that the list of animals who laugh will become longer as scientists study this behavior in more and more species.

Exercise 3

A. Listen. Complete the chart.

Tip 1: Know your audience.

Tip 2: Get the material right.

Tip 3: It’s all in the delivery.

1________ your joke to your audience.

Stick to broader, 2________ contexts.

Avoid jokes that play on 3________.

Joke about 4________, celebrities or everyday situations.

Use your 5________ as inspiration.

6________ a joke to hook your audience.

Use 7________ elements, such as characters, setting, plot, conflict, and an element of 8________.

Joke telling requires 9________.

10________ words in a punchline, or pause before the punchline.

Liven up a joke with 11________.

Be confident. But don’t 12________ at your own jokes!

B. What is the speaker’s goal?



1 Tailor   2 everyday   3 negative stereotypes

4 current affairs   5 own life   6 Personalize

7 storytelling   8 surprise   9 rhythm

10 Emphasize   11 sound effects   12 laugh


to help people tell better jokes


Do You Want to Hear a Joke?

Have you heard the one about the sick banana? No? Well, he went to the hospital because he was peeling really badly.

Who doesn’t love a good joke? Everyone likes to laugh, right? But what about telling jokes? It’s not so easy. Telling jokes is a real art form. A great joke, like one of mine of course, can light up a room. A bad one can leave the joke teller wishing the ground would swallow him up. Today I’m going to share three tips to help you turn those awkward moments into fts of laughter.

Tip Number 1: Know your audience.

Some types of humor only work with a certain type of audience. Your friends might like political jokes, but your co-workers might not, or vice-versa! For that reason, it’s important to tailor your jokes to your audience. If you’re unsure of the audience, stick to broader, everyday topics like shopping, eating, watching TV, and so on, as these are likely a shared context for most audiences.

And regardless of who your audience is, as a general rule, it’s best to steer clear of jokes that play on negative stereotypes. That type of humor is antiquated, and can be extremely offensive.

Tip Number 2: Get the material right.

Anyone can use another comedian’s ideas, but how do you come up with something of your own that’s entertaining, original, and funny? If you want to create original material, then you’ll need inspiration. There are plenty of sources for good material. For example, you could joke about current affairs, celebrities, or, as I said, everyday situations. But the first place I always look for inspiration is my own life. Personalizing a joke is a great way to hook your audience.

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of jokes that start off anecdotally like this… “So, I’m sitting on the train, minding my own business, when this guy comes up to me and says…” See, it’s a hook. It got you interested. I hope it did anyway!

The best jokes also include all of the common storytelling elements you learned about in school: characters and a setting, an overall plot, some kind of conflict, and an element of surprise, otherwise known as the punchline.

That last point leads nicely into tip number 3—it’s all in the delivery.

Joke telling requires rhythm–don’t fly through the material. Instead, give the audience time to process it. You can emphasize words in the punchline to highlight that the listener should pay attention to them, or even pause before the punchline to signpost it, like this: “Why was the skeleton afraid of the storm? He didn’t have any guts.”

Be sure to vary your voice. If there are multiple characters in a joke, make sure they have voices. Liven up a joke with sound effects if needed. Use a range of techniques like these to engage your audience.

And last, be confident! Believe that your joke will make your audience laugh. Tell the joke with a smile on your face. This says that you know what you’re saying is funny. But remember that golden rule–don’t laugh at your own jokes!

So, there are my three big tips for all of you wannabe comedians. These are sure-fire ways to get your audience belly laughing!

Exercise 4

Listen the article. Answer the questions, according to the article.

 What were the goals of the LaughLab project and how were they achieved?

 Why was the winning joke considered so funny?

 What were the key findings of the LaughLab project?

 What, if any, was the overall impact of the LaughLab project?


Possible answers:

1   The LaughLab project set out to discover the world’s funniest joke. People submitted jokes online. They also rated other jokes on a funniness scale.

2   The winning joke had the three elements of universal appeal: it gave the audience a feeling of superiority, reduced the emotional impact of an anxiety-provoking situation, and it was incongruous.

3   The final paragraph states that the LaughLab findings were not scientific fact. However, the project gave an insight into: the world’s funniest joke in English, people’s senses of humor around the world, and what content makes a good joke.

4   Although the author mentions various findings from the study, she concludes by stating that the results of the project aren’t scientific fact. This suggests that the LaughLab study was just for fun.



Is it possible to identify the funniest joke in the world? A few decades ago, a research project called the LaughLab project set out to do just that. The findings were, as you’d expect, very amusing!

Participants from around the world were invited to submit their favorite jokes online. They were also asked to rate other peoples’ jokes on a 5-point scale of funniness. The 40,000 English jokes submitted were rated by around 350,000 participants from seventy different countries. The data collected allowed researchers to explore which types of jokes had universal appeal, which humor was popular in certain countries, and crucially, what was the world’s greatest gag.

After all votes were cast, this joke submitted by UK psychiatrist Gurpal Gosall topped the ratings:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”

The project also shed some light on why this joke is considered so hilarious. Dr. Robert Wiseman, the LaughLab project leader, noted that jokes with universal appeal often include certain similar elements. He explained, “Sometimes [they] make us feel superior to others, reduce the emotional impact of anxiety-provoking situations, or surprise us because of some kind of incongruity. The hunters joke contained all three elements.”

Further findings revealed that people from different countries have different senses of humor. For example, respondents from France and Denmark preferred more offbeat, surreal humor, such as the cow joke (see below, left). British and Australian respondents showed a preference for word play, such as the fly joke (see below, right). Americans and Canadians tended to prefer jokes that made others look foolish, like the hunter joke. Germans, on the other hand, tended to find every type of humor funny.

Two cows are in a field. One says “moo.”

The other says, “I was going to say that!”

Q: What do you call a fly with no wings?

A: A walk. 

The project yielded plenty more curious findings. Results revealed that the funniest animal jokes usually include a duck and jokes including around 100 words were rated funnier than others. Furthermore, researchers learned that the least funny joke in the world was actually one of the most frequently submitted! The childhood classic, “What’s brown and sticky? A stick,” was submitted over 300 times, yet it failed to receive any positive ratings.

The LaughLab project taught us a lot about what’s considered funny and by whom. Its findings can’t be taken as scientific fact, but the project did offer a fun insight into humor around the globe. Most importantly, it revealed something we’ve all been dying to know. For the best chance of having a successful stand-up comedy show, you should pack your material with duck jokes, because they quack people up!

Exercise 5

Listen. Check (✓) the correct answers.




Can’t say

 Upon hearing the joke, everyone on the team cracked up.

 Hiro was laughing while telling a joke.

 The speakers feel entertained upon hearing Kevin’s jokes.

 Mona laughs only when relaxed and in the company of good friends.

 Andre wants to read a review before going to the comedy show.

 Claire uses a lot of sarcasm when telling jokes.


1 False   2 True   3 False   4 Can’t say

5 True   6 Can’t say



A:   How did your team respond to the joke?

B:   Not great. I guess the timing was off, and it fell flat. No one really laughed—or even smiled for that matter.


A:   Did you understand Hiro’s joke?

B:   No. He couldn’t even finish it. He was laughing too hard to speak.


A:   I don’t appreciate Kevin’s humor.

B:   I know what you mean. He tries really hard to be funny, but he usually comes across as sarcastic and rude.


A:   Mona is so serious. Does she ever laugh?

B:   I don’t think so. We were all joking around at lunch today. It was hilarious, but Mona didn’t even crack a smile.


A:   Hey, Andre. Do you want to go to the standup comedy show with us tonight?

B:   I’m not sure. I want to read a review first. I don’t like silly slapstick humor.


A:   I still don’t really get most of Claire’s jokes.

B:   It takes a while to get used to her humor. She always keeps a straight face while delivering the funniest one-liners. It can be hard to know when she’s serious and when she’s joking.

Exercise 6

Listen. Circle the sentence that has the same meaning as what you hear.

1    a   Wanting to be heard, Flora spoke in a loud, clear voice.

      b   Trying to be polite, Flora cleared her throat.

2    a   Shrugging, Ava gave the best answer she could think of.

      b   Not knowing the answer, Ava shrugged and shook her head.

3    a   Having put the design project on hold, we met our deadline.

      b   Given that our deadline is two days away, we should make the presentation our priority.

4    a   I’ve forgotten my classmate’s name since running into him at a conference last week.

      b   Having forgotten my classmate’s name, I felt embarrassed.

5    a   Having broken his arm, Taka is writing with his left hand.

      b   Given that Taka’s note is really hard to read, I’m going to call him.

6    a   Unable to attend the meeting, Hana asked us to record it.

      b   Having recorded the meeting, Hana doesn’t need to attend.


1 a   2 b   3 b   4 b   5 a   6 a


1   Nervous, Flora cleared her throat and looked at the audience. She spoke in a loud, clear voice because she wanted to be heard.

2   Not sure what to say, Ava remained silent. She didn’t know the answer, so she simply shrugged and shook her head.

3   Let’s put the design project on hold for now. We should make the presentation our priority today since our deadline is in only two days.

4   I ran into a former classmate at a conference last weekend. I was really embarrassed because I’d forgotten his name.

5   Taka’s note is really hard to read. He’s normally right handed, but he broke his arm last week, so he has to write with his left hand.

6   Can someone record the meeting? Since Hana is unable to attend the meeting, she asked if we could record it for her.

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