Funny People Are Smarter Than Everyone Else, Says Science

It's more than just making someone laugh.

laughing women Look Studio / Shutterstock

What would you do if someone said to you, "Be funny — right now"? Would you immediately come up with a comedic gold joke or a hilarious story?

Funny on demand isn't that easy. You might be funny when you're with your friends but are shy about cracking jokes with strangers. Are you someone that appreciates humor more when someone else is the source of the funny, rather than being the laugh-bringer, yourself?


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Being both funny and able to appreciate humor are signs of above-average intelligence.

In a studyresearchers Gil Greengross and Geoffrey Miller, both from the University of New Mexico, and Rod. A. Martin from the University of Western Ontario studied a group of college students and asked them to perform a humorous task by creating made-up profiles of people based on some basic information.

The study participants then rated how funny the other participant's answers were, and were asked to complete tests of general intelligence, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, sociability, and neuroticism.


The researchers found that general intelligence was a strong predictor of humor, independent of the other variables. The researchers concluded that humor is a sign of underlying cognitive ability and fitness.

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In another study conducted by William E. Hauck and John W. Thomas of Bucknell University, the researchers studied 3 variables: creativity, intelligence, and a sense of humor. They found that while creativity and intelligence were independent of each other, humor related to both creativity and intelligence.

There are many different types of humor: slapstick, deadpan, dirty, topical, dark, satire, parody, and surreal. Some take a higher degree of intelligence to appreciate than others, like satire. Satire is one of the most difficult types of humor because it relies on intelligence to be successful.

Amy Schumer, who's funny in many different ways, is extremely gifted at satire. Her parody sketch 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer was one of the funniest sketches on television all year. It obviously took smarts both to write it and enjoy it, as there were many elements needed to fully appreciate it.


It was a take-off of a 1957 black and white televised play, commenting on how actresses are judged on their looks or their "bang-ability," and it highlighted the misogyny that tends to be an undercurrent in Hollywood. Did you have to understand all those things to find it funny? No, but having the intelligence to recognize these things made the humor even funnier.

You can't make fun of something if you don't understand it first, and it takes creativity to use the right kind of platform for its funniness.

Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant, intelligent scientists in the world is known for his sharp sense of humor. Coincidence? I think not! It's more likely that funny people are just plain smarter.


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Christine Schoenwald is a writer of YA novels and has essays in the LA Times, Salon, Woman's Day, Medium, Ravishly, and YourTango. Follow her on Twitter.