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Chicago is America's Funniest City

America's second city is first in your hearts when it comes to comedy. And now we have the research to prove it.

John Belushi and Bill Murray, Chicago's comedy gift to America. You're welcome.
John Belushi and Bill Murray, Chicago's comedy gift to America. You're welcome.

Chicago is the funniest city in America. And not just because we gave the world John Belushi and Bill Murray.

Though, really, that would be enough.

A group of academics at the Humor Research Lab, headquartered at the University of Colorado Boulder, painstakingly analyzed America's funny bone and found that the denizens of the Windy City laugh first, last and best.

Not only did the researchers look at the number of famous comedians born in the city, they studied:

  • 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 funny tweeters living in each city
  • number of comedy radio stations available in each city
  • frequency of humor-related web searches originating in each city

After identifying the top 10, the Humor Research Lab team interviewed 900 people about what makes them laugh — and how do they joke about their city.

"A city’s sense of humor is a living, breathing thing, created by everything from coffee shop conversations to Web videos shared between friends to the laughter that erupts at comedy clubs," said Adrian Ward, a senior research associate who worked on the study.

Chicagoans prefer "deadpan and quick-witted humor," according to the study — a lot of directed at what sucks about life in Chicago. (Oh, the Cubs, the Cubs.)

The project grew out of a new book by Peter McGraw, associate professor of marketing and psychology at the university, who co-authored "The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny" with journalist Joel Warner.

However, Chicagoans cannot tell a joke, the researchers concluded.

"Many Chicago residents surveyed noted that they could not think of any zingers, since they prefer to mine observational humor from the situations in which they find themselves," the report noted. "Such remarks seem to fit with the city’s professional comedy scene, since the city is known as a mecca for improv and standup.”

One Chicagoan told the researchers: "We also have a lot of humor about our public transportation system, the CTA, due to how dangerous it is."

Remember all the funny comments you heard after the CTA driver fell asleep at the controls and plowed her Blue Line train into the station at O'Hare Airport last month?

Other cities to make the Top 10 list, and what the research suggests, include:

2. Boston: Dry, intellectual, humor balanced by low-brow, drunken rowdiness

3. Atlanta: Racially-charged humor

4. Washington, D.C.: Political and cynical humor

5. Portland, Ore.: Quirky, absurd, and just plain weird

6. New York: Fast-paced and high-stress comedy

7. Los Angeles: Cynical show-business zingers

8. Denver: Laid-back (and pot-fueled) comedy

9. San Francisco: Comedic tension between "liberal" San Francisco and "high-tech" San Francisco

10. Seattle: Snooty, intellectual humor

Read the full report (and local jokes) via PDF

On Twitter: @DennisRobaugh


What do you think? Past or present, who's the funniest person to call Chicago home?

Greg Smith April 21, 2014 at 01:20 PM
Per capita I would rate Peoria, IL as the funniest city since the area produced Richard Pryor, Sam Kineson, and Jim Ardis, the corporate fascist joke of a mayor who forced a police raid on someone because they had a Twitter parody account of him.
D L April 21, 2014 at 02:21 PM
And even the Politicians are funny!
sklogw April 21, 2014 at 03:53 PM
HaHa very funny Mother F******
sklogw April 21, 2014 at 03:54 PM
A quote from Eddie Murphy (Not from Chicago) LMAO
Gary April 21, 2014 at 05:28 PM
Well ... Illinois IS a national joke, so ....

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