Every two years, the charity Comic Relief runs the Red Nose Day telethon. It also sells merchandise, and in 2009 this included whoopee cushions. As my contribution to the comic fundraising that year, I ran a psychoacoustic experiment to find the funniest whoopee cushion sound. I’m having to retire the website that hosted the experiment because the web technologies I used have become obsolete. The idea of this blog is to archive the vital scientific discoveries I made, for posterity.
Who took part
Over six years, the experiment collected 400,000 ratings of whoopee cushion sounds from about 68,000 participants. The analysis below is for the first 200,000 ratings. What participants had to do was to listen to a whoopee cushion sound and rate it on a scale from 1 to 6 for how funny they found it. Each participant rated up to six sounds.
What was found
Longer Whoopee Cushion Sounds Are funnier
The funniest sound was extremely long (7 seconds). So it is better to sit down on a whoopee slowly for maximum effect. The sounds below illustrate this, with short, medium and long examples:
I have included the R2 value on the graph of the results below, because this was a serious science experiment with proper statistical analysis.
Sounds with a whinny quality were funnier
8 out of the 11 most funny sounds had some whinny quality to them. Here is an example:
The sounds got funnier the more you heard
There is a standard rule of three in comedy, but as the graph below shows, things just kept getting funnier over the six sounds auditioned.
Effect of age
Children found whoopee sounds funnier than adults, especially those under the age of ten.
And finally …
Thank you for everyone who took part in the experiment. We made a series of videos at the end of the experiment to say thank you for those who took part. The most popular of these asked the question, Does whoopee cushion size matter?
Download 20 whoopee sounds in MP3 format soundsfunny.zip