You can’t say that: In-group jokes go over better

(Credit: Getty Images)

New research confirms that you might not want to tell a joke about a group of people unless you’re a member of that group. In-group jokes get more laughs.

“If you make a joke about a group you belong to, our research shows that your joke will be considered funnier, less offensive, and more acceptable than if someone from outside your group were to make the exact same joke,” says Michael Thai of the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology.

One study found a gay joke was better received when it came from a gay person instead of a straight person, while another revealed people were more accepting if an Asian joke came from an Asian person rather than someone from another social group.

A third study found that people were consistently more receptive to humor based on gender, race, and sexual orientation if the source of the humor was a member of the disparaged group.

“This research confirms what many of us already intuitively understand—it is more permissible for people to make jokes about groups they belong to than groups they don’t belong to,” Thai says.

Thai proposes that this conventional norm we adhere to when judging humor could explain some of the backlash against comedians who make jokes at the expense of groups they do not belong to.

“Comedian Shane Gillis was recently fired from Saturday Night Live after revelations he had made derogatory jokes about Asian and gay people in the past,” he says. “Perhaps he wouldn’t have experienced such upbraiding if he was Asian or gay himself, and therefore had license to make such jokes.

“Our research suggests that a disparaging joke will draw the most favorable response if the punchline remains firmly within group boundaries.”

Coauthors of the study are from Fort Lewis College and Griffith University. The work appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Source: University of Queensland