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Seeing the Joke with Data Visualization

William Trotman
Marketing Director, Big Data & Analytics EMEA

As we enter August, the largest arts festival in the world kicks off – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Lasting most of August, it celebrates art of all kinds, but is one of the biggest calendar events for comedians. Often setting up with shows that run for the duration of the festival, it’s an opportunity for the latest comedy talent to try their material.

So how can comedians ensure they’re hitting the right spot with audiences when pulling together their shows? This brings us to the penultimate blog in the series taking data sets from unorthodox sources and analyzing them with data visualization as part of Oracle Analytics Cloud. We wanted to take a look at the best jokes from the past seven years – using the UK TV channel Dave Funniest Joke of the Fringe award and shortlists.

As usual, we worked with Ismail Syed, Oracle UK Intern, to run our analysis and create data visualizations. We decided to look at the most common words used in award winning jokes as well as their length and the gender of the people telling them – we wanted to know if we could see the punchline coming.       

What’s so funny?

What themes are resonating at the Fringe each year? With this data set, we’ve created a word cloud showing the most popular words used in winning jokes (with typical words such as ‘and’ ‘or’ ‘the’, etc. removed). It looks like Cadburys chocolate – specifically Wispa bars – was the butt of one of the jokes one year, and Posh and Becks (aka David and Victoria Beckham) are both in there as the subject of a joke from another year. Jokes that pull on familiar reference points have all resonated – note that ‘Dad’ is a topic, as are ‘technology’, ‘housework’ and ‘Fairy Tales’ (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).

Broadening out the visual to factor in all of the shortlisted jokes, other ‘people’ are, naturally, a focal point. Also popular joke fodder are ‘friends’ and ‘cars’. Note that other halves and sex are a common topic for popular gags - perhaps due to the relatability – ‘wives’ tend to be mentioned more than ‘husbands’, but the latter still get airtime in Fringe material. 

Who’s having the most laughs?

On average, jokes from men have become shorter since the awards started, whereas jokes from women have stayed around the same length. In 2012, jokes from both genders were the acutest, getting to the punchline that bit quicker. Overall, the longest joke was 111 characters, delivered in 2015 by a women, whilst the shortest was 71 characters, coincidentally in the same year by a man. On average, an award-winning joke is 76 characters in length, so bear that in mind next time you want to find a balance between boring and amusing your friends.

Overall, far more men are shortlisted for their jokes each year than women. That could largely be due to the ratio of men to women who take their shows to the Fringe. In 2013, you’ll notice the discrepancy was particularly bad – with no women making the shortlist of best jokes. The number, while peaking in 2016, then fell considerably for 2017 as well. A woman has never won the accolade of funniest joke at the Fringe. Perhaps this year could be the year?

Having the last laugh

So, as you can see, when presented in the right way, data can be analysed to get insights into any kind of information – even how to best tell a joke.

With so much data available to businesses today, just as there are so many shows at the Edinburgh Festival to choose from, data visualization tools are vital in helping you easily find the information you need to know.

Are you a frequent data user who thinks spreadsheets are beyond the joke? You should consider Oracle Analytics Cloud to help you find the punchline. Why not find out more, view a short demo and sign up for a trial.

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