Sick jokes

Or, which country has the darkest sense of humour?

Reading an interesting BBC news feature the other day about why people tell sick jokes, I found myself naturally wanting to know the sorts of things that the article couldn’t quite tell me such as:  How many people actually like these jokes  or look for them online? And are they a universal phenomena or do certain countries have a tendency towards black humour?

These questions can be answered to a point by looking at what people search for on the internet (their internet searches) which is great at giving you information on proportionality, time and geography.  It’s a huge source of data that we can dig into to find out things about the world we live in.

The recent spate of high profile natural disasters gives us an opportunity to look into the questions about sick jokes by analyzing searchers behavior online.

Do a lot of people like sick jokes?

In a word,  yes.  ‘Tsunami jokes’ was the 12th most popular tsunami search term in the UK around the time of the disaster.










Which countries have the darkest humour?

I’m ashamed to say this but it looks like the UK leads the way when it comes to sick jokes around the recent tsunami, followed by Australia and the US (the darker the blue on the map below, the more searches there were for ‘sick jokes’)










The chart below shows general searches for ‘sick jokes’ by country







What does this tell us?

I’m not a sociologist (my old sociology teacher would attest to that) and when I interpret the above it’s just my own conclusions that I’m drawing based on my own experience and not any particular social science / psychological background.

1.  I suspect the people seeking and telling these jokes aren’t a particularly nasty bunch and nor do they find the events funny (they’d be horrified if someone affected by the tragedy actually read or heard one).

2.  There may also be a perceived kind of kudos attached to the person telling the sick joke  “look at me, I’m not affected by it”,  “I’m strong and can laugh at it”.

3.  The British are a reserved, outwardly cold bunch however we all need to let out things that affect us emotionally.  Whilst some nations cry, wail, get angry upon being emotionally charged, maybe our release valve is to laugh?

That’s not to say that I agree sick jokes are necessary or right just because they may serve a purpose.  In frontline emergency services, dark humour  helps staff to cope because to face up to the tragedy they see everyday would just be too much without some psychological escape route however in the case of natural disasters there’s little chance of the general population being traumatised by events happening thousands of miles away and more empathy with the victims is needed rather than detachment made possible through the sick jokes.

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4 thoughts on “Sick jokes

  1. Mr. Reid disagreed with the final edit of this program and withdrew his support of it. The reason being it totally distorted the truth about what is needed to correct America’s sick healthcare system.

    For those familiar with Mr. Reid’s ground breaking program (video), “Sick Around The World”, they know that the producers of this new video totally distorted the conclusion of Mr. Reid’s findings from his investigation. Karen Ignagni, Pres. of the insurance company lobby group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP),and primary force behind the “Harry and Louise” ads that killed Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform in 1992, was given the spotlight in this video; at the expense of Mr. Reid’s narrative of Single Payer Healthcare being the most viable solution to America’s healthcare crisis.

    It is unfortunate that Frontline allowed the insurance lobby to distort and betray Mr. Reid’s work. PBS should be ashamed.

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