Problem: Humor is a real and helpful coping strategy. From the darkest depths of despair, a joke may rise. The risk there, of course, is that everyone may not find it funny, that a joke, even one intended to release a little tension in the aftermath of something traumatic, might come across as inappropriate. You may be met with a narrowing of the eyes and a contemptuous “Too soon.”
But when, exactly, is a joke too soon? Can it be too late? They say comedy is tragedy plus time, but how much time? What is the exact best moment to deploy your joke for maximum laughs? Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Texas A&M University mapped this out for the benefit of nervous jokesters everywhere.
Methodology: A total of 1,064 participants took an online survey at various times before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012. “Although most tragedies are unanticipated, hurricanes permit a full exploration of the humor derived from tragedy because they are tracked and publicized before they inflict harm,” the researchers reasoned.
I’m actually just going to quote the study’s own description of its methodology here, because it’s adorably academic: “Participants responded to three tweets (i.e., short messages) posted on the website twitter.com, by an account titled @AHurricaneSandy about the approaching storm (e.g., ‘‘JUS BLEW DA ROOF OFF A OLIVE GARDEN FREE BREADSTICKS 4 EVERYONE’’; Figure 1).”