The Funniest Video Ever on YouTube?

Well, I think that this is proof-positive that the programmers and algorithm writers who control many aspects of our lives–from our search engines, to our smart phones, to our GPS devices–may be on a plane of intelligence far above the rest of us, but they still haven’t cracked the code of what makes humans human. Will they ever? Of course, this has been a topic fiercely debated ever since the rise of the concept of “artificial intelligence,” but I’ve always been a skeptic. It seems to me that you can’t quantify that many vagaries and mysteries of the human experience, especially our emotions.

But the programmers at Google are trying their best, regardless. A team of researchers there recently tried to quantify comedy–what makes us laugh. By tallying up the number of “LOLs” and other humor indicators that appear in the comments section of YouTube videos, the researchers came up with a list of the so-called funniest videos on the web.

Here’s Google on how the researchers devised the algorithm:

  • In a previous post, we talked about quantification of musical talent using machine learning on acoustic features forYouTube Music Slam. We wondered if we could do the same for funny videos, i.e. answer questions such as: is a video funny, how funny do viewers think it is, and why is it funny? We noticed a few audiovisual patterns across comedy videos on YouTube, such as shaky camera motion or audible laughter, which we can automatically detect. While content-based features worked well for music, identifying humor based on just such features is AI-Complete. Humor preference is subjective, perhaps even more so than musical taste.

  • . . . We captured the uploader’s belief in the funniness of their video via features based on title, description and tags. Viewers’ reactions, in the form of comments, further validate a video’s comedic value. To this end we computed more text features based on words associated with amusement in comments. These included (a) sounds associated with laughter such as hahaha, with culture-dependent variants such as hehehe, jajaja, kekeke, (b) web acronyms such as lol, lmao, rofl, (c) funny and synonyms of funny, and (d) emoticons such as :), ;-), xP. We then trained classifiers to identify funny videos and then tell us why they are funny by categorizing them into genres such as “funny pets”, “spoofs or parodies”, “standup”, “pranks”, and “funny commercials”.
  • Next we needed an algorithm to rank these funny videos by comedic potential, e.g. is “Charlie bit my finger” funnier than “David after dentist”? Raw viewcount on its own is insufficient as a ranking metric since it is biased by video age and exposure. We noticed that viewers emphasize their reaction to funny videos in several ways: e.g. capitalization (LOL), elongation (loooooool), repetition (lolololol), exclamation (lolllll!!!!!), and combinations thereof. If a user uses an “loooooool” vs an “loool”, does it mean they were more amused? We designed features to quantify the degree of emphasis on words associated with amusement in viewer comments.

The top results were voted on by the public, and here’s what came in first place (see below).

Underwhelming, right? I don’t know about you, but I really, really wanted to laugh–I was making a good-faith effort at being amused—but there was nothing. No giggles. No snicker. Not even a smile. And, for the record, I have a very low comedy bar, meaning that it doesn’t take much to make me laugh. So if this is the funniest video on the web–if this is what human humor is defined as by our programmers—then I am, in the immortal words of Downton Abbey‘s O’Brien, a banana.

  1. raycon and lindacon

    If stupidity counts as funny….

  2. Aimee Jones

    Uh… I must be a banana.

  3. Songwriter

    Didn’t even snicker.

  4. katievs

    I could only get half way through it.

  5. kgrant67

    LOL HA HA HA!!!


  6. Whiskey Sam

    Pratfalls have to appear spontaneous to be funny.  That wasn’t remotely funny.  If you want funny, go find some clips of Herve Villechaize singing on 70s talk shows.

  7. Al French


  8. Basil Fawlty

    When the fan hits the . . .

  9. Mark Wilson

    Using acronym counts for lol, lmao, and rofl is one of the worst methods I can think of for determining how funny the audience thought a video was.  Only a certain type of person comments on Youtube videos to begin with, and only a certain type of Youtube commenter wastes his and everyone else’s time by posting “lol” as a comment. “LOL” doesn’t even necessarily mean they thought something was funny; it might express derision or mockery of the video’s stupidity or the subject’s misfortune.

    Sso we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t find their sense of humor aligning with ours.

  10. flownover

    Looks like the same guys who developed the Google news search alogrithm did the research here. Except for the insertion of left-leaning story development, they have inserted deadpan narrative with stupid human tricks. Where’s Bob Saget ?


  11. Misthiocracy

    This reminds me immensely of “climate change scientists” who put so much blind faith in their own computer models that their brains simply cancel out any real-world evidence that contradicts their beloved algorithm.

    Google just make themselves look silly by posting this video as “the funniest”.  Instead, they should have taken a second look at their algorithm, since it’s clearly faulty.

  12. DocJay

    Epic Fail.

  13. Wordcooper

    This video was obviously an insightful commentary on what happens to your brain on YouTube.

  14. C. N. S. G. P. Douglas

    Trying to objectively calculate based on what is entirely subjective reactions is sheer folly.

  15. Yeah...ok.

    Our responses to this video and reactions to its description as funny only increase the value of Google’s wealth of data. Someday, soon I think, someone or something will learn how to mine all those search terms, comments and clicks and make some huge leaps to understanding our personalities and moods. I only hope they don’t “hide the decline” once they form a theory.  

  16. Diane Ellis

    I flinched. Awful.

    Off the top of my head, three YouTube videos that have made me laugh:

    1. Baby Monkey (Going Backwards on a Pig)

    2. Charlie bit my finger
    3. Putin Singing Blueberry Hill
  17. Bird Jaguar IV

    It was pretty funny. Probably more so for people who knew ‘that guy’ in college.

  18. George Savage

    Since we are all really an extended family here on Ricochet, I’ll make a confession:  I laughed.  It’s either a guy-stuck-at-13-year-old-humor thing (which, sadly, applies to me) or brain damage (which, equally sadly, probably also applies to me), but I snorted.  Not a full-blown belly laugh, probably because I knew what was coming, but a definite snort.

  19. Troy Senik, Ed.

    Thank God it wasn’t just me.

    George Savage: Since we are all really an extended family here on Ricochet, I’ll make a confession:  I laughed.  It’s either a guy-stuck-at-13-year-old-humor thing (which, sadly, applies to me) or brain damage (which, equally sadly, probably also applies to me), but I snorted.  Not a full-blown belly laugh, probably because I knew what was coming, but a definite snort. · 18 minutes ago

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