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Study: Portland fifth funniest city

Despite Portland's embrace of the satiric "Portlandia" TV series, the Rose City is only the fifth funniest city in the country, according to a study by the University of Colorado Boulder.

When it comes to a sense of humor, the study found Portland lags behind leader Chicago and even Washington, D.C., which many Americans believe takes itself way too seriously.

But at least the results uphold Portland's reputation.

"Portlanders are just plain weird," said lead researcher Peter McGraw, associate professor of marketing and psychology at UC-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

The study, released on Sunday, April 20, is supposedly the most comprehensive analysis of humorous cities. According to a press release from the university, the team led by McGraw collected data across the nation using an algorithm created at his Humor Research Lab (HuRL).

The top 10 funniest cities in the country:

1. Chicago

2. Boston

3. Atlanta

4. Washington, D.C.

5. Portland, Ore.

6. New York

7. Los Angeles

8. Denver

9. San Francisco

10. Seattle

The project grew out of McGraw’s new book co-authored with Journalist Joel Warner, “The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny,” according to the university.

“We found humor often has a local flavor,” McGraw says. “The jokes that get laughs at comedy clubs in Denver seem unlikely to fly with a cartoon editor at The New Yorker, for example. The kind of torturous game shows that some Japanese find amusing would likely fall flat to a sitcom producer in Los Angeles.”

The researchers also conducted a survey of more than 900 residents from the top 10 cities deemed funny by the algorithm. The team asked the residents about the kinds of funny entertainment they enjoy and whether they look for humor in their friends and partners. In addition the residents took a personality test assessing their “need for levity.”

Participants also described their city’s sense of humor and told their favorite joke.

“The result was a window into the humor profiles of each of the top 10 cities,” McGraw says. “Boston residents balance high-brow intellectualism with drunken rowdiness while Washington, D.C., finds humor in the absurdities of political systems. Portlanders are just plain weird."

About Portland, the study reports: "People in Portland, the setting of the surreal sketch comedy series 'Portlandia,' don’t really seem to think of themselves as funny — just odd. When asked to describe the city’s sense of humor, one resident simply wrote, 'You wouldn’t understand.' Another said, 'Portland isn't funny as much as it's a unique blend of people. Some may look at that as funny, but I'm not laughing.' A third noted, 'For the most part, we enjoy Darth Vader wearing a kilt riding a unicycle playing the bagpipes.'

Representative jokes included in the study are:

• “If God dwells inside us like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that's what He's getting.”

• “A man is in the library and goes up to the desk. He asks for a burger and fries. The librarian says, ‘Sir this is a library.’ The man replies, ‘Oh, I'm sorry,’ and leans over and whispers, ‘Can I get a burger and fries?’ (Note: this joke showed up twice in Portland, but nowhere else.)"

To see the study, including a list of all 50 funniest cities and humor profiles, visit humorcode.com/funniest-cities