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The Sine Wave of Funny

Have you ever heard a super-repetitive joke that seemed kinda funny at first, but the longer you watched it, the funnier it got? When I first noticed this principle at work in a certain kind of (generally absurdist) comedy years ago, I invented a little pseudo-academic classification to explain the phenomenon: I call it the sine wave of funny. Here's how it works:

There's a certain ineffable thing about jokes that operate according to the sine wave of funny that make them work; not just any joke repeated over and over will work. It takes a special kind of joke to really engage the sine wave of funny. When this happens, though, it's like magic -- it's like the joke goes into hyperdrive, and you never want it to end. And the really amazing thing about these kinds of jokes is that, at first, they don't really seem that funny at all. They're chuckle-worthy, at best. (In fact, you might invert the sine wave on this graph -- initially, your patience is tested by the joke ... then it becomes funnier and funnier. Then not so funny. Then even funnier than before. And so on.)

Time for some examples. Here's a classic one from The Simpsons:

It's not that funny at first -- then at some point around the middle, the sine wave kicks in. (Actually, I think it'd be funnier if the clip were even longer.) Now, if that wasn't your style -- the sine wave is a very personal thing, you see -- try this on for size. It's a promo for the upcoming film Strange Wilderness (thanks for pointing this out, Higgins!):

Lastly, we've posted this video before, but there's a reason it's gotten more than nine million hits on YouTube ... and that reason is the sine wave of funny. Allow me to illustrate:

Now that you've got the principle down, what are your favorite sine wave of funny jokes?

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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