Considering all of the diversity associated with humor, the funniest joke you're ever heard is likely very different from the funniest joke ever told. There have been numerous attempts over the years to quantify which joke is funniest, but these studies seem to split along culture, gender and age lines. Some find physical humor to be superior, while others enjoy clever word play or sexual innuendo. The funniest joke ever told to a seven-year-old boy may mean nothing to an 80-year-old woman, for example, which makes defining a universally accepted joke much more difficult.
The British comedy troupe Monty Python once performed a sketch entitled "The Funniest Joke in the World" that beautifully illustrates the difficulty in seeking this joke. The premise of the sketch was the invention of a joke so hilarious that anyone who heard it immediately died from laughter. When news of this killer joke reached the British military, they ordered it translated into German for use as a battlefield weapon. Far from being the funniest joke, however, the actual joke is a nonsensical piece of fractured German: "Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!" A very literal English translation: "When is the now-piece (git) and (Slotermeyer)? Yes! (Beiher)dog that or the pinball wood (gersput)!"
A more recent effort to quantify the funniest joke ever told revealed many differences along cultural, age and gender lines. Men tended to enjoy more aggressive jokes, along with the so-called "dirty joke" featuring sexual or scatological references. Women believed the funniest joke involved clever wordplay or puns. Children tended to enjoy riddles or obvious physical humor. According to the researchers, all of the test subjects recognized the humor in the following joke, enough to lead the researchers to conclude that this is the funniest joke ever told...
A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"
This may or may not be the funniest joke ever told, but it did appeal to almost every group involved in the study. It could be argued that a joke benefits from the delivery as much as from the words themselves. A skilled comic could elicit more laughs from a less-than-stellar joke than the average person could. An individual's sense of humor is often shaped by unique life experiences and personality, so there will always be a subjective element when choosing the funniest joke.