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We’re Not Joking: Fort Worth Is The Country's Least Funny City

Leena Robinson
Fort Worth: You're not too funny for words.

This is no joke: Fort Worth is the least funny big city in the country.

Yes, scholars have researched the topic and have even produced a book showcasing their work: The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner.

They surveyed the 50 biggest cities in the country. They say they discovered that humor has a “local flavor” – what’s funny in Dallas might not be as hilarious in Chicago.

Fort Worth isn't too funny for words. Cowtown ranked dead last on a list that ranks the funniness of the 50 cities. Arlington, you’re a bit funnier, but not by much. Arlington placed No. 46 on the list.

Compared to Fort Worth and Arlington, Dallas is the funniest city in North Texas. But that’s not saying much.

Dallas ranked No. 36, beating Houston, which is ranked No. 37. El Paso is No. 41. Arlington is No. 46.

Austin is the funniest city in Texas – it ranked No. 14 nationwide. (Ah, those jokesters in Travis County think they’re hilarious, don’t they?)

No funny business. So how did they come up with this list?

Over nine months, members of the Humor Research Lab (no, we’re not making this up) created a “humor algorithm” (HA) to rank the 50 cities. They call it the “most comprehensive analysis of humorous cities ever attempted.” The lab, which is directed by McGraw, is part of the University of Colorado Boulder.

OK, so how do you create a “humor algorithm?”

They based part of it on objective measures, including:

  • Frequency of visits to Cheezburger comedy websites, such as Lolcats and FAIL Blog
  • Number of comedy clubs per square mile in each city
  • Traveling comedians’ ratings of each city’s comedy-club audiences
  • Number of famous comedians born in each city, divided by city population
  • Number of famous funny tweeters living in each city, divided by city population
  • Number of comedy radio stations available in each city
  • Frequency of humor-related web searches originating in each city

Then the researchers conducted a survey with more than 900 residents from the top 10 cities. Researchers asked residents about what funny entertainment they enjoyed and how they would describe their city’s sense of humor.
Humor me. Why is Texas not as funny as a barrel of monkeys?

McGraw, co-author of The Humor Code and director of the Humor Research Lab, explained Texas' poor showing.

"Before folks get too upset, you should know that there are a lot of less funny cities in the country than the ones in Texas," McGraw told KERA. "We only looked at the 50 largest cities. Most others (which are less funny) were just too small to be included in the study. There are two issues that work against most of the cities in Texas: a.) the comedians didn’t like the crowds and b.) The cities are so big that it works against them given the Humor Algorithm’s corrections. When we correct for these factors (like land area and population size), rankings typically get worse. Arlington gets a little help, but every other city is hurt."

What towns made the top 10?

Among the country's biggest cities, Chicago is the funniest. Researchers describe Chicago’s humor profile as improvisational and situation-based, rather than traditional jokes. The city is known as a mecca for improv and stand-up, the study notes.

  1. Chicago
  2. Boston
  3. Atlanta
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Portland
  6. New York
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Denver
  9. San Francisco
  10. Seattle

Stop joking around! The least funny cities?

(They are all in the south, by the way.)

  1. El Paso
  2. Tucson, Ariz.
  3. Las Vegas
  4. Virginia Beach
  5. Tulsa
  6. Arlington
  7. San Antonio
  8. Miami
  9. Jacksonville, Fla.
  10. Fort Worth

(By the way, Detroit is funnier than Fort Worth, according to this study. What gives?)
Fort Worth: Cut the funny stuff!

The New York Times, which published a piece about the funny city ranking, explained why Fort Worth might be dead last:

In Fort Worth, which ranked last on the list, Hyena’s comedy club headlined Daryl Felsberg earlier this month. His bio boasted that he had hosted a home shopping show on a regional cable TV network but “was yanked off the air after only three months for mocking the clients and their products.” The club also offers a defensive driving course.

Ha, ha, ha!

But North Texas is filled with funny people!

Have you seen the hilarious video featuring a Southwest Airlines flight attendant giving humorous instructions to passengers?

Marty Cobb, a flight attendant based in Dallas, got lots of laughs from passengers with instructions like these: “It’s been a long day for me,” she said, asking folks to fasten and position their seat belts “tight and low across their hips” just like her “grandmother wears her support bra.”

“I just enjoy making people laugh,” she told ABC. “I would never quit my job because I love what I’m doing too much, but if it could go further and do something on the side, that would be great.” She’s hoping to appear on the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” or “Ellen.”

More than 11 million people have seen her video:

Explore the country's funniest cities in this graphic from The Humor Code:

The Country's 50 Funniest Cities

What makes things funny?

(Photo Credit: Leena Robinson/

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.