A bunch of psychologists at the Humor Research Lab (!), which itself sounds like a punchline, have produced a highly suspect ranking of America’s cities which ranked Chicago as America’s funniest city. Without looking closely at their methodology, just accepting their finding at face value, are there reasons we might believe they’re right?
Chicago’s Second City improv club which has fostered so many Chicago comedians over the years and conditioned what we think of as funny probably has something to do with it. However, I think it boils down to people. Chicago has a lot of funny people.
Steve Allen once observed that humor is pain plus time and I think that’s about right. Chicago has lots of Jews, Irish, and blacks, all oppressed people, for whom humor has historically been an outlet. Indeed, Chicago is one of the most racially segregated cities in America, something I don’t think is irrelevant.
But so does New York. Perhaps the title of this post should have been “why isn’t New York funnier?” Maybe it’s as simple as land use. While New York has plenty of venues for the highly successful, those who’ve already “made it”, relative to Chicago it has fewer places where a young comic can get started. My guess is that it’s just too expensive.
Or maybe, again, it’s people. New Yorkers may just take themselves too seriously now.
If I could do one thing that I can’t, it’s write humor. I think that’s not only a high art but a wonderful gift, one I don’t have. It’s not that I’m not funny. In life, I’m very funny. And I certainly have pain a-plenty. But I can’t write humor. It’s just not my gift.