Seven out of ten French people think they're funny... but do you agree?

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Seven out of ten French people think they're funny... but do you agree?
French president Emmanuel Macron shares a joke with voters. Photo: AFP

A total of 70 percent of French people are funny... at least that's what they believe, according to a new study that is likely to raise a few eyebrows among the foreigners living in France.


The results of the poll carried out by YouGov will no doubt leave a few Brits and Americans out there with puzzled looks on their faces.
After all, while many foreigners living here might rhapsodize over the food, culture and quality of life in France... it's fair to say the French sense of humour can often leave others nonplussed. 
Of course, a major part of the problem is jokes being lost in translation, but with more than two thirds of those surveyed saying they find themselves funny at least the French find themselves to be a funny bunch. 

Is it true 'the French just can't laugh at themselves'?Photo: Ian Britton/Flickr

However the results differed depending on gender, age and location.
Overall more Frenchmen saying they were funny (74 percent) compared to 65 percent of French women.  
Younger people also believed themselves to be funnier than older French people, with 30 percent of 18-24-year-olds, saying they were "very funny" compared to just 8 percent of the over-55s. 
And it may not come as a surprise to those who live in the French capital that 76 percent of Parisians - more than anywhere else in France - find themselves amusing while people in the south east of France are the least likely to find themselves funny at 65 percent. 
Laurent Gaulet, who has written around 200 joke books, finds the survey amusing in it own right and thinks that the results could even be down to people misunderstanding the question. 
"Oh yes, I find this funny! If this proportion is so high, it is probably that there is confusion between having a sense of humour, understanding and being receptive to jokes, and actually being funny. One can have one without being the other," Gaulet told the French press. 
The author went on to describe French humor as "quite contradictory".
The nations the French love to make fun of the most
Photo: Romain Seignovert
"Many people find themselves funny but do not accept that we can laugh at everything. Humor is considered a quality, but it's also a double-edged sword," he said.
According to the YouGov study, 73 percent of French people enjoy making jokes.
"These are often funny comments made around a dinner table, rarely puns," Marc Hillman, who has authored several books on humour, told the French press. 
"As a people we are focused on bawdy jokes, innuendo and smuttiness rather than on fine humor," said Hillman, adding that "English humour is more select and more refined."
Hillman said that if the French really excelled in any area when it comes to humour, then it's puns.
"If the pun is so present, it's because it is related to the sound of our language," he said. "French is extremely rich in terms of homophones."
Stephen Clarke, who wrote Brexit comedy novel "Merde in Europe", previously told The Local that humour isn't a "well respected" genre in France. 
"A comedy will never win a film award. This is because French culture is mainly about trying to prove how clever you are, so they feel obliged to go in for intense, intellectual novels and moody films." 
The idea of Brits favouring a self-deprecating humour was backed up by another British comedian in France, Ian Moore. 
Photo: AFP
"The French find it harder to laugh at themselves, which is a trait the British are proud of," he told The Local.
Here are some French jokes to help you make up your mind on where you stand on the issue. 
The French love to laugh at other nationalities, with the Americans often the butt of these jokes. 
For example, it might not come as a surprise that the French, a people fiercely proud of their cultural enlightenment and good taste, tease the Americans for lacking sophistication. 
"What's the difference between an American and a pot of yoghurt? After a period of time, the yoghurt begins to develop cultures."
The French also enjoy calling into question the notion that the US is the center of the universe. 
One joke goes: “A group of Americans were asked to give their honest opinion on solutions to a possible world food shortage. However the survey was a failure because no one knew that the 'rest of the world' existed.”
And if you've spent much time around the French, you'll know there's no one they love to poke fun at more than the Belgians, with most of the jibes poking fun at their neighbours for being simple minded.
For example: "Why do the Belgians have their fries, and the Arab world has petrol? Because on the day of the world's creation, the Belgians chose first."
"Why don't the Belgians eat pretzels? Because they can't untangle the knots."
"And why don't they eat M&Ms? Too hard to peel."


Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2019/04/10 17:08
In 2001 I was working in a small French company which employed French engineers aand various secretaries. There was the 9-11 incident. Within 24 hours the following 'joke' did the rounds. Belgium terrorist crashes micro-light into Effel Tower. One person killed.

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