The notion of timing in humor is often mentioned as a very significant issue, and yet very little has been written about it. The paper reviews the scant literature on the subject and narrows down the definition of timing as comprising pauses and speech rate. The discussions of timing in the literature see it either as a speeding up or slowing down of speech rate. Using data collected from twenty joke performances, we show that speakers do not significantly raise or lower their speech rate at and around the punch line. The other common assumption is that punch lines are preceded by pauses. Our data show no evidence supporting this claim nor do they show differences concerning these parameters in jokes that involved punch lines in reported speech and those that did not. Similarly, we found no differences between prepared and spontaneous jokes. Therefore, our data lead us to conclude that the theory of timing in joke performance is in serious need of further research.
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