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Question: What time does a Chinese person go to the dentist? Answer: Two thirty. Because a tooth hurts at tooth-hurty. Say it in any other language, including Chinese, and it just isn’t funny. It’s debatable whether the pun is funny even in its native tongue. Although the joke is a bit of a groaner, it does help to explain that humour all too often gets lost in translation.

One contender for unifying all nations under laughter is the prank stunt. The hidden camera catching the surprised reactions to a practical joke – like the ŠKODA car-wash-prank video with the newest apprentice car above – has been a hit across the world, transcending language and culture. Or has it?

Have a quick trawl through some prank videos on YouTube, and you’ll find a lot that distinguishes countries in terms of style. In Russia, pushing people off their bikes is the cruel flavour. The UK has a taste for making a character, such as Ali G, the protagonist. And the US gets up to some of the most sophisticated practical jokes ever, such as reconstructing the border of Canada in Texas to confuse motorists. Not sure if that last one transcends national barriers even if it quite literally plays with them.

Ask Czechs about their national sense of humour and they will probably say it is dark, sarcastic and absurd. Not surprising, perhaps, from the country that gave us Kafka. They will likely hold up Monty Python as hilarious, too, which is absurd given that it’s British and not Czech.

But there is one thing the whole world seems to agree upon: the Germans have no sense of humour. One German comic – Henning Wehn, self-styled “German Comedy Ambassador” (it’s up to you if you think that’s funny or not) – tackles that international issue in the opening joke of his stand-up routine. “Some people say the Germans have no sense of humour,” he says to giggles from the audience. “I do not find this funny.”

His success hasn’t stopped the Germans from addressing their perceived humourlessness. Step forward the German Institute for Humour, which according to its website “combines scientific research with hands-on training courses” and offers “goal-oriented counselling, lectures, entertaining shows,

and practical training workshops”. If you don’t find that funny you are either German – or French. Because the Gallic nation who, as well as giving us snails to eat (surely a joke?), has its own official humour bureau: The Association for Development of Research into Comedy, Laughter and Humour (CORHUM).

More detailed research from academics worldwide has identified how European countries like off-beat surreal humour, while Americans and Canadians prefer jokes where a character is made to look stupid. And most of us, apparently, like to laugh at our neighbours. The Polish take that to a new level with the Czechs who border their country. They find the way Czechs talk hilarious, mostly because the language sounds so funny to them. The source of confusion, argument and belly laughs comes from how the language can be misinterpreted. Here’s an example: the Polish word “czerstwy”, meaning “old and stale”, sounds just like the Czech word “čerstvý”, which means “new and fresh". Imagine a Czech praising a Polish farmer on his lovely čerstvý vegetables. But there you have it. So much of humour is bound up with language as well as culture.

But let’s not forget that humour is a serious business. Evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin said “tickling of the mind” is social play that builds camaraderie – and has been around for four million years since the earliest hominids. That seems to be proved by the way chimps and gorillas like to laugh together. The philosopher Immanuel Kant explains that “Laughter is an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.” By which he means humour happens when information is resolved unexpectedly and elegantly with a punchline. (It’s probably worth pointing out Kant was German.) Sigmund Freud – the grandfather of psychoanalysis – held that some events create aggressive energy and when that energy is released, we experience it as humour.

Like when a car is being washed and you think it is being destroyed and then it’s transformed into another vehicle…

ŠKODA APPRENTICE CARS

ŠKODA CITIJET; The ŠKODA CITIJET is a city convertible based on the ŠKODA Citigo. The exterior is painted in blue and white, the 16-inch alloy wheels in blue.

ŠKODA CITIJET (2014)

The fun vehicle concept, based on the new ŠKODA Fabia, is the result of ŠKODA’s ‘trainee car’ project, which was run for the first time last year.

ŠKODA FUNstar (2015)

Prank you very much

ŠKODA ATERO (2016)

otaznik

(2017)

The ŠKODA apprentice car for 2017 will be announced soon.