Scientists say they have perfected a computer which can establish precisely how soon after the death of a celebrity it is acceptable to make a tasteless joke at their expense.
A team from the University of East Anglia has been testing a series of offensive jokes in laboratory conditions for the past six years, using a complex series of algorithms, levers, buttons and pulleys.
Professor Gerald Swinton explained that the breakthrough came when their computer – named ATHRON 5 – was able to correctly predict that by 9.15am on April 17, there would be general acceptance in most UK workplaces of a gag about the deaths of two horses in the Grand National three days earlier.
Professor Swinton added: “It hasn't been easy, especially as only three of our team of 12 have any idea what an algorithm is.
“We'd had some promising results over the past few years, but nothing concrete.
“For example, back in 2010, an earlier prototype, ATHRON 3, correctly predicted that it would take the general public precisely six days, three hours and 11 minutes to take a joke about the death of much-loved rugby commentator Bill McClaren, in good heart.
“But then the computer totally blew it by completely misreading the public's reaction to the death of Captain Beefheart later that year.”
Professor Swinton and his team believe the breakthrough could revolutionise the way we approach tasteless jokes.
“No longer will the office wag have to sweat anxiously over whether or not he can safely release a tasteless, yet moderately amusing gag, about the passing of a former Coronation Street actor or an X Factor wannabe,” he said.
It is not yet known when a version of ATHRON 5 will be available for public use, but demand from stand-up comics is already overwhelming.
Earlier this year, Jimmy Carr was forced to apologise to the family of the late blues singer Etta James, after making an ill-advised quip about her passing from leukaemia, four days before it happened.
Mr Carr initially blamed the incident on an administrative error, but later admitted he had stolen an untested version of the ATHRON 4 prototype, which has since been put in a box and placed on top of a very tall cupboard so nobody can reach it.
Boffins in tasteless gag breakthrough
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Scientists say they have perfected a computer which can establish precisely how soon after the death of a celebrity it is acceptable to make a tasteless joke at their expense.Posted 4 years ago #
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