No joke: are Australians losing their sense of humour?

January 15, 2016 8:56 pm

Seriously? Fewer Australians (14+) are after something funny to watch, read or listen to during the week, the latest media preference data from Roy Morgan Research shows.

Only 1 in 2 Australians (50%) now cite ‘something funny’ as their top media content preference at least once during the week. This means, of course, there’s another half who don’t cite a single time during the average week—whether on a weekday or weekend, at breakfast, midmorning, lunch, afternoon, dinner or after dinner—when comedy is their ideal type of content.

Comedy as a genre preference has been declining consistently by around 1% point a year since 2011, when 54% of us said there was at least one point during the week when something funny was our preferred type of content.

Back then, the laughter was loudest in Queensland, where 58% sought something funny on occasion—but it’s now down to a polite chuckle of 52%.

There’s also a more sombre mood in Victoria and NSW/ACT, with a 50/50 split between the ha-has and ha-ha-nots. But the issue is of gravest concern in South Australia and Tasmania: most of whom don’t want to watch, read or hear anything funny ever, it seems.

Only in Western Australia is the rate of comedy preference unchanged at 53%—making those in the state the most comedy-friendly.

% who cite ‘something funny’ as a content preference during the week

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, October 2010 – September 2011 n = 52,119 and October 2014 – September 2015 n = 50,279 Australians 14+.

Tim Martin, General Manager – Media, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“For a nation that prides itself on its unique sense of humour, it’s interesting that only half of us ever explicitly want comedic content at particular times during the week.

“The recent decline is being driven by fewer Australians wanting comedy after dinner. At other times of day, the proportion of us seeking a bit of comedy is steady or has even increased—however the after dinner timeslot has long been comedy’s prime time, so its decline here has had a big impact on the overall full-week rate.

“This is perhaps a bit of a chicken vs egg scenario, with viewers’ changing preferences both driving and being driven by the amount (and quality) of shows that networks schedule. Most comedy has long been supplanted by reality competition shows on commercial TV after dinner. Whether Nine’s Here Come the Habibs! serves to reinvigorate or obliterate our appetite for after-dinner laughs remains to be seen, but with over one in four people still saying they prefer comedy after dinner, networks may find viewers are turning to Pay TV or subscription video on-demand service like Netflix and Stan to get their fix.  

“The proportion of people who want something to laugh at declines dramatically with age: from around two in three 14-24 year-olds down to only 37% of those aged 50 and over. 25-34 year-olds are the only ones who today are (slightly) more likely to cite something as a media preference at least once during the week, with the sharpest drop among 35-49 year-olds.  

“Last year, the US sit-com Big Bang Theory was again the most widely beloved free-to-air show on Australian TV, with 14% of people citing it as something they really love to watch. But maybe that’s less for the laughs and more for the educational scientific insights.”

Source: Roy Morgan Research