Think back to when you were younger, single, and hoping to meet your soulmate. There’s a pretty good chance you had a list of must-have qualities, whether it was your date’s height, job, background, or interests. And, of course, he or she had to have a great sense of humor! After all, a first date has the potential to be a total dud unless the two of you are smiling and laughing—even if it’s just laughing about how awkward the early stages of dating can be.
So why is a sense of humor—more specifically, a compatible sense of humor—so important when it comes to finding lasting love? Grant Langston, the new CEO of eharmony, has set out to answer that question, teaming up with scientists and analyzing the dating site’s years of data to create the perfect algorithms that will not only introduce you to someone you’ll like, but will help you get to that (last) first date.
“If you ask millions of people what they want in a partner, you’ll get one answer more than anything else: A sense of humor,” says Langston. “But no one has ever matched couples based on that quality before. We knew that, if we could figure out a way to do it, it would be an incredible benefit.” So the team at eharmony began months of research, showing video clips of everything from Seinfeld to Monty Python to 1,500 users in order define what would become six major types of reactive humor:
1. Bodily Humor (including toilet humor or humor of a sexual nature)
2. Dark Humor (making light of subjects that are serious or taboo)
3. Physical Humor (such as scaring others, pranks, or falling)
4. Self-Deprecating Humor (making fun of yourself and your shortcomings for the enjoyment of others)
5. Surreal Humor (based on deliberate violations of causal reasoning, resulting in obviously illogical events and behaviors)
6. Wordplay Humor (including puns and emphasis on unexpected meanings and usage of certain words)
So what did they find out? The research solidified something they’d already expected: That people who have similar senses of humor are more attracted to each other. Says Langston, “If you’ve ever gone on a date with someone who doesn’t get your humor, you’ve experienced that awkward misstep. You’re laughing while they’re looking at you like you’re crazy!” If you look at the six types of humor above, it really makes sense. They’re quite different from one another—and in fundamental ways—so finding someone who will laugh at the same things you laugh at means you’ll be laughing together for years to come. A few takeaways from their research:
● Physical humor reigns supreme. Physical humor memes got the highest ratings on a 1-5 scale of funniness, followed closely by bodily humor and self-deprecating humor. The least funny? Dark humor.
● Women know how to laugh at themselves. Women found self-deprecating humor significantly funnier than men did. (Men preferred physical humor and dark humor much more than women.) So if a woman meets a man who knows how to laugh at himself, he just might be a keeper.
● Education impacts your sense of humor. The more educated users were, the less funny they found physical and surreal humor. Wordplay humor ranked much more highly as a user’s level of education increased.
● Age is a factor. Older users found just about everything less funny than their younger counterparts.
The premise of eharmony is to pair people who are compatible in multiple ways, including deep-seeded, foundational things like ambition and emotional intimacy, as well as affinities such as both loving to travel or enjoying physical activities. “These matches mean you’ll have something to talk about on a date, and will have a similar outlook on life,” Langston says. “But being foundationally compatible on paper doesn’t actually mean you’ll enjoy one another’s company and can’t predict long-term success. Both liking golf doesn’t mean you have a lasting relationship ahead of you, but humor is something that will let you have a good date—and that’s how you start to fall in love and get to a place where you want to build a life with someone.”
Knowing if you and your match have a similar sense of humor before you’ve even gotten to your first date sets you up for that feeling of “clicking” with someone. “A physical attraction is great, but if you’re laughing and smiling the whole time, it’s a buzz,” Langston continues. “So if we can help line it up so you’re not going on a first date and spending three hours just to discover you have no connection, it’s a huge service.”
How does it all work? One word: Memes. The video clips from the research were great, but it became a 30- to 40-minute exercise, and in the world of online dating, who has time for that? Instead, eharmony will be rolling out a humor survey as an optional questionnaire that will serve to enhance and further define users’ matches. They’re streamlining the questionnaire process, starting with a dozen initial questions that will get you into the mix quickly.
From there, you can opt to take additional questionnaires—which will soon include a series of memes to figure out your humor style—to further build your profile and up that compatibility factor as you go. “Our new dashboard doesn’t just show who your matches are. It also shows why you’ve matched with someone, giving you insight into who the other person is and inspiring our users to communicate with one another,” says Langston. That early understanding of who someone is and whether you’ll hit it off is an invaluable asset because it makes first dates exciting and anticipated instead of anxiety-inducing. And who knows? Your next meeting with a funny, attractive stranger just might be your last.