The classic AP style has long been used by publications such as The Onion, which bills itself as "America's Finest News Source", as a standard gag. But a study published June 31 in the Bulletin of Humor Studies showed that the style was considered "generally not funny" or "only a little funny" by 87% of those surveyed.
"It confirms what many had already suspected," study co-author Charolette Horne said. "AP style parodies are more of a crutch for lazy writers than anything else. No amount of stylistic dressing-up can obscure stale and unimaginative jokes."
An editor for a noted humor magazine reluctantly concurred. "Frankly we'd been hoping nobody would notice. I have it on good authority that The Onion replaced half of its staff with a computer that re-writes articles from Google News with a special pithyness algorithm."
The computer program was even capable of emulating the AP's paragraph style, he said.
Other humourists contend that the study was flawed. B. McGraw of Canada's The Hammer said the study did not take into account the use of funny sources for quotes. "Like, you can get these stupid-ass quotes from people, eh, and they make things, like, real funny. And it's great cause they don't know you're making fun of them, like, they think you're serious, eh? So it's more than that writing style we use."
The study did not discuss implications for the commercial success of AP-based humor publications, but co-author David Ashkenaz speculated there would be few. "Sadly, people seem to prefer predictable, safe pseudo-humor over the leading edge."
"Since the concept of a joke requires an unexpected twist, we could debate whether this is really humor at all," he added.
The study comes on the heels of revelations that so-called meta humour, the use of ironic self-reference, has been unfunny for at least a year.