Best of the Net

A good laugh could be the most productive thing you do all day

Looking for the best humor sites on the Web is like listening for the loudest mallard in a crowded duck pond. On the Internet, no one gets the hook at amateur night. Who's to say that every joke online isn't funny to someone? Not us. We're too embarrassed to reveal some of the sites that made us laugh. Here's how we found four winners that rise above the din.

First, we plugged humor and satire into search engines. Next, we asked friends for their favorites. Most of the stuff we turned up made us groan. An animated sumo wrestler. Cats stretched out on scanners. Comic strips for ferrets. But four, we thought, were topical, ironic, and just plain funny: the Onion, SatireWire, Modern Humorist, and the ComedyLab. At that point, we were ready to get the experts' opinions. We submitted the four sites to three judges -- each of whom has built a business on a sense of humor. Our panelists all used the same high standard to determine whether a Web site was funny: it had to make them laugh.

The Onion did. Heartily. Panelist Marc Abrahams of the Annals of Improbable Research called the online arm of the newspaper the Onion the "gold standard of funny Web sites."

But if this were a horse race, the Onion would be in a photo finish with a real sleeper: SatireWire. You don't have to be a geek to appreciate "Cubists Launch Unnavigable Web Site" or "AT&T to Cut Workforce 120%." The panel raved about SatireWire -- before splitting in their opinions on the last two sites.

Abrahams and reviewer Richard Tait of Cranium Inc. both enjoyed Modern Humorist, a biting site whose forte is political satire. (Check out the new version of the tax form, the "1040W.") So what's not to like? "Um, let's see, obvious subject matter, a confusing home page, too much emphasis on their store, and the writing was fair," said Joe Keefe of Second City Communications.

Keefe liked the writing style of the ComedyLab, even if he felt that the humor was a bit obvious. Tait complained that the humor wasn't topical enough, but one of the site's features, Dionne Warwick's Cosmic Peephole, was enough to make him a believer. Only Abrahams found no saving grace. He described the ComedyLab as "jokes about how stupid everybody and everything is, old sex jokes dressed up in new (but not especially new) language, dead-baby jokes, and supposedly outrageous prom jokes."

We started to have second thoughts. None of our humor sites is politically correct. All use profanity. But the ComedyLab is aggressively lowbrow. What were we thinking? Then The Producers -- a hit musical about a hit musical called Springtime for Hitler -- opened on Broadway and erased our doubts.

So there you have it -- our four best humor sites and evidence that the Onion was right when it reported "Lowest Common Denominator Continues to Plummet." Laugh all you want. Quack if you must.

Jane Salodof MacNeil is a freelance writer in Groveland, Mass.

The Savvy Entrepreneur's Guide to Humor on the Web

Site What it's good for Don't waste your time if What our CEOs had to say What you should know Wisdom of the world, such as it is. You hold anything sacred. Marc Abrahams worried that TV would buy up the writers and ruin "a very, very good thing." Naked Scottish Weathergirls is not a link that will get you to a porn site. Stress relief if you have stock on the Nasdaq. You still keep your company's books in a handwritten ledger. It was just what Joe Keefe wanted in a humor site: "intellectual comedy that entertains while it deflates a bit of the pomposity of our culture." The staff includes an editor-in-chief, a chief copy editor, and an oligarch. Making public figures wish they had only 15 minutes of fame. You're offended by humor at the expense of George W. If there's a scandal, this is one of the first Web sites Richard Tait would check out. The site's ad placement is annoying., a database with a rating system that allows you to go straight to the racy stuff. You read Chaucer for laughs. Richard Tait would sign up for jokes by E-mail from this site -- and would send its gags on to friends. This is not the place to crib material for public speaking, unless you're going to a bachelor party.

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