Friday, June 12, 1998 Published at 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
A joke with qualifications
The University of Salford is giving marks for comedy ... seriously
By BBC News online's Sean Coughlan
How funny is your funniest joke? Very? Passably? Embarrassingly unfunny?
Measuring comedy is never going to be an exact science, but the assessors of a diploma in stand-up comedy at the University of Salford have the tricky task of marking the performance and gags of their trainee comedians.
On Thursday night, four students took their final exam in the Higher National Diploma course in stand-up comedy, in the august academic setting of the Pint Pot pub in Salford, Manchester.
Before a public audience and three assessors from the university, the students performed comedy routines they had written themselves, putting into practice the lessons in timing, delivery, microphone technique, dress sense and developing a comic persona.
Marking these performances, the assessors used a set of specific criteria, such as the originality of the script or how well they handled hecklers. The students will then be graded on a scale that runs from distinction through to merit, pass and fail.
But what is a joke of distinction? Or what is a joke that is an academically validated failure?
The course co-ordinator, Lloyd Peters, emphasising that the students are being marked on a broad range of performance skills, was willing to give BBC News online examples of the grading, based on the material from Thursday night.
A slightly surreal pass-level joke: "My grandad is so northern he won't go downstairs."
Finally, the unpleasant failure: "Have you seen that bra? She could breast-feed a creche."