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FunnyPoliceReports.com: Humor professor Peter McGraw gets into the online meme game

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As described in the August cover story "The Nutty Professor," Boulder professor Peter McGraw is hard at work trying to crack the humor code. He and his team at the Humor Research Lab (HuRL) have subjected test subjects to Hot Tub Time Machine clips, dirty jokes and raunchy ads to see what, exactly, makes them laugh. Now, HuRL is trying to create some of its own humor with the launch of FunnyPoliceReports.com.

The website, which compiles some of the funniest police reports ever filed, came about thanks to an internal challenge at HuRL, explains McGraw: As scientists of comedy, shouldn't they be able to build a kick-ass comedy website? "The initial reason that HuRL created FunnyPoliceReports.com is we thought it would be fun," says McGraw. "If we claim to know what is funny, we should be able to make things that are funny."

Have they succeeded in their quest? You be the judge. Among the reports already up include accounts of an electrocuted squirrel setting a tree on fire, a man setting off his fire alarm by drying his underpants in his microwave, and a rampaging llama.

Maybe not they're not exactly knee-slappers, but it was enough to get linked to from the mother of all meme sites, the Cheezburger Network's FAIL blog. The resulting traffic shut down HuRL's server -- something the humor scientists concluded wasn't very funny at all. But soon enough, Funny Police Reports was up and running again. The team's next plan? Build the site up to a point where they can actually start collecting data about people's responses to the gags. Hopefully, no squirrels will actually be electrocuted along the way.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Next Big Sound: Billboard's new "Social 50" chart powered by Boulder music startup." Follow Joel Warner on Twitter @joelmwarner.

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