Applause-ometer: Coulter's Racy Joke Got Good Reception


Conservative author Ann Coulter successfully robbed the field of 2008 presidential candidates of the spotlight last Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual meeting when she used a common epithet for gays to refer to John Edwards. The headlines surrounding her speech and the subsequent demands for apology (none has come yet) also drowned out the other dozen-some jokes Coulter made during her seven-minute speech. (C-Span has the streaming video here).

Here at the News Desk, we've developed a digital "Applause-ometer" to measure the volume and duration of audience laughter, and we thought we'd give it a try on Coulter's speech. (See the bottom of the post for the tedious details of how the Applause-ometer works.) Our formula is pretty simple: Volume (on a 1-10 scale) times duration, in seconds, equals the laugh factor.

Here are Coulter's top 10 jokes, from most to least popular. (Note: We're eager to try out the Applause-ometer on a Democrat as well. Suggestions welcome at

The Joke Volume Duration Score
1. "You can understand why Hollywood is concerned about global warming. Everyone knows what heat can do to plastic." Listen. 10 9 90
2. "Obama is half white, half black, whereas [Bill] Clinton was half white, half trash." Listen. 10 9 90
3. "But it is true, Al Gore has inspired me to conserve energy. Whenever I see him on TV, I turn it off." Listen. 10 8 80
4. "You know what they say about guys that have small carbon footprints." 10 7 70
5. "Oh and, um, I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.'" 7 9 63
6. "How about we put solar panels on Al Gore?" 7 7 49
7. [With Obama], "The liberal Democrats can vote for the atheist, the Bob Byrd Democrats can vote for the white guy, the black Muslims can vote for the black Muslim, and the African-Americans can vote for Hillary." 7 7 49
8. "Did Al Gore actually swallow Michael Moore?" 5.5 3 16.5
9. "I think the SAT question would be, Margaret Thatcher is to Ronald Reagan as Hillary Clinton is to--fill in blank. The answer is Phil Donahue." 5.5 3 16.5
10. "What's Al Gore up to these days, about 400 pounds?" 2.5 3 7.5

How it works: We recorded mp3s of the audience's response to each joke using a digital recorder. Then, using software call mp3Gain, we measured the "gain" for each file, a measure of how much louder it would need to be so as to equal the loudest file in the group. (Thus, a higher gain means a softer audio, and the loudest file has a gain of zero.) Volume is measured as "10 minus gain."