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

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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 newsblog@usnews.com.)

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."