No soap radio (with varying punctuation) is the traditional punch line for a type of prank joke which has a body not directly related to the punch line itself, but is made as if to be humorous by participants in a prank. The first known reference to this form of anti-humor was in the late 1940s.
The joke is notable for its use as a basic sociological and psychological experiment, specifically relating to mob mentality and the pressure to conform. The basic setup is similar to the Asch conformity experiments, in which they test people's proclivity to agree with a group despite their own judgments.
The punchline of the joke will have been told to the co-conspirators beforehand – traditionally the phrase, "No soap radio". After the joke teller says the punch line, the co-conspirators will immediately laugh uproariously, treating the joke as if it were, in fact, funny.
In effect, the joke is not to be found in the content itself ("No soap, radio"), but rather in how the victim reacts to the [unfunny] punchline of the "joke" as delivered by and reacted to by the conspirators.
The purpose of the prank is to make the one victim of the joke's telling respond with one of two results:
This can be likened to laugh tracks, which are intended to make television viewers more inclined to laugh during television shows.
Since the short variety of joke is usually thought of beforehand, there are a few commonly used ones. For some reason, they often involve animals in bathtubs.
The long variety of the joke is normally made up on the spot, but may be reused after that. There have at times been a few classic archetypes. One version, common in western Pennsylvania, is as follows:
Over the years the joke has become widely known and entered popular culture in other forms, including a shower radio labeled "No Soap, Radio!" on an episode of The Simpsons, a popular podcast named after the joke, and a band with the name appearing at the Crazy Horse on The Sopranos. It has been used as the name for rock bands, as well as a short-lived TV sketch comedy show (à la Monty Python's Flying Circus) starring Steve Guttenberg that aired on ABC in the spring of 1982.
In the 2007 Nickelodeon special "Shredderman Rules", Mr. Green, the character played by Tim Meadows, makes the class laugh with the line "No Soap, Radio" as Devon Werkheiser's Nolan Byrd enters the room.
No Soap Radio was also the name of a successful radio commercial production company in New York City formed in 1970. Because of its activity as a music company creating tracks for TV as well as radio, it changed its name in the early 1980s to No Soap Productions, and is still active as of 2008.
The tag line for the National Lampoon Radio Hour was No Soap Radio
Sociologist Dalton Conley devotes a chapter of his autobiography Honky to his struggle with the joke's meaning in intermediate school.
For a time in the 1990s, Comedy Central's morning TV format was called No Soap Television.
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