From Live Science:
Research by a Washington State University linguist found that people who tell bad jokes often endure an astonishing outpouring of hostility from the listeners.
“These were basically attacks intended to result in the social exclusion or humiliation of the speaker, punctuated on occasion with profanity, a nasty glare or even a solid punch to the arm,” said researcher Nancy Bell.
First, such canned humor often disrupts the natural flow of conversation. And jokes that fail to deliver humor are a violation of a social contract, so punishing the teller can discourage similar behavior in the future.
Finally, a stupid joke insults the listener by suggesting that he or she might actually find it funny, Bell said.
“Being selected as an appropriate audience for a stupid joke suggests that there is something amiss with the hearer’s sense of humor,” Bell said.
There’s something comforting to me about that study. I’ve probably been guilty of telling way too many bad jokes, but I never understood why I sometimes react so negatively to people who continuously bark out failed one-liners. I often feel an urge to give the bad joke-teller a swirlie or a wedgie, and that’s not a normal impulse of mine, as I’ve never been much of a bully.
But yes, it is a little bit insulting to be told a bad joke, because the teller seems to think that you are as moronic as he is.