The Sexist

Why Are People Who Argue Women Aren’t Funny Not Funny?


Christopher Hitchens, rare funny arguer of the unfunny female

Bored magazine columnists have debated for years as to why women are, or are not, funny.  Inspired by Tiger Beatdown's post yesterday on another drop in the unfunny girl barrel—a study that found that women do not immediately react to the sight of a unicycle with humor (I fucking wonder why)—I believe it's time to rephrase the question.

Why are those who argue that women are not funny so unfunny?

First, let us review:

Funny women are not sexy. According to a 2006 study by Eric Bressler and Sigal Balshine, women rated "funny" men as more sexually attractive than men they didn't find funny. The opposite was not true. "And women, don't start trying to tell jokes to attract men," writes Tom Siegfried of the study. "The study found that men rated 'funny' women as no more desirable than the others."

Women don't have enough testosterone to be funny, concluded Professor Sam Shuste, after riding around a lot on his unicycle and noting that only men made fun of him. "The sex difference was striking. 95% of adult women were praising, encouraging or showed concern. There were very few comic or snide remarks. In contrast, only 25% of adult men responded as did the women, for example, by praise or encouragement; instead 75% attempted comedy, often snide or combative as an intended put-down."

Women are too concerned with having babies to be funny, according to this classic Vanity Fair piece by Christopher Hitchens. "Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can't afford to be too frivolous," he writes. "One tiny snuffle that turns into a wheeze, one little cut that goes septic, one pathetically small coffin, and the woman's universe is left in ashes and ruin. Try being funny about that, if you like."

Women are not funny because Germaine Greer needs to explain why she said women were not funny. Reasons include: They focus too much on bras and weight loss, cut down other women, are bad at improvisation, aren't competetive enough, would prefer to marry than work, and they're not desperate enough to be funny to get laid.

Those tasked with defending women in comedy have their own explanations for why women are not funny.

Women write their own stuff now. Alessandra Stanley begins her Vanity Fair response, "Who Says Women Aren't Funny?" strangely: "There are people who lament that no women now are as funny as Carole Lombard or Barbara Stanwyck in the screwball comedies of Lubitsch, Sturges, and Hawks. They are missing the point: today’s comediennes are on television, where they are often responsible for their own material." So, women aren't as funny as they were before, but at least they write their own material now, which is less funny than the male material they used to do.

The comedy environment is too hostile for women. In a response to Greer, Lynne Parker writes: "Moreover, there has been a common perception that comedy is a hostile environment for women. We are compliant in creating this image. The practicalities of life on the circuit are not for the faint-hearted—many hours on the road and antisocial hours do not engender a traditional home life. Many a promising female act has given up the juggling of career, marriage and motherhood, even temporarily, for the sake of an easier life."

Women are not socialized to be funny, as men are. On Broadsheet, Kate Harding responds to Greer: "Throughout the essay, Greer keeps offering great setups for an analysis of why women are culturally discouraged from developing and displaying robust senses of humor, then following them up with conclusions that amount to, 'We're from Venus — whaddaya gonna do?'"

Since all these arguements as to why women aren't funny—or why they're not allowed to be funny—are based on half-baked speculation and anecdotal evidence anyway, let's float a new theory: Why are people who argue that women aren't funny so unfunny?

The study by Bressler and Bashine showing that women are more attracted to funny men used the following statement as an example of humor: "Birthday cake is the only food you can blow on and spit on and everybody rushes to get a piece." The researchers themselves acknowledged that their funny statements were not very funny. "Given the sophomoric nature of some of our humorous statements, it is not surprising that participants did not ascribe 'intelligence' to our humorous individuals," they wrote. Perhaps women are actually more attracted to men who are not funny, and also stupid?

And those unicycle quips? "Equally striking [said Shuste] was the repetitive and predictable nature of the comments from men; two thirds of their 'comic' responses referred to the number of wheels—'Lost your wheel?,' for example." Hilarious.

Germaine Greer is humorless, but she gets a pass because she has a body that can produce children, and is without a good handle on the inherent comedy of the unicycle. (Christopher Hitchens, actually, is pretty funny).

So, we're not funny, the birthday cake and unicycle comedians of the world claim, because we're girls. What's their excuse?

  • TomHandy

    Doesn't Tina Fey kind of shoot a big gaping hole in this argument?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Yes. But most of the unfunny people arguing that women aren't funny allow for some outliers---a few women are funny, but most women are not funny. Similarly, a few people who argue that women aren't funny (in my opinion, Christopher Hitchens) are funny, but most are not funny.

  • Karen

    We get it. You want to bone Herr Christoph Hitler. Enough already.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Eww, lady!

  • Fatimah

    I want to suck Hitchens' slimy, fat, bigot cock, then bite it off and feed it to a mangy dog.

  • mdesus

    I do not have a single girl in my life (at any stage) who I found consistantly funny in person. I know one writer I find funny, and one girl who does like physical comedy that is somewhat painful to watch but is funny. Otherwise in my sample group I've got no one.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Mdesus: Now all you have to do to prove my thesis wrong is prove that YOU are funny.

  • mdesus

    A panda walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich. He eats the sandwich, pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter dead.

    As the panda stands up to go, the bartender shouts, "Hey! Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for your sandwich!"

    The panda yells back at the bartender, "Hey, I'm a PANDA! Look it up!" The bartender opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda:

    "A tree dwelling marsupial of Asian orgin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    fine delivery, but derivative material doesn't count!

  • http://ChadRiden.com/ Chad Riden

    Maria Bamford (who, in my opinion, is funnier than anybody - male or female) got so sick of hearing people say, "There aren’t that many funny women," she created a page on her site where she has a list of funny ladies: http://mariabamford.com/funnywomen.shtml

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  • sock puppet

    so, junk punching has become junk munching

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  • missdk

    "Funny" is completely arbitrary so any argument about female funny-ness is invalid. Think about all the funny people you know, the people that make you laugh, that bring joy and humor in your life, do they all fit the Adam Sandler norm of funny? No. Are they all the same kind of funny? No.

    And besides that, and the million other fallacies and purposeful ignorance this involves, my boyfriend says I'm the funniest little creature he's ever met, so go sit on a coke bottle, Hitchens.

  • billy

    missdk, guys will lie to you. regardless of just in for a quick lay or married for life, they will lie because they have to. it is in our best interest to keep you happy and feeling good about yourself as best we can, because god knows soon enough you will blow something trivial out of proportion. call this sexist, guys know this is true, even if they tell you other wise.

    and reciting a lame joke that many have already heard does not make you funny. funny is spontaneously thinking of something humourous to say in a given situation.

    and this is a situation you are blowing out of proportion. especially fatima and karen. comparing the guy to hitler? lacks originality and fairly offensive to what the jews endured. and biting off a man's dick? really? that's the best you can do? you can't refute what he says with words? you must physically attack the man?

    there are women who are outliers that are legitimately funny. but in all honesty, its the same as female athletes; they are held to a different, lower standard. many receive recognition for their beauty and their humor is secondary. same with ben affleck's or matthew mcconaunoghey's acting ability.

    why the hell does everyone have to pretend that both men and women are exactly the same in all catagories? we aren't, and that shouldn't be offensive to anybody. appreciate others abilities and focus on your own. i'll never play guitar like hendrix, but that does not stop me from appreciating his talent. and i'll never suck dick like jenna jameson, but guess what?

    missdk, seriously, he is lying to you.

  • Dean

    Women aren't as funny as men because they have less incentive to become funny. I know a lot of guys who would be single their whole lives if they couldn't make women laugh.

    It isn't that women aren't funny, they just don't need it as much as men do. There are some very funny women around like Tina Fey and Cathy Griffith.

    Plus men use humour to bond with one another and it doesn't seem that women do to the same degree.

  • Pablo

    Unbelievable. Leave it to a chick to compare apples to oranges. Author, this article is about as much a thesis as "super high me" is a valid study. "Why Are People Who Argue Women Aren’t Funny Not Funny?" is like asking how critics can be critics. How do you know how many comedians think that women aren't funny? Exactly, you don't. The fact is most women in America have a big ass chip on their shoulder, penis envy and proclaim constantly that they can do anything a man can do. But that doesn't stop them from asking men to lift heavy objects, pay vaginamony, and constantly beg men to marry them to get their hands in their wallets, and yet still have the gall to say that they are "independent". But, I digress. How many standup comedy tours have been headlined by a woman and been smash hits? How many comedy shows have been headlined by a female that have been successful? The fact is that women aren't funny in general, and we don't know how many "funny" people think women are unfunny and just don't say so. But, of course as a female lacking the logic gene, you respond only out of emotion and sidetrack the entire issue. Ipso facto, Q.E.D. you're "argument" holds no weight.

  • http://guyinism.com DirkJohanson

    Guys, in general, are funny, but there are plenty of funny women: Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, the list goes on.

    I know there are plenty of funny women because I'm fucking funny, as you can see yourself by double-clicking on my name and thereby being routed to my defiantly chauvinistic blog.

    PS I know what you are thinking - this comment isn't funny.

  • Lissette

    Hey Mr. Pablo, lighten up, dude - Ms. Hess' post was obviously written tongue-in-cheek and wasn't meant to piss off people. I agree with missdk's point that humor is VERY subjective - I may think Monty Python is funny as all get out, or that The State was hilarious, but I'm sure there are tons of people out there who don't get that type of humor. A lot of what people consider funny is based on their life experiences, the country their from, their age, their education, etc. The fact that Hitchens misses this point just goes to show how flawed his argument is. It's strange that some people think that the idea that women aren't funny is a valid point based in reality. Maybe the people who say this have never had female friends or relatives with personalities, or are straight men who like pursuing vapid chicks. Weird.

  • Melissa

    Um. If women aren't publicly funny, on a stage, they can't be being funny elsewhere? Moronic. I know loads of clever, quick-witted, hilarious women. They don't do comedy tours. And they also don't all resort to the lame-ass, generic, juvenile humor that too many men embrace with glee. The problem is that men still define so much of societal perception, including what constitutes humor.

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