Why Aren’t Women Funny?

Well, they are, of course.  It’s just that many men don’t find them funny.  Which is why many stand-up clubs (those managed by men) (that is, almost all of them) actually have a rule: only so many stand-ups on any given night can be women.  Too many and they kill the night.

But, of course, that’s so only in clubs where most of the audience is male.  Because, as I’ve said, men don’t find women funny.  Partly, this could be because men find farts and burps funny.  (Except, of course, when women fart and burp.  For some reason, they find that horrifying.)

The other mainstay of comedy (for both sexes) is ‘(heterosexual) relationship humour’ – so men laugh at the caricatures of women presented by men (and women laugh at the caricatures of men presented by women).

But my guess is that even with sex-neutral comedy, women comedians fare more poorly than men.  A woman tells a socio-political joke, and people (men) just sort of stare at her (as if they’re seeing a dog walking on its hind legs?).  Give a man the same material, and the audience will respond.  Ironically (given my topic), I think this is so because men don’t take women seriously. To laugh at someone’s joke is to accord them some sort of authority, if only the authority to make some sort of comment through humour.

Either that or they’re just not interested in women (except as sexual possibilities).  (I’m reminded of a brilliant skit I once saw, on “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”: a woman was giving a business presentation and all present, mostly men, were paying such close and supportive attention – I was, frankly, surprised (that had certainly never happened to me!); then the woman casually mentioned that she’d come up with her proposal on the weekend when she was out with her boyfriend, and their attention turned off as quickly and as completely as a spotlight – a woman is either a sexual possibility or she doesn’t exist.)

This would explain why, for example, Susan Juby didn’t win the Leacock Medal of Humour with I’m Alice, I think.  It’s a hilarious coming of age story.  But it’s about a girl.  So while generations of girls have had to read about boys coming of age (The Apprentice of Duddy Kravitz, A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and on and on), boys have only had to read about Anne Frank (no doubt, it was ‘saved’ by the wartime setting) (oh, well, put guns in it and…).  When a boy comes of age, that’s important, because, well, he’s becoming a man.  But when a girl comes of age, well, she becomes a woman.  Unimportant.  In fact, the Medal has been won by a woman only twice in 30 years.  I wonder if the panel of 17 judges consists mostly of men (the judges aren’t named on their site, but the President and Vice-President are, and they’re both men, whereas the two secretaries and person in charge of the dinner? They’re women).

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