Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do men tend to be funnier?

So, I have google buzz. I know, I'm probably one of the 10 people who actually use it but regardless, I peek in from time to time.

A friend of mine, we'll call him Nathan, posted something I thought was interesting.  He was discussing why he thought men TENDED to be funnier than women.  Here is his post:

"Thinking about why men TEND to be funnier than woman. Woman structure our societal rules; this is mostly true sociologically, and women have historically been the homemakers, teachers, and the backbone to the social structure of community. Its Miss Manners for a reason. Guys don't really concern themselves with things that are proper etiquette, or the right method of doing things. Men who haven't had girlfriends (or girls as friends even) generally grow up socially awkward, semi-oafs and often cast as boorish immature men.

When I think about Larry David and Seinfeld - who made their living on obsession with questioning the unwritten rules (some sensible, some ridiculous) of modern society. it strikes me that men are generally more prone to comedy because we become self-aware of the structure that we exist in. And comedy is pretty much saying "Hey, why in the world do we need 5 types of sugar packages on restaurant tables? Shouldn't it be two? Like Coke (sugar) and Diet Coke (fake sugar) - but instead we have 5".

And I know two things about that - 1) the first is that guys don't "see" the ridiculousness of things like that until its pointed out, and 2) 5 sugars was a woman's doing. I believed firmly that I didn't need/want tissues until age 17. There is little chance that a guy had been going to restaurants and requesting Sweet and Low, while another guy was looking for equal, and another was looking for Sugar in the raw.

I'm not saying this is the only reason, but it occurred to me today that might be the jumping off point for why Comedy is so male dominated."

I had so many things to respond to this (it was certainly thought-provoking) and it was all trying to spill out of my head at the same time.  I finally was able to write something somewhat coherent.  Here is what I said:

"I respectfully disagree with this comment. Men "tend" to be funnier not because they are 'technically' funnier its because society rewards men to be funny. Women are not applauded for being funny when growing up. They are applauded for being polite, easy-going, maternal and pretty. If they are funny---they are seen as un-ladylike, as a tom-boy or even, rude. I think there are tons of women who could and would be funny if given the chance or nurtured to be funny. I think women are very self-aware of the structure that we exist in--probably more so since they are known more for 'attention-to-detail' types, so I don't think that is what women are necessarily lacking in the humor department.

Until a guy typically says "I fell for her because she makes me laugh" versus "I fell for her because she's so down to earth" or "She's the girl next door who is FUN (not funny) to hang out with" or "She's a damn good cook" then perhaps I will change my mind. If you look at rom-coms today...the montage consists of a guy goofing off and the girl laughing her head off and falling deeply in love with this guy. Its the girl batting her eyelashes, or looking stressed out and the guy gently putting the hair away from her face or a girl strutting down a sidewalk. You don't see Meg Ryan doing an impression of the godfather to either Billy Crystal or Tom Hanks (When Harry Met Sally or Sleeping in Seattle respectively).

The idea of pretty, smart AND funny women is sometimes seen as a unicorn---I can't believe they exist! I can't believe she can do it all! is somewhat insulting in various aspects. You could also say Men TEND to be engineers or Men TEND to be directors but not because they are necessarily better, probably because it is more likely encouraged. Just like girls TEND to be more likely to nurses or schoolteachers.

And that's tough because I don't think we'll ever be neutral gender and we're still stuck in this generalization of hey you're the "best woman chef" versus you're the "best chef" (I got that in film school: you are the best woman director! so what does that make me in the class? The worst director in comparison to men? The second best director?). Or how about we can't have any women politicians because they're all idiots like Palin and Bachmann (and the idea women will vote for them just because we're women is ludicrous).

Anyway, I did enjoy this post though because it really made me think about gender roles. But also because I was thought of as "funny" growing up but chastised because it was also rude, unladylike and geeky and sometimes, unattractive"

So here's my question. What do you think? Why do you think there are more male comedians? Do you think what I'm saying is horsecrap? Perhaps what Nathan is saying is horsecrap? Or a mix between the two?  

Or who gives a rat ass why people are funny---male or female---as long as they're funnny?


  1. testing to see how much I have to fill out.

  2. great entry and well said!!

    i have to think about this one... more. not because i strongly agree or disagree but because it's an interesting topic i'd like to savor.

    no. ok. i've thought about it.
    i strongly agree with you, Sharon. and not just because you're a woman. you bring up great points and you supported them. maybe most male comics or most males in general don't or wouldn't even consider the mechanics of the issue. rewarding! of course!! or maybe it all just happens so fast.

    i keep thinking about my coworkers. one of them used to have her brothers working alongside her/us (at the video store). one was younger and the other was older than her. one day i realized, as quiet as the girl coworker was, her humor made me laugh the hardest & for prolonged spurts. it could sometimes be silly but for the most part it felt wry, smart, and quick! clearly she was the funnier of the siblings but not too many people recognized it. or if they did, they never said anything. as soon as i realized what happened it was kind of second nature just to 'reward' her and say it out loud, "you know. you're funnier than your brothers!!"

    her response? "i know" and she smiled an appreciative, good-natured smile.

    great comedy, among other things, i think, also has a lot to do with knowing who you are about to make laugh--knowing the audience. AND knowing how to adjust, especially if a bit just isn't working. i'd like to think that this quality is NOT a gender-based kind of thing!