I’m not funny.

2 03 2009

The tired theme that women aren’t funny gets some new life in today’s Guardian, with Germaine Greer trying her hand at the famously explosive topic. Greer’s strategy seems to be to mitigate the objections of ladybloggers and assorted other wimminfolk by following each absurd assertion (“Women are about as funny as a botched colostomy”) with some half-hearted apologia (“But that’s only because they don’t want to be!”).

“Women famously cannot learn jokes,” Greer writes. “If they try, they invariably bugger up the punchline. The male teller of jokes is driving towards his reward, the laughter of his mates. The woman who messes up the same joke does so because her concentration is not sharpened by that need. She is not less intelligent, simply less concerned.”

Oh Germiane, you caught me. Try as I might to tell a good chuckler, my lady brain invariably gets distracted by more pressing issues, like hairstyles and sewing notions.

Wait, though. Greer then backpedals a bit and asserts that women actually can deliver jokes, we just can’t think them up:

“Given an opportunity to perform a finished comedy routine, a female comedian will make you laugh as hard as any man. Put her in an improvisation situation along with male comedians, and she is likely to be left speechless.”

Where the logic of Greer’s argument falls apart is when she moves from moderately fact-based Assertion One, “There are more funny men in entertainment than there are funny women” to unsupported, overreaching Assertion Two, “Men are naturally funnier than women.”

I think that if it is true, at least on average, that a woman is less likely than a man to get a laugh, it’s because boys are raised to attract attention, while girls are brought up to deflect it. All jokes, gags and innuendos basically say the same thing: Look at me. And on the whole, men are more comfortable in the spotlight, possibly because they don’t have an entire entertainment industry firing mortars at their self-worth from the time they pick up a crayon.

I wish there were more funny women. There certainly are a few. It isn’t easy being a woman who’s more piss and vinegar than sugar and spice in a society that still values doe-eyed deference far more than we’d like to admit, and given the choice, I’d much rather laugh than drink, cry and cut myself.

I just hope I won’t be laughing alone.

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7 responses

2 03 2009
Marinka

I can’t stand the “women are less/more whatever than men” than men. Unless it’s “women are less masculine than men” and even then, I have take issue with it.

2 03 2009
David

Comedians in general are hit or miss. Thats why only a handful are sucessful (Chris Rock, Dane Cook, Dave Attell, Bob Saget, etc) I guess its cause the two mentioned earlier have a “I don’t give a f$@# attitude” and aren’t politically correct. Maybe if there were more female comedians like Sarah Silverman, Roseanne Barr and Lisa Lampanelli.

2 03 2009
Sarah

I think the thing that bugs me about this issue the most is that whenever there are examples of truly funny women, there is always some reason why she is the exception. “She acts like a man.” or “She’s pretty, that’s why it works.” Men can just be “funny”. But why do funny women always have to explain themselves?

Also, thanks for the shout out! 🙂

3 03 2009
Emma

I dunno, I have some pretty hilarious friends. But maybe we’re only funny to each other. And I tend tot crack up my men coworkers. My sense of humor, though – you’re right on the damsel in distress note – is the self-depreciating kind, where I often make myself the butt of the jokes.

Maybe we’re just smarter than the boys. They can only handle toilet humor, and we are better at wit and the “higher” forms of hilarity.

Or maybe we’re too busy popping out babies or something.

3 03 2009
jimcobber

I think you’re pretty funny… uh, not that’s there’s anything wrong with that..

3 03 2009
Chuck

you know i’ve always wondered about this. because i’ve actually gone out of my way to check out more female comedians (most recently Aisha Tyler) so i could really put this stereotype to the test…and i dunno, there’s just a glaring lack of “laugh-out-loud” moments. plenty of chuckles, sure, but the acts are less than memorable. seems like they have to get more creative with humor from a uniquely female perspective.

however, Tina Fey blows my mind. besides 30 Rock, which has gotta be the funniest show on TV right now, i feel like SNL has completely tanked since she left the writing team. blows my mind. comedy genius.

i’ve love to explore the psychology of this in more depth. and finally find the cure for horrendous female comedians everywhere.

23 03 2009
Mary Catherine

Ya know, I live with two 24 year old guys and we constantly have this conversation. I think the problem is that, as with all double-standards, men are allowed to be funny in categories that women aren’t supposed to touch like bodily functions and basically any crude humor. That’s why Sarah Silverman is so shocking, and while guys find her funny, they also find her disgusting. I had a guy friend once tell me that he didn’t think women were funny, but that I was funny. Part of me was flattered but mostly I just wanted to say, “Well what the hell makes YOU so funny?!?” It’s kind of like the overweight, hygiene challenged assholes who pick apart every woman they see because she doesn’t look like a playmate. Do they realize they live in a glass house? Rant over.

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