[I guess this is the topic du jour? I began this draft a few days ago….]
Recently Adam Carolla caused women (and other people) to get ruffled because he said that women aren’t funny and, even worse, pointed out that female comedy writers are especially not funny and are more or less only kept on writing staffs because of affirmative action. Predictably, female voices were raised in chorus to cry, “BUT! BUT! ELLEN!! And there used to be some lady named Carol Burnett! And Lucy Ricardo!” There was also a lot of “Adam Carolla isn’t funny so he can’t possibly be a good judge of what is funny!” , which is like saying that only directors who have made a good movie can correctly judge if a movie is good or not.
In my experience, very few women are genuinely funny. If you’re bristling at Carolla’s ~misogynistic injustice~, ask yourself how many women you know who can:
- consistently make people, including complete strangers, laugh with their stories
- tell jokes and deliver a killer punchline
- are witty
It’s probably not more than a handful, if that. Among beautiful women, the number starts approaching zero. (And I mean actually beautiful, not “Kristin Wiig isn’t fat so let’s put her in the HOTTTT category!” beautiful.)
Of course, that doesn’t mean that men on the whole are funny. Most men aren’t funny, either. But chances are, the person in school who cracked you up all the time was a guy. The person at work who cracks you up all the time is a guy. In your friend circle, the person who brings the most laughs is a guy.
I think this disparity largely boils down to differences in the natures of the sexes. Men have to impress women to keep their company, whereas women just have to have boobs. So being funny is a boon to men, but neutral for women. Being funny can actually be a negative for women. If she’s funnier than most of the guys around her, they’ll laugh, but they’d rather be around a woman who laughs at their jokes, not a woman who can make them laugh. If they can sense that the woman isn’t going to laugh too much at anything they say, they’ll move on to a woman who will. So while being funny can make a woman popular among female peers, it can alienate her from men. Men generally prefer women who are amusing (as in, “lololol, aren’t women just the silliest?? Their precious li’l minds aren’t concerned about anything important, the dears! Thank goodness I’m a man and therefore brilliant!”), as opposed to women who are funny.
Also, comedy, at its roots, is uncomfortable. It requires you to make observations about human nature that people don’t want to acknowledge under a sober light. It can be antagonistic. It requires a certain boldness and lack of inhibition – you have to be willing to go for the joke and see it through. This goes against the nature of women. Women, most of the time, would rather be a part of the pack than stand apart from it. They would rather have the comfort of consensus than be an outlier. Men, meanwhile, don’t have the same social strictures as women, so the social cost of being daring isn’t nearly as high. Men don’t boot out a peer because he had a different thought or did/said something vulgar.
Comedy just works against social expectations of women and feminity. Can anyone imagine a woman doing a Chris Rock-like stand-up? She’d be eviscerated for her vulgarity. All of the conservative moms and Boundless readers of the world would call for her head. (Then the makers of Fireproof would write a new movie featuring a beautiful, lapsed Christian comedian who sometimes says “crap” but is mostly an alcoholic who has implied sex with jerks, but then meets a highly attractive, super manly, ultra intentional Christian comedian who has Scars Of The Past and was once a cop and/or a firefighter and/or a high school football coach, who, after breaking through her walls of cynicism, leads her to renounce her trashy comedy and to recommit herself to the Lord and also marry the Christian comedian in a covenant ceremony.) Likewise, does anyone want to see a female version of Chris Farley’s “I’m Matt Foley, and I live in a VAN down by the RIVER!” bit? Are women in drag even a fraction as funny as men in drag? I mean, men in drag = HI-LARIOUS!, while women in drag = uh-oh, smells like lesbians. Basically: much of what works for men in comedy doesn’t work for women. A woman has to be much better than just OK to pull off a lot of typical male comedy stuff.
As a result, a lot of female comedians make one of two mistakes: either they (a) resort to unimaginative riffing on menstruation/PMS, jerks, bad sex, bad sex with jerks, their completely unrelated inability to find love, and being fat/hating skinny chicks, OR (b) they overdo it on sarcasm and/or monotone hipster irony. It’s rare to come across a female comedian who doesn’t employ either of these strategies. Being funny is hard, but being a funny woman is even harder because there’s just more to balance.
By the way, I wish that more comedians and people attempting to be funny in general would figure out that being funny has very little to do with being quirky, and very much to do about timing and delivery. Some people think that being funny means acting large or having a shtick. You know, like, “I”m wild, unpredictable party guy!” or “I’m such a spaz! I totally made a fool of myself in front of a really hot guy!” girl or the Reliable Ironic Quip friend. Sure, those things can get you attention and even make people laugh, but they don’t make you funny. They’re just you playing a part. Real comedy is really just telling people the truth in a way that makes them lower all of their defenses without even realizing it.