Friday, June 29, 2012

Are Women Less Funny Than Men?

Different Spin - The Star Metro 29th June, 2012
A few months back, I wrote about how it isn’t funny, trying to be funny. I spoke about my experience preparing for a three-minute stand-up comedy during an open mic session held a few months ago.
Doing stand-up was part of a bucket list I had prepared after a medical scare early this year, which made me realise how precious life is. After ticking comedy off my bucket list, I swore never to do stand-up again.
I broke that vow.
Malaysia’s queen of comedy Joanne Kam, literally twisted my arm into performing for her all-women comedy show, Superkam & The League of Extraordinary Femmes. So here I am again — slightly annoyed, nervous like hell and very worried. This is NOT funny.
A lot of noise has been made on whether women are funny. Even during my Q&A session with the media while promoting the show, the reporters asked me, “Daphne, are female comedians less funny than their male counterparts?”
It pays to be funny: There are ‘super-funny chicks’ in the field like Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey (above) and Kathy Griffin.
How does one answer that without a) blowing one’s trumpet or b) sounding like some Feminazi?
The “are women funny” debate, made infamous by Christopher Hitchen’s 2007 Vanity Fair article (“Why Women Aren’t Funny”), has recently showed its unattractive head again, thanks to comedian and former co-host of The Man Show, Adam Carolla.

He told The New York Post that while he has no qualms about working with women, “they make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they’re always the least funny on the writing staff.
“The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks,” he said.
He did concede though, that there are “super-funny chicks” in the field like Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey and Kathy Griffin.
Carolla defended his essential argument, saying that the fact is this: men happen to be better than women at certain things and women happen to be better than men at other stuff.
“It’s hard to argue with Kenyans when it comes to long distance running. Does that mean every Kenyan can outrun every Eskimo? No, there’s definitely a handful of fast Eskimos (and) I’m sure there is a handful of funny women.”
I personally feel that asking the question, “are women less funny than men” is archaic, worn-out, irrelevant and sexist.
It’s like when people used to wonder if women can be president because “what if she became irrational during that time of the month?”. Yawn, right?
THAT is how outdated the woman-and-funniness question is. Humour researchers (I-kid-you-not), have long noted gender differences in the use and appreciation of humour.
While women want to settle down with a guy who can crack a good joke, men, to a larger degree, wants a partner who laughs AT their jokes and antics.
I read somewhere that the allure of male humour is so strong, that when a woman laughs at a man’s joke, it is a signal of sexual interest.
Just watch those movies when boy meets girl and she laughs (head tilted back) — it’s an indication that the boy stands a chance with the girl, right?

On the flip side, how often a man laughed, was unrelated to his interest in a woman.
I questioned a good guy pal of mine, Nigel on this.
“It’s true Daph… We’re superficial that way. It’s physical attraction that ignites the sparks. Brownie points if she has the other qualities — but humour is not really at the top of our list.”
Shallow? A woman who deploys a typical male sense of humour — one that’s aggressive or competitive — is apparently a turn-off for men, according to Don Nilsen, who is a linguistic professor at the Arizona State University. Many men feel threatened, perceiving a funny woman as a rival or worrying that they will become the target of her sharp tongue.
“I think every man in the world loves the humour, even the sexual put-down humour, of Judy Tenuta or Joan Rivers,” he says. “But very few men want to marry them.”
My friend Nigel agrees.
“Women do have a great sense of humour. I like a woman who can tell jokes or is funny, but I’m not sexually attracted to them.”
Hmmm… Maybe that’s why I failed in my past relationships.
Christopher Hitchens crudely argues that women are not funny because evolution dictates that they should not be and because men HAVE to be.
In 1976, psychologist Paul McGhee discovered that before the age of six, little boys and little girls make the same number of jokes. After turningsix — and from then on, girls make fewer jokes than boys.
Basically, his study reveals that women are born with the same capability to be funny as men. And then, somewhere during the first six years of their life, they get the message that they should suppress it.
So, my conclusion is this. When it comes to gender and humour, let’s start asking the right questions:
How can we stop sending messages to girls and women to stop stifling their sense of humour?
How can we dispel the myth that women aren’t funny and encourage women to use their sense of humour they were born with?
Why not, instead of wondering if women are funny, we just assume they are and redirect that energy in finding answers for those deeper, tougher and more important questions?

● Daphne will be performing at the Black Box MAPS KL, Publika Solaris Dutamas till July 1 with Superkam and The League of Extraordinary Femmes — saving the world, one joke at a time. Kam, okay?

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