Women Aren’t Funny

By Krystal Lambert

I knew from a very early age that I was gifted with “the jokes.”

From age 10 when I made my dad cry-laugh so hard he had to leave the dinner table and go lay on the couch to recover, to the countless times I was sent out in the hallway for making my entire class explode into giggles, to being nicknamed ‘witty’ in youth group, being crowned ‘Most Hilarious’ my senior year, and doing chapel announcements at Bible College and disrupting the entire service with my Chris Farley-esque obnoxious physical comedy. I could go on. I’m comfortable with bragging about my gift with comedy because, as women, we often undervalue our talents or hide them altogether and that bullshit needs to stop. Part of the reason it is still believed today that women are the less funny gender is because women don’t believe they can, or should, be funny.

The other side of that coin is that men tend to believe they are naturally funny, and that they hold a monopoly on jokes, because, well, they’re men? When a person feels entitled in such a way, they are naturally going to believe they are hilarious and make jokes without fear of failure or mockery. If men have a leg up on comedy, it’s because they believe themselves to be natural comedians. Unfortunately, this means women have to put up with a lot of bad jokes by men trying to get laid along with the pressure to courtesy laugh. This is an everyday occurrence for women — a man making a dumb ass joke and then accusing a woman of “not having a sense of humor” for not laughing at his tired, corny line. Women, we’ve got to stop laughing at jokes that aren’t funny, it only encourages these obnoxious men to continue. Even if it’s awkward, let it be awkward. Maybe he’ll work on his material.

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I think the larger issue is that as humans, we subconsciously align humor with intelligence, and rightly so. A person has to be intelligent and creative to be truly funny, but the patriarchal mindset is that women are meant to be seen and not heard. Our brains are irrelevant because we have long been viewed as arm candy, trophies, merely a receptacle for a penis. If a woman dares to be anything but a docile sex-kitten she is seen as “difficult.” There are a ton of studies and statistics that reinforce this mindset; men tend to prefer a partner who is less intelligent and less funny than he is and are turned off by “loud” or “assertive” women. Gender roles are so ingrained in society that men may be doing this subconsciously, but it is still too common a thing in 2019.

I’ve experienced this problem a lot in my dating life. I’m often told that I’m intimidating, which I’ve learned is a simplified way of saying, “You’re my equal in humor and intelligence and it makes me uncomfortable not to have the upper hand.” A healthy relationship should always be between two equals, but that is so rarely the case. My ex-husband once told me I was the funniest person he had ever met. We were separated at the time and he was trying to win me over, but I was shocked when he said this. “But you never laugh at my jokes??” I said. He then kind of mumbled that he was “too proud” to laugh. I was so hurt that I’d spent three years with a man trying to dull my shine and make me feel less than. Needless to say, I never looked back.

I also observed this in my most recent relationship, and this time I recognized the behavior and called it out. I told my ex-boyfriend that I thought it was gross that he stifled laughter when I made a joke but laughed openly and loudly when he made a joke that made me laugh. There’s nothing more unattractive than someone who only laughs at their own jokes. To be fair, my ex did listen and admit it and apologize, he was simply unconscious of the behavior. Even the most feminist of men can have subconscious behavior patterns reinforced by the culture we live in. Men, if a woman is funny, enjoy it and laugh with her. If she’s not funny, don’t laugh. (The courtesy laugh should be illegal in my opinion.)

Prior to writing my articles, I always type the subject of my article into google and read 3-5 articles surrounding the topic, just to make sure I’m reading and understanding other viewpoints on an issue. I was horrified to see the top ten results were all articles written by men, stating that “Women aren’t funny.” Most of the articles were recent, too. 

I’ve always felt this stereotype was archaic and blatantly patriarchal, and was truly shocked to find that men are still so insecure about women being funny that they have to write entire manifestos in The New Yorker to defend their god-given role as the funny gender. Among those articles, I did find one that explains (with actual facts, statistics, and data) why men don’t want to believe women can be funny. From ‘Plight of the Funny Female,’ The Atlantic, Olga Khazan writes:

“For decades, this response stumped psychologists. When they would ask men and women what they looked for in their long-term partners, both genders would say they wanted someone “with a good sense of humor.” It was only when researchers pressed their subjects on what they meant, specifically, by “sense of humor,” that the sex difference became clear. Women want men who will tell jokes; men want women who will laugh at theirs.

In another dating-style study in 1998, about 100 college students were shown photos of people of the opposite sex along with transcripts of interviews supposedly conducted with those individuals. In the interviews, the photo subjects came off as either funny or bland. For the women, a man’s use of humor in the interview increased his desirability. The women’s use of humor, meanwhile, didn’t make the men want to date them more—it actually made them slightly less alluring. That’s right: The men found the pretty, unfunny women more desirable than equally pretty ones who also happened to be funny.” 

I’ve always been a giant nerd for stand-up, and have found in recent years that I actually prefer female comedians to male comedians. (With the exception of John Mulaney, for whom I would sell all of my possessions just to hold hands with). Broad City was groundbreaking for me, and to this day is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. I don’t have to give you the whole laundry list of brilliantly funny women, ranging from Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Women are giants of comedy these days, and the fact that Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer say vagina on stage does not cheapen their comedy chops. Men have been making fart jokes and dick jokes since the dawn of civilization, so far be it from a woman to make a joke about her vagina.

When men say women aren’t funny, what they are actually saying is women aren’t supposed to be funny. Women are not merely sexual objects to be muzzled when we intimidate you or make you feel insecure. We do not exist to laugh at your jokes. If a woman being intelligent or funny makes you uncomfortable, have you tried not being such a whiny little bitch about it?

In closing, I will leave you this quote from Tina Fey about an exchange between Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon:
“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday night read-through to start. […] Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”, 
Jimmy Fallon […] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

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