Hey, Men, I’m Funnier Than You

By Lindy West


Oh, great! Let’s talk some more about how women aren’t funny. Science has performed yet another study of terrible people, and—surprise!—unearthed terrible results: Apparently women in the workplace are incapable of making funny jokes. Men’s jokes, on the other hand, receive laughs 90% of the time. The reason? Well, science checked with conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom explained that “Men in general are the ‘funnier sex.'” COOL STORY, BROS. TELL IT AGAIN.

A study of executive-level meetings at seven large companies in the UK (half of the meetings were led by women, half by men) found drastic differences in both the types of jokes told by each gender and the general response to those jokes:

Women often resort to self-deprecating humor, with 70 percent of female senior professionals joking about themselves in a somewhat negative light, Baxter’s research found, as reported in the Telegraph. Still, this didn’t seem to earn chuckles: More than 80 percent of women’s jokes were met with silence. Meanwhile, 90 percent of jokes made by men were greeted with immediate laughter or approval. As a result, men were three times more likely to joke while leading a meeting.

Now, I don’t have any problem with this study, per se. It’s just a collection of data verifying a phenomenon that we’re all aware of, which is that nobody thinks women are funny and nobody laughs at women’s jokes. My problem is with the reporting on this study, and others like it, which, without fail, credulously latches on to a titillating but fundamentally sexist notion: that women might just be biologically less funny than men.

SFGate, for example, makes sure to consult some fucking guy:

Michael Kerr, a motivational speaker and expert on humor in the workplace, says this is due in part to how men and women are socialized.

“I know with my own surveys, and other research I’ve read, that both sexes tend to agree that men in general are the ‘funnier sex,’ ” he says in an e-mail interview. “What seems to be a consistent theme is that men are more likely to be humor creators, whereas women tend to appreciate the humor more and laugh more easily than men do.”

Even a psychology study published in 2011 by UC San Diego concluded that men were slightly funnier than women.

No. It is not due “in part” to how men and women are socialized. It is due entirely to how men and women are socialized. Oh, but “psychology” says men are the funniest? Well, I guess we’re done here! It certainly couldn’t be that women just shut up and laugh because we’re trained from birth that we’re supposed to be pleasant, pliable, and inoffensive, and that we should pander to men at all times lest we be labeled an undesirable. No, the obvious explanation is that every time a woman tries to tell a joke, an invisible dream-catcher telescopes out of her vagina and snatches it from the air. Science.

You know what? It’s true, actually. Most women aren’t funny. But that’s because most PEOPLE aren’t funny. Being funny is like any other artistic skill, but to wield it successfully requires outspokenness, unapologetic honesty, supreme self-assuredness, and an outright refusal to pander. And those aren’t exactly the traits we foster in our little girls. (Instead, we go with mistrust of other women, an extreme longing for expensive garbage, and the idea that being pretty is more important than being smart. Oh, here’s your toy, girls, it’s a fake baby that poops fake poop into a fake diaper for you to fake clean up. Have fun “playing.”) We don’t jump to these conclusions when it comes to any other skill. Women aren’t encouraged to be auto mechanics either, so most auto mechanics aren’t women, but only the most misogynistic dumbass would suggest that it’s because our tiny woman-brains are broom-shaped instead of wrench-shaped. The reason that people don’t respond well to women’s self-deprecating jokes is because they don’t read as jokes. They read as uncomfortable confessions. Because our society trains women to hate themselves.

Men are told from birth that their ideas are just as important as their bodies. Men are encouraged to be bold and loud—throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks over and over again—and that’s exactly where great comedy comes from. Comedy clubs are almost always run by men, and they’re safe spaces for men. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a male host introduce a female comic by saying, “And here’s your obligatory girl comic for the night!” Any female comics who are bold enough show up have to sit through 87 shitty, “edgy” jokes about how they deserve to be raped and murdered for not liking video games enough. (A completely run-of-the-mill example I heard recently: “Last night I brought this girl home, but she was being really loud during sex, so I told her, ‘Sssshhh, you don’t want to turn this rape into a murder!'”) It is a deeply uncomfortable environment—and I say that not as a shy, funny girl at her first open-mic, but as a woman who’s already achieved a certain level of comedic credibility. And then the conclusion, when successful male comics outnumber successful female comics 10:1? Obviously it’s because women just aren’t funny. Not like my rape jokes! I’m a maverick!

So, I’m a woman, and I’m really fucking funny all the time.

(Attention, trolls: I know that you are so excited about this big, gaping troll-hole I just presented to you, and you can’t wait to tell me that you don’t think I’m funny and you could do my job better than me. That is totally fine. A lot of people don’t think I’m funny. But enough people DO think I’m funny that they give me money to be funny. So unless people give you money to be funny, I am probably funnier than you. The end.)

I’m the person who this streak of conventional wisdom contends doesn’t exist. And in my experience, that’s exactly what being a funny woman feels like—it feels like you do not exist. (I also have a somewhat gender-ambiguous name, which means that I get frequent e-mails from readers assuming I am a man.) I spend a lot of my time hanging out with comedians, which means that I spend a lot of my time being ignored, not looked at, and talked over by men who are less funny than I am. To be heard, you have to shout, and when you shout, you’re a bitch. Being a funny woman is also extremely de-feminizing. If you don’t act “like a woman,” then you don’t count as a woman. Which, I suspect, is why so many female comedians lean on “woman jokes”—my vibrator! My mother-in-law! My vibrating chocolate mother-in-law!—rather than just telling, you know, human being jokes. Because we don’t want the boys to take away our woman-cards. And those are the women with enough faith in their own comic abilities to actually attempt stand-up comedy. Your average business-casual lady in the break room? Forget it.

Bottom line: When a male comic bombs at an open-mic it’s because that dude sucks at comedy. When a female comic bombs at an open-mic it’s because all women are naturally unfunny. And if you believe that, then I feel sorry for you, because your brain sucks. And also because you’re going to miss out on a lot of really fucking great jokes.

Originally published on Jezebel. Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

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  1. F yeah funny girls.

    (I was going to say that funny girls are hot, but I was worried it would look kind of demeaning or something following this (awesome) article?)

    • No, it’s not demeaning! Being funny is super hot! For everyone! Everyone in the history of everything has wanted to be funny. Except for Darth Vader. I don’t think he liked it when people laughed around him.

  2. “Michael Kerr, a motivational speaker and expert on humor in the workplace” hold up, is this a real job? How exactly does one go about becoming an expert on humor in the workplace?

    • I’m an expert on humor in the workplace! (By which I mean I help derail meetings by cracking wise ALL THE TIME)

  3. “I spend a lot of my time hanging out with comedians, which means that I spend a lot of my time being ignored, not looked at, and talked over by men who are less funny than I am. To be heard, you have to shout, and when you shout, you’re a bitch. Being a funny woman is also extremely de-feminizing. If you don’t act “like a woman,” then you don’t count as a woman.” This. This. Thissss! argh

  4. This is awesome. And so fucking funny.

    Something I’ve noticed at my new job is that higher up dudes make self deprecating jokes in meetings ALL THE TIME to many lulz from their audience. But it’s okay for them because they’re old, rich, dudely and white and so being self deprecating means that they’re making themselves ‘more accessible’ and ‘showing that they have a sense of humour’ rather than self sabotaging.

    • This:

      “they’re making themselves ‘more accessible’ and ‘showing that they have a sense of humour’ rather than self sabotaging.”

      My last temp-job there was this middle-aged white dude who worked with a majority poc force in Baltimore, MD and he was always cracking “I’m silly and white and loooove black people, Obama, did I mention racism is bad and white people suck for it, I’m silly gag-gag-gag!!111!!!”

      It was cool at first but by the tenth day it was too much like I wondered if he been around enough black people to realize not all black people see him as an enemy, I couldn’t take it anymore. Then the most epic thing happen, a black female co-worker was not having it anymore and did not find him funny. So in her not so subtle way, she let him know. I found the whole thing funny because she used humor do it and she became my hero for like the next two weeks. Shit was glorious.

      I think I’m hilarious and I always crack myself up. Some people find it bit too much and others love me! I like funny women they make my world go round.

      Oh also my favorite, pretty/hot/attractive women who are (sometimes) funny and make “ugly” faces. I’m talking about Olivia Munn, Whitney, Sara Silverman uhhh you get the idea. Honestly I find it hilarious in a performance art kind of way. I remember Kathy Griffin talking about it and I was dying of laughter.

      • It’s interesting isn’t it. It’s like a certain kind of privilege is unassailable so the people who enjoy it can put themselves down without jeopardising their position.

        Good on your colleague. I think it can be difficult to speak up about stuff like that and I admire people who do. It sounds to me like the man you’re describing was uncomfortable being in a majority poc environment.

        “Some people find it bit too much and others love me”

        Something I wish I had learned earlier in life was that not everyone will like you, and that is ok. Keep being your bad self. Some people will like it and others won’t. Keep the best and discard the rest :D

    • My self deprecating humor will never bring me success at work. But it has never failed to bring me success at the lesbian bar!

  5. More thoughts: There is something about comedians I’m like “ehhh” about but the funniest person I know is a woman and most of the funny people I read on the internet are women and the only time I enjoy an act from a male comedian it’s basically observational humor, idk, I enjoyed George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Dave Chapelle. I never understood Dane Cook what. the. fuck.

    I find queer female comedians more hilarious because I can relate and laugh WITH them. Sometimes the straightness of subject matter with both male and female comedians I am bored to tears with because it reminds of either Knocked Up or 27 dresses or some shit like that.

    And then you have the comedy of or really my life, which of course needs more women.

    • Knocked up and 27 dresses. What do these two movies have in common? Katherine Heigl :D

      • Lol I watched those two movies because of Katherine Heigl, she is built like a brick house, goddamn! However, I couldn’t with the movie.

  6. YES YES and YES. I have been told all my life that men are simply funnier than women, and since childhood this has made me furious. Some of my most hilarious friends are girls, and sometimes I like to think I’m pretty funny myself but maybe that’s just me.

    I think the real problem is twofold: one, like this article mentions, that female comedians feel the need to resort to period and vibrator jokes as the only comedic domain a woman has access to, and two, that men are unwilling to laugh at women’s jokes because it implies valuing a (cis)woman for something other than her ass & titties. Another problem is that many WOMEN are unwilling to admit that other women are funny! (These are the same women who only hang out with guys because “girls are just too dramatic.”) So essentially female comedians are at a disadvantage from the minute they step up to the mike, and this points to yet another fucked-up aspect of our society.

  7. I love this article. I mean first of all, this argument that ‘women aren’t funny’ has to be moot by now. I mean if there is one thing I know about comedy today is that you’re in if you are a woman or you are gay (at least in my eyes, the tide is turning). People are finally starting to take notice of anyone who is not a white male because these other people have been relegated to the backseat of society and, in turn, have accumulated some pretty fucking funny tales. By the way, does this ‘study’ take into account male privilege in the workforce or whose ass everyone is trying to kiss? I’ll bet it doesn’t.

  8. “It certainly couldn’t be that women just shut up and laugh because we’re trained from birth that we’re supposed to be pleasant, pliable, and inoffensive, and that we should pander to men at all times lest we be labeled an undesirable.”

    That’s it. That’s the story of my life right there. That is a lie, but it’s close.! I am one of those women who’s the complete opposite of what a woman is supposed to be like. At least when it comes to my sense of humour.
    Had I been a man (God forbid) this weird sarcastic sense of humour would have been totally normal. But it’s not. People still give me funny looks when they realise “Oh, this bitch is really funny!” – and I bet that I, for saying that, sound like an obnoxious bitch, because a woman is not “supposed to say that about herself, blahblahblah…”

    But, I’m going to break the ice here. Maybe it’s because I’m european, but in my life, men aren’t funny. At least they’re not funnier than women. It just seems to be more awkward if you don’t laugh at a man’s jokes. They try too hard and when they fail they have a harder time recovering. They sort of expect you to laugh at them, because otherwise you’ll put them in an unpleasant situation. (And of course a man should never be put in an unpleasant situation…)
    I don’t expect people to laugh at me, and maybe that’s why I like being occasionally funny.

    Thank you for this article.! Phew, best thing ever.! Don’t know exactly why my reaction is “phew”… -_-‘

  9. Your success on OKCupid goes up dramatically with your ability to show you’re funny.

    But in all seriousness, Josie Long probably put it the best, and I really sympathize with her and other comedians (and other people who aren’t funny for money) who deal with this daily. I tried stand up once, and by try I mean I left before my turn after I heard the 5th rape joke…

    “I’ve been doing this solidly since I was 21 years old, which is seven and a half years and in that time, I would say, on average once a day but just to be conservative let’s say three hundred times a year, I’ve had somebody say to me “There aren’t any funny women, are there?”, or “Well, women aren’t as funny as men” or, “I don’t like women comedians”, or even “Oh, I like you, but I don’t normally like women”. Anything like that, some sort of hint that for some reason they’re judging men versus women in the arena of comedy, which I think is ridiculous. And then I thought if I add that up that’s three thousand one hundred times I have been in some way undermined throughout my career that my male counterparts have never, ever had.” Josie Long

  10. did these researchers consider that there might be more men in the audiences/meetings, and so men’s jokes naturally receive more laughter? i don’t find most men funny. i find a lot of women funny. so seeing as i probably wouldn’t laugh at the bosses jokes, maybe a lot of men wouldn’t laugh at mine if i was leading the meeting. also, who decided if a woman had even made a joke, when it was met with silence? or maybe men made so many “jokes” the researchers couldn’t keep up with all the ones that didn’t receive laughter and didn’t note them as jokes at all. oh i love science :)

  11. You know, I really fear for science when I read “studies” like this one.

    Do those researchers understand that the following people exist in this world:

    Wanda Sykes
    Kathy Griffin
    Margaret Cho

    (…I could go on.)

    Or would acknowledging even a fraction of that list immediately set their lab coats on fire?


    You know what I love though? Because I’m a horrible bitch, ofc, I love it when a guy who thinks he’s funny because all of his moronic friends laugh at his jokes is put in a situation with non-morons, tries to make them laugh and fails.

  13. I don’t think a scientific study is they right way to judge if women are funny or not. I mean the last person I want to judge whether or not I’m funny is a scientist.

  14. Pingback: News Roundup: Women – Are They Funny, Ugly, or Both? | Catherine McCormick Comedy

  15. oh gosh. this made me extremely uncomfortable because it’s true, and I’m embodying it. So much for thinking I’m a feminist. I need to have a serious look at myself now because I’ve totally been conditioned to be pliable etc and to be feminist like this lady i’m going to have to make some radical changes. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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