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Though ask yourself, was Dorothy Parker ever really funny?
December 12, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.
posted by nuclear_soup (207 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
However, there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: "She's a real honey, has a life of her own … [interlude for attributes that are none of your business] … and, man, does she ever make 'em laugh."


actually, i was just saying that precise thing, in all seriousness, several times this past week. more about this ridiculousness as I continue reading. hoping it's a joke.
posted by shmegegge at 10:55 AM on December 12, 2006


Why Christopher Hitchens, who has his very own soapbox, such a dumbass drunk?
posted by interrobang at 10:56 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Let me be the first to say: Christopher Hitchens, suck a nut and die.
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2006


Oops, I left out a verb. That verb is "is".
posted by interrobang at 10:58 AM on December 12, 2006


Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz, Ellen DeGeneres. (Though ask yourself, was Dorothy Parker ever really funny?)

guh. this... you can't be serious.
posted by shmegegge at 10:59 AM on December 12, 2006


In any case, my argument doesn't say that there are no decent women comedians. There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there.

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?! Christopher hitchens' inventory of the number of piss poor male comedians is desperately in need of refiguring.
posted by shmegegge at 11:01 AM on December 12, 2006


Um, Amy Poller, Tina Fey, Samantha Bee, hello?

Seriously though, Christopher Hitchens is a nutbar.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on December 12, 2006


Nora Ephron? Really? Did you watch "You've Got Mail?"
posted by ninjew at 11:02 AM on December 12, 2006


Drunks and nutbars are often funny. So why is Christopher Hitchens not funny?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:03 AM on December 12, 2006


Here is my second-pass response: Hitchens confuses the idea of men on average being more overtly funny/jokey (quite true, in my experience) with the idea that therefore there are *no* funny women (not true) and then appending some misogynist bullshit about women being into crystals and shopping (and this is more embarrassing than men being into sports how?).
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 11:04 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know, I wouldn't mind him so much if he was a jolly drunk.
posted by maryh at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2006


My personal favorite part is the sentence he starts out : If I am correct about this, which I am
posted by nuclear_soup at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


okay, i have to share this entire paragraph with the class.

In any case, my argument doesn't say that there are no decent women comedians. There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don't dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter. While Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition.

Yes, he actually said all that in precisely that context. let's rephrase in a manner that does not add or subtract any meaning from his words, but removes the petty linguistic acrobatics to create something more honest.

"most funny women are fat, lesbian, jewish or some combination of the three. roseanne is funny because she's a big fat broad, and lesbians are funny because they also want to impress ladies. jewish humor is guy humor for no reason."
posted by shmegegge at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2006 [4 favorites]


Women are not funny because men like the Three Stooges.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2006


Hey, just because you're bloated, male and English doesn't mean you can't channel Ann Coulter.
posted by sacre_bleu at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2006


"Men obviously like gross stuff," says Fran Lebowitz. "Why? Because it's childish." Keep your eye on that last word. Women's appetite for talk about that fine product known as Depend is limited. So is their relish for gags about premature ejaculation. ("Premature for whom?" as a friend of mine indignantly demands to know.) But "child" is the key word. For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing.

I just can't take this. I give up. This article is horrific.
posted by shmegegge at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2006


That Lisa Lampanelli show, 'Take it like a man' made me laugh longer and harder than anything I've seen in a long while.

Much better than Hitchins doing his 'Al Murray, the Pub Landlord' routine.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:09 AM on December 12, 2006


Hitchens doesn't even make a good troll anymore. That's some of the worst, most disjointed writing I've read in a while. He's always been a jerk but at least he could string sentences together.
posted by octothorpe at 11:10 AM on December 12, 2006


I agree with the observation that the funniest comedians, writers and actors are predominantly male (at least to my personal sense of humor). But the most obvious explanation seems to be that growing up girls are discouraged more strongly than boys from being the clown.

Also, the author of this article seems to be trying unsuccessfully to be funny himself.
posted by justkevin at 11:11 AM on December 12, 2006


Why are writers, who have the whole literate world at their mercy, not good at their jobs?
posted by dflemingdotorg at 11:11 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Also, the author of this article seems to be trying unsuccessfully to be funny himself.

I thought so too, but then I assumed that my being a woman hampered my sense of humor and thus kept me from enjoying his jokes.
posted by nuclear_soup at 11:14 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sarah Silverman has made me laugh so hard that I thought I was going to die. Janeane Garofalo (sometimes). Wendy Liebman. Rachel Dratch, even.

Wow. Hitchens, you drunk fuckin' hack.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:14 AM on December 12, 2006


shmegegge, yes, he has basically defined female comedy out of existence. If that's all you're setting out to do, it's not that impressive. It's like I could say, there are no males who are good at cooking. Oh except the Indians, but they're such an effeminate culture, and the gays, but that's only because they want to be women, so it doesn't count. Therefore, men ("real" men, as I can defined them) cannot cook.

(Might I also add, Hitchens is also confounding the desire to make people laugh with the ability to do so, which seems disingenuous.)
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 11:15 AM on December 12, 2006


What fresh hell is this?
posted by RichAromas at 11:15 AM on December 12, 2006 [4 favorites]


Tune in next month when Hitchens explains why white people drive like this, and black people drive like this.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2006 [7 favorites]


I will say this, without quoting more of this pernicious nonsense, that there is an argument to be made that there exists a societal imperative towards humor that operates differently, in western societies, on the different genders. But it is barely addressed here, and if it were addressed would fall under the banner of "why women aren't funny," which is so sadly absurd that it would ruin any cogent point he might have made of it.

I can't help but feel that if he'd called Sarah Silverman, or resurrected the spirit of Gilda Radner, or asked Maria Bamford about this (instead of, you know, people who AREN'T FUNNY) they'd have laughed in his face and possibly have convinced him to abandon this ridiculous nonsense.
posted by shmegegge at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2006


Lucille Ball. Carol Burnett. Mary Tyler Moore.

Game Set Match.
posted by sachinag at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2006


He's a liberal, so it's OK to say these things. You just can't bear to hear the harsh truth, and only a man with such stellar credentials as a progressive could get away with saying them. Oh wait...

Seriously - who the hell listens to him anymore? The Iraq-war cheerleading must have cost him most of the Nation-reading set, but surely he can't have picked up many conservatives to replace them.
posted by freebird at 11:18 AM on December 12, 2006


oh, and what? no batshitinsane tag?
posted by shmegegge at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2006


God, I am so tired of the "women have men at their mercy"/"women could rule the world if they'd only realize it" bullshit. When I hear that I know I am in the presence of an idiot.
posted by orange swan at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2006


Wit, after all, is the unfailing symptom of intelligence.

Stop dissing yourself.

Drunks and nutbars are often funny. So why is Christopher Hitchens not funny?

The real question is WHO has been preventing him from choking to death on his own vomit these many years and can we employ them otherwise?
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2006


And here I thought humor was subjective.

What's this about reproductive unfunniness? I love dead baby jokes. I once joked (admittedly this was to a guy) that I would give a couple a gift certificate for an abortion for their wedding.
posted by bobobox at 11:20 AM on December 12, 2006


Okay, got it. Straw man needs a brain. Now what's this kid doing here, and why's she got a mutt in a picnic basket?
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2006


sachinag: "Lucille Ball. Carol Burnett. Mary Tyler Moore.

Game Set Match.
"

Is that for Hitchins, or against?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I, for one, am hilarious.
posted by amro at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is a guy whose main exposure to women in his line of work is through fashion, politics and the upper east side. Please, name more than three men in one of those categories that are funny. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and.......Jon Stewart (and they are only tangentially political). What a douche. He needs to open the door of his fucking Dominick Dunne vault and go out among some real people.
posted by spicynuts at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2006


So far, the counter-examples in this thread are not overwhelmingly strong.
posted by unSane at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2006


I know what Hitchens looks like, but for some reason I keep picturing him as Andy Capp.
posted by maryh at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2006


Lucille Ball. Carol Burnett. Mary Tyler Moore.


I'm sorry but Mary Tyler Moore is not funny - her script writers were funny. However, if you replace Mary with Joan Rivers circa 1978, then I guy your argument. Yes, children, there was a time when Joan Rivers was pants pissing hilarious. Not so much in the last two and a half decades though, unless you count her as a punchline in and of herself.
posted by spicynuts at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2006


As with anything Hitchens, his worthwhile points are reachable only by fighting through the thicket of arrogance and condescension - the strain of which makes them seem less worthwhile.
posted by JustDerek at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2006


Wait, why does anybody pay attention to anything Hitchens says anymore? Occasionally, I get forwarded some piece of his, and find that almost invariably, it doesn't pass the would-I-listen-to-this-if-it-were-coming-from-a-drunken-bum-sleeping-on-a-steam-grate test.
posted by bokane at 11:34 AM on December 12, 2006


(If you yourself are a guy, and you know the man in question, you will often have said to yourself, "Funny? He wouldn't know a joke if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.")

Now THAT´S funny.
posted by iamck at 11:35 AM on December 12, 2006


This is a guy whose main exposure to women in his line of work is through fashion, politics and the upper east side.

He didn't mention, for instance, fellow columnists Molly Ivins (who is witty) or even Ann Coulter (who is not, but is purported to be by no specific person.) Ivins is a lot funnier than Hitchins, who thinks "self-consciously and affectedly worldly" == funny.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:35 AM on December 12, 2006


if you don't find women funny, how can you claim to have a sense of humor?
posted by the painkiller at 11:36 AM on December 12, 2006


I wish the people in this thread would stop using anecdotal evidence to quell a generalized view.
posted by Mach3avelli at 11:36 AM on December 12, 2006


shit article, though I would be inclined to agree that, on average, men are funnier than women.

Mainly because women rank humor in picking a mate higher than men do, therefore guys try a lot harder to be funny.
posted by slapshot57 at 11:37 AM on December 12, 2006


cough
posted by craven_morhead at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2006


Honestly, I was just waiting for him to say humor makes our butts look fat.
Hey, hilarious, unsane! I get it! Whoo ha ha!
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2006


My personal favorite part is the sentence he starts out : If I am correct about this, which I am

He's trying to be amusing. He's seen Gene Weingarten us this kind of technique and get a laugh and thought he'd try himself. Unfortunately he doesn't have the creds to hold Gene's pen, so it just reads as some sad mixture of retarded and self-important.

What a waste of ink and bits. If he'd had the talent to just write it from a different angle - what is it about our culture that drives men to use humor as a social tool so much more so that women - rather than "women aren't funny" then it could have been very interesting.
posted by phearlez at 11:40 AM on December 12, 2006


Indeed, women arent funny cause we're all about teh babiez. So I guess men arent pretty cause they're all about sports.
posted by supercrayon at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2006


Humor is a form of *aggression*. Aggression is valued in males. Males are biologically specialized for it.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2006


Well, I'm still waiting for a name that makes me go, "Yeah, OMIGOD, she's FUCKING funny", as opposed to "kinda funny" (Samantha Bee) or "not remotely funny" (MTM).

The late lamented Linda Smith was one and my good friend Jenny Lecoat is another. Joan Rivers was a good call too.
posted by unSane at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2006


Can we get a moratorium on Hitchens posts like we have for Dawkins? Because this is fucking retarded.
posted by prostyle at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2006


Rolls eyes, makes "whacking-off" gesture.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2006


What a coincidence. I was just channeling Moms Mabley and she said, " Tell that fat white dickhead to shut the fuck up. He wouldn't know funny if it bit him in the ass."

I'll take her word for it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:52 AM on December 12, 2006


Oh, and nothing gives me the giggles more than supporting the Iraq war!
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2006


Women aren't funny. says an Englishman. I won't even comment on the attendant irony.

Also, women don't need to be funny. They have boobies, rendering funny unneccesary.
posted by jonmc at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2006


From everything2.com:

"A line attributed many times to Shakespeare but actually it's from American author/critic/poet and wit Dorothy Parker. She is reported to have exclaimed "What fresh hell is this?" when her train of thought was interrupted by a telephone. She then started using it in place of "hello" when answering the phone or a knock at her door. In many ways she can be considered the patron saint of all tech support workers."
posted by growli at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


What are you talking about?
posted by mongonikol at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2006


Oh, this.
posted by mongonikol at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2006


Humor is a form of *aggression* Now, that's a funny assertion.
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2006


Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy

Woot! Bow before me and my magic flaming vulva!
posted by jokeefe at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


There certainly are social issues to be explored here, as phearlez sez above. Boys and girls are encouraged towards different lifestyles and attitudes, if not by their parents, then the rest of society.

gross generalization incoming... Humor really isn't valued as much in a female, hence many females probably don't bother to cultivate it. Do not get me wrong, lots of guys love funny women and lots of women are funny. I am just saying, there are points to be argued here, but the author of the article botches it.
posted by bobobox at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2006


"Men will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is—or they are—extremely stupid."

*laughs at Hitchens*

*worries about who is the stupid one*
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Of course women are as funny as men, but men have to show off in order to impress girls, duh!

Note that in Comedy Central's (hardly scientific) 100 Greatest Stand-Ups Of All Time list, only 10 were women:

9. Roseanne Barr
16. Ellen DeGeneres
35. Phyllis Diller
44. Joan Rivers
70. Wanda Sykes
73. Elayne Boosler
87. Brett Butler
88. Paula Poundstone
97. Sandra Bernhard
99. Janeane Garofalo
posted by Lord Kinbote at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2006


Humor is a form of aggression? Solely? Really? Having seen humor used to defuse angry situations, and as self-deprecation, and as a social mediator by people who just all-around want to be *liked,* I'm inclined to disagree.

Also, clearly Hitchens hasn't been around many women who are just about to or have just given birth. You don't have a sense of humor about your situation then, you in deep shit. I'm talking multiple levels of enema.
posted by IcyJuly at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2006


“(Premature for whom?" as a friend of mine indignantly demands to know)”

Dave Chappelle is a friend of his?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2006


Humor is a form of *aggression*.

Sez you. Maybe you just are so effeminated by our liberal hystericizing culture of unmanly wantoness, "emotional intelligence" and sensual decadence that every form of casual human contact feels like a psychic dick violently and repeatedly penetrating your cranium.

This is jfuller, signing off.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2006


I wasn't really a fan of Ellen Degeneres until about three years ago when I saw her do stand up at Massey Hall in Toronto. She was incredible. Until then, however, I can honestly say that maybe two or three other female comedians had ever made me laugh out loud. Sarah Silverman, Jeneane Garofalo, and maybe very early Rosie O'Donnell (Yep, her early stand-up was pretty good stuff)
posted by Shfishp at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2006


isn't this just a different outfit on the old and equally pointless "can chicks really rock" debate?
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:12 PM on December 12, 2006


I'm sorry, but if you don't find Carol Burnett funny, then there's no hope for you.

I went looking at a list of comedians, looking for perfect examples of super-funny women, but then I realized: there's only like five super-funny people of any sex. Most of the list wasn't particularly talented, and the list I would make, there's bound to be folks who hate them all.

But for this guy to think somehow there are no funny women... well, it's pretty much par for the course for Hitchens.
posted by grubi at 12:12 PM on December 12, 2006


Tofu is making men less funny.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2006 [3 favorites]


Kathy Griffin can be funny as hell. I hope that doesn't make me gay.

Or, if it does, it makes me gay enough to hang around with her.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2006


women don't need to be funny. They have boobies, rendering funny unneccesary.

Thanks for writing up the Cliff notes, jonmc!
posted by nickmark at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2006


Here's the the point that Hitchens leaves out - Yes, there are hundreds and hundreds of hilarious women working in comedy. But Margaret Cho is so aggressively unfunny that she cancels a lot of that out.

But then, one must take Howie Mandel or Bobbie Hall or motherfucking Carrottop into the male equation.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2006


Metafilter: Your favorite female comedian sucks
posted by unSane at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2006


Thanks for writing up the Cliff notes, jonmc!

Dude, I was making wit teh funnay. There are plenty of funny women out there.

But then, one must take Howie Mandel

If Deal Or No Deal is any indication Howie's mainly into looking like a genie these days.
posted by jonmc at 12:26 PM on December 12, 2006


yeah women are funny, they make me laugh and laugh. then i howl at the moon and rip my hair out by the handfuls. very funny.
posted by nola at 12:26 PM on December 12, 2006


good old Snitchens, in the usual drunken haze, must have tragically misunderstood the meaning of all those "you're such an unfunny cunt, Chris" he's been hearing these last ten years
posted by matteo at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2006


Oh.. an article trying to explain humor

Perhaps it is just that more men try to be funny, or try to cover more ground in their attempt at humor? I honestily can't think of female counterparts to the Tom Greens and Paully Shores of the world, and that is a good thing. Are there counterparts to people like Andrew Dice Clay?

note: I find none of these assholes funny, but some people do, unlike Mr. Hitchens I'm not going to define what is funny.
posted by edgeways at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2006


nuclear_soup: did you by chance find this article at Mandy Stadtmiller's site today? I know she posted it late last night/early this morning. Just wondering. If so, cool. I'm the guy who redesigned her site.
posted by premiumpolar at 12:31 PM on December 12, 2006




Are there counterparts to people like Andrew Dice Clay?

Lisa Lampanelli. She's a fairly good performer in the 'i'm going to be as offensive as humanly possible' school that Clay was part of. (for the record I find both funny)
posted by jonmc at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2006


Julia Louis Dreyfus can buy and sell them all.
posted by wfc123 at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2006


I saw "Hitchens" in the link and did not click. Thank god.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2006


premiumpolar: No, my roommate read it and emailed it to me. We've been discussing it here, in our college's library where we both work, for a while, and I thought it would make a good post.
posted by nuclear_soup at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2006


Also, by the way, every girlfriend I've had has been hilarious. I think it's always been a quality I've looked for in a woman. I think, because women don't have the whole testosterone thing to worry about, they can be more naturally funny. Look at people like Sarah Silverman and Amy Sedaris. Two of the funniest people I can think of (especially Amy).
posted by premiumpolar at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2006


spicynuts, I hereby nominate you for best unintentional pun of the past 5000 comments.
posted by googly at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2006


i did not have time to read this piece for i was too busy shoe shopping
posted by loiseau at 12:39 PM on December 12, 2006


isn't this just a different outfit on the old and equally pointless "can chicks really rock" debate?
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:12 PM


Let's go with "yes"

posted by bobobox at 12:39 PM on December 12, 2006


Dorothy Parker isn't funny??? WTF?
posted by grouse at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2006


Even after Hitchen's "conversion" I still liked reading his articles about literature and even politics sometimes, since he was a witty and elegant writer. But, damn, over the last five years, at least, he has been slipping mightily. This dreck was the nail in the coffin. There is actually a lot of interesting articles that could have been written using this conceit, but he managed to snuff out any glimmer of those articles coming to term.
posted by Falconetti at 12:43 PM on December 12, 2006


Sure, women are funny. My wife is FUNNY. But it's because she has great situational wit, rather than a standup routine.

Women standup comics, on the other hand, are usually incredibly dull. I figure it's because their jokes are usually limited to the same 3 topics:
- my boyfriend is terrible (or 'adequate' at best) in bed
- my vagina is complicated
- PMS

Not very many with skewed social or political views, outright shock vulgarity, or prop comedy (not that I find Carrot Top to be very funny).

That being said, I find Rita Rudner to be quite funny. I also like Jeanine Garofalo (back in the early 90s, when she was indeed pretty good with the observational/opinion humor stuff).
posted by C.Batt at 12:43 PM on December 12, 2006


You know who was funny? This lady called Mary that used to come in to Dirty Frank's and smash crab claws twixt her boot and the floor then eat 'em up. That was funny.
posted by Mister_A at 12:44 PM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


You know who is decidedly not funny? Hitchens' editors. How do they continue to allow this man column inches in which to drunkenly blather?
posted by Dreama at 12:47 PM on December 12, 2006


I also like Jeanine Garofalo (back in the early 90s, when she was indeed pretty good with the observational/opinion humor stuff).

Eh. I like her as an actress (and god knows she's easy on the eyes) but her standup was a little too whiny (especially the lookism stuff, which was hard to swallow coming from her).
posted by jonmc at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2006


How do they continue to allow this man column inches in which to drunkenly blather?

are there any other editors who will pay for drunken blather? I could use a few bucks and I'm better at it than this Hitchen's limey.
posted by jonmc at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2006


"Defining and analyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people."

-Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:51 PM on December 12, 2006


I can't find the place in that article where the author states that the best way to tell if an entire gender is funny is by 1) examining how many members of that gender are employed as professional comedians and 2) deciding whether or not he/anyone thinks they're funny. Does he make/defend that claim or did that originate in the thread?

There is a big difference between being a funny person and being a professional comedian, right? I could name a lot of funny women AND men that I know personally. And all of them are more valuable to me than a George Carlin or Sarah Silverman DVD.

(On preview, I see C.Batt has touched on this distinction already.)
posted by juliplease at 12:52 PM on December 12, 2006


IcyJuly: Humor is a form of aggression? Solely? Really?

Sure. Not solely, but really. :)

And you can certainly diffuse anger by aggression, so long as you're directing it elsewhere.

But if you disagree, please tell me a good joke that is made at the expense of no one and nothing. Please tell me how making people spasm in laughter is so very different from making them cry. Because so often it takes the same things, in a slightly different context.

Sarcasm? Irony? Slapstick? Satire?

Sarcasm is literally "morbidity." Irony is a slam against those who "hear and shall not understand." Slapstick is an assault on the body. And Satire? Why do you think the Romans loved it so?

And so that you don't take this too seriously, I will revise my prior comment, and say instead:

"Humor is a form of aggression, sugar-tits."
posted by kid ichorous at 12:54 PM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Lois Bromfield's Sorority Girls From Hell disproves his thesis all by itself.

(Written and performed by her, based on one of her comedy routines. Originally shown on Michael Nesmith's "Television Parts".)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2006


I find some of the female comedians to be quite witty and funny. For JUST plain old funny - give me the queen of mean anytime. Lisa Lampanelli does it right!
posted by winks007 at 1:00 PM on December 12, 2006


that's a good point above: if we are talking about "funny" in the sense of able to write/perform comedy on a professional level, than I have some thoughts.

In my personal, anecdotal experience among professional comedy writers and comedians, women tend to fall short in comedy writing because of lack of ability or inclination to think abstractly. Literal is not as funny as abstract.

I know it's a huge generalization and I don't have time to fully explain. Very briefly, it's lack of making that leap from "what's that fly doing in my soup?"

to:
"looks like the backstroke!"

that change in meaning of "doing" that makes the joke.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:02 PM on December 12, 2006


I'm going to make an equally ignorant statement and posit that maybe really attractive people are rarely funny. More specifically, people who were considered attractive during their formative years. People who are sex symbols now, but not as teenagers, don't count. This is my "fat kids are funny" hypothesis.

If you take this position, then some of Hitchens assertions resonate with me. I've rarely found that really conventionally-attractive women have the same level of humor as do girls who were late bloomers or are more offbeat good looking. Obviously I considered many of my ex GFs both funny and attractive, but they were never the prom queens in highschool. I think my best relationships have been with girls who blossomed after highschool, they're nerdy/funny/smart/passionate about things and this makes them more attractive.

What I'm trying to say is that people who have been told how beautiful they are their entire lives, rarely master any skills/traits to set them apart.

This is of course a gross generalization with many many exceptions, but I hold it as a rule of thumb. There are those occasional super people who are funny, attractive, athletic, talented, driven, charasmatic and brilliant. Those people are freaks of nature and should be studied in cages.

The main female exception that I can think of is Sarah Silverman who has probably always been cute as a button. That being said, I think a big part of her humour is seeing horrible horrible things come out of such an adorable package.

This whole conversation reminds about the belief that a scientist's output drops dramtically after marriage.

Basically, people do stuff to attract people they want to have sex with. If you're not super hot, you have to play up your strengths. People want to have sex with hot women, so hotties don't NEED to develop any other positive attributes. This lends some validity to Hitchen's observations. I'd like to point out that he still came off as a huge wanker.

This whole post has been incredibly ignorant, sorry.
posted by Telf at 1:04 PM on December 12, 2006


I'm going to make an equally ignorant statement and posit that maybe really attractive people are rarely funny.

I offer myself as proof that statement is wrong.
posted by jonmc at 1:06 PM on December 12, 2006


For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle.

Wait, so the reason I'm never gonna be funny is that I'm too serious-minded about babies?

Hell, I once bought a pack of coathangers along with a pregancy test just to see the look on the clerk's face.
posted by bookish at 1:07 PM on December 12, 2006 [16 favorites]


*I meant equally ignorant to Hitchens' original statement. This was not a reference to any comments that came before mine.
posted by Telf at 1:07 PM on December 12, 2006


Well, what I thought was funny was the authors (in my opinion) overwhelming use of parenthesis which (although I may have this wrong, I hope) may have been satirically mocked by (among others), Arthur.

Other than the somewhat idiotic premise of the commentary, and the dreadful abuse of punctuation, it was a sort of amusing article. Completely wrong, but one doesn't read Vanity Fair for investigative reporting.
posted by elendil71 at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2006


Madeline Kahn, baby. That's all I can say.

(BTW, the Bromfield link was a hoot...)
posted by Samizdata at 1:11 PM on December 12, 2006


Ships in the night, jonmc.
posted by nickmark at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2006


Lois Bromfield's Sorority Girls From Hell disproves his thesis all by itself.

Wow. I guess we should agree to... um... differ... on that one.
posted by unSane at 1:19 PM on December 12, 2006


Poor Hitchens, he is never going to reach puberty no matter how hard he tries, apparently.
posted by jamjam at 1:54 PM on December 12, 2006


May I just take some blue to laud a very funny woman, my girlfriend. Here's to you, baby, for both making me laugh and laughing yourself hysterical at the endless source of humor and irony that is myself.
Who the hell has Hitchens dated anyway? Most women are hilarious, though apparently not as much as I am, since they laugh at me all the time.
posted by sarcasman at 1:58 PM on December 12, 2006


Big waste of a feature column. All they needed to do was post a headshot of Margaret Cho.
posted by jeremy b at 1:59 PM on December 12, 2006


Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men

Ah so that's what he's been up to lately, staring into the mirror all day, bottle of gin in one hand, copy of the PNAC manifesto in the other, looking at his old dishevelled neocon self, wondering when he'll ever get a fresh new war to peddle, reminishing about the good old days when he was dining with the likes of Ahmed Chalabi and bloggers would spend thousands of words debating his latest invective and he thought he was really really relevant to the political debate.

Poor man, it must not be nice to fall from such great heights.
posted by pleeker at 2:10 PM on December 12, 2006


Aww, I was feeling all good about myself for being a funny woman, and then Telf made me realize it's just 'cause I'm ugly. :)

Two more to add to the anecdotal evidence pile: Jane Lynch and Catherine O'Hara.
posted by thekilgore at 2:10 PM on December 12, 2006


Yes, women have trouble thinking abstractly. That's why the vast majority of graduate students in the very abstract fields of literature and literary criticism are male.

No, wait. They aren't. The majority are female, all of whom are very comfortable with complex abstract concepts.
posted by jb at 2:12 PM on December 12, 2006


I won't bother refuting Christopher Hitchens because well... that explains itself.

However this did remind me of an article I read quite awhile back by one of the losing contestants on NBC's American Idol for comedians "Last Comic Standing."

Women Aren't Funny by Bonnie McFarlane

"Women can have sex with funny men but no matter how much comedy sperm they swallow, the woman's estrogen immediately attacks and destroys whatever humor she may have ingested."
posted by haveanicesummer at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2006


no one is funny anymore.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:21 PM on December 12, 2006


IcyJuly: Humor is a form of aggression? Solely? Really?

Kid ichorous: Sure. Not solely, but really. :)


So we agree, then: Your previous statement was a blanket statement. And I'll just take this...

But if you disagree, please tell me a good joke that is made at the expense of no one and nothing.

...as the strawman disco dancing.

And so that you don't take this too seriously, I will revise my prior comment, and say instead:

"Humor is a form of aggression, sugar-tits."


Thanks, sweet-meat. ;)
posted by IcyJuly at 2:24 PM on December 12, 2006


My pet theory based on anecdotal evidence is that women are more social relationship oriented. Use of humour fits in nicely with a less-relationship oriented, more impersonal style that men tend to have.
But that's humour as a social group style. That doesn't say anything about having a sense of humour. I think that men and women have an equal sense of humour.
The net result of both these tendencies combined is that you'd expect there to be men who are continuously joking mirthlessly.
I've encountered quite a few of these in work environment. David Brent style.
posted by jouke at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2006


Is there an (American) female version of your Bill Hicks? I haven't identified a single reference in this thread to someone (male nor female) who is actually funny. This myth is not busted.
posted by strawberryviagra at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2006


Gracie Allen? When George Burns and Gracie Allen first worked together in vaudeville, Gracie played straight.

But it only took a few performances together for Burns to realize that Gracie was the funny one, and that even when she played straight she was getting most of the laughs. So he decided to swap their roles. Thereafter George played straight and let Gracie be the funny one. And we all know how that turned out.
George: (looking at Gracie, who is arranging a large vase of beautiful flowers) Grace, those are beautiful flowers. Where did they come from?

Gracie: Don't you remember, George? You said that if I went to visit Clara Bagley in the hospital I should be sure to take her flowers. So, when she wasn't looking, I did.
"One day, the audience realised I had a terrific talent. They were right. I did have a terrific talent. And I was married to her for 38 years." -- George Burns

(By the way, in real life Gracie wasn't a ditz. Not even remotely.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:37 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know who else had the world at their mercy and weren’t funny? That’s right, the Nazis.
Now, I’m not saying women are Nazis, but they might as well be.

Samizdata, fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:40 PM on December 12, 2006


For the prosecution: "Can you think of any funny female comics? I can't, therefore Hitchens is awesome-tacular."

For the defense: "Oh yeah? What about [insert female comic here]? She's funny, therefore Hitchens is a tool."
posted by chrominance at 2:41 PM on December 12, 2006


I haven't identified a single reference in this thread to someone (male nor female) who is actually funny.

The problem lies within, my friend.
posted by cribcage at 2:42 PM on December 12, 2006


EatTheWeak, do not forget Gallagher. *shudder*
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:45 PM on December 12, 2006


It's tough, because this argument:

Alice: Carol is so funny!

Bob: No, she isn't.

... cannot be won by Alice. As soon as Bob says 'she isn't', the argument is over. However, when you put it this way...


Alice: I think Carol is so funny!

Bob: I don't.

You get a fairer view of the situation I think.
posted by unSane at 2:51 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know who was funny ?
Hitler. Really funny until he got married. S’true.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:52 PM on December 12, 2006


My pet theory based on anecdotal evidence is that women are more social relationship oriented.

sigh.
posted by emjaybee at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2006


My final observation on this thread is that on the few occasions that my male friends have contextualized a new girlfriend by saying 'she's really funny', she has turned out in fact to be totallyfuckingbatshitinsane.
posted by unSane at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2006


Someone here clearly has Asperger's syndrome, but I can't figure out if it's me, Hitchens, or all of you.
posted by BeerFilter at 2:58 PM on December 12, 2006


Jerry Lewis pulled this same "women aren't funny" line a few years ago, and then retracted it shortly thereafter.

It's a sad day indeed when Hitch is outclassed by Mr. "HEY LAYYYYYYYYDEEEEEEEEEE".
posted by John Shaft at 3:00 PM on December 12, 2006


I know a woman who can fart, at will, with her vagina. That's some funny shit.

Incidentally, she named her vagina Christopher Hitchens.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:06 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Really - the female Bill Hicks is in me?
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:06 PM on December 12, 2006


Betty White was insanely funny long before any of us were even alive. Here's the proof.
posted by dbiedny at 3:12 PM on December 12, 2006


My God, how did I miss this? I was totally too busy writing a poem called "The Children-Squirters Is So Grumpy" to notice.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 3:15 PM on December 12, 2006


My sisters have a good sence of humor. Having conspiritorial jack*ss brothers helps in that department. My brother and I held down our littlest sis and did her face up in full pirate regalia, eyepatch and all, with a permenent marker. When she went downstairs to complain my grandmother started laughing so hard she fell off the couch. The encore was when she was manically screaming from the 1/2 bath that "IT'S NOT COMMING OFF!".

My bro and I decided to "pimp" my other sister's ride via the discount bin at Pep Boys. Everything from snap on spinners to strobe valve covers to an improvised underglow kit using duct tape and florecent lights. The cherry on this tasty sundae was the "Aroogah" horn we installed, along with the duct tape pinstripping. We did this all along the right side of her car so she wouldn't notice when she got up to go to work. The livid phone call we got was so priceless, because everybody at the intersection was stairing at her!

Come to think of it, They both got really pissed at my bro and I for our jokes. Oh well, I just love telling those stories.
posted by The Power Nap at 3:18 PM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


George Burns and Gracie Allen: Christmas #1, #2, #3 (YouTube).
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on December 12, 2006


For crap's sake. Hitchens sold his soul for a column in Vanity Fair, and this is the best he can do with it?
posted by graymouser at 3:36 PM on December 12, 2006


Troll.
posted by sveskemus at 3:37 PM on December 12, 2006


For what it's worth (Icy), here's one of our cannonized, mothballed, comic luminaries rolling a little further with the comedy = aggression theme. (Also, it's a pretty good interview.)

Vonnegut: Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful. By the way, do you know the secret of telling a joke well?
Q: [Tries to answer, but he beats me to it]
Vonnegut: TIMING! [Laughs]
Q: See, that one wouldn't work so well on the page.
Vonnegut: Yeah, but I got control of your endocrine system. I had you there, didn't I? See, every successful joke — the ones you're going to get a belly laugh with — starts as a threat to someone or something...


Full interview
posted by kid ichorous at 3:44 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I've had a three-point criteria since I was thirteen for any woman who was worth getting serious with.

1. I'd be happy to see her face as the first thing I wae up to in the morning (and she mine.)
2. She'd take care of me when I was ailing, even over my objections (and I her.)
3. We could both make each other laugh out loud regularly.

Obviously, like anyone with functioning eyes, I have my own bizarre, arbitrary standards of beauty, but when I've tried to eschew this last rule and put all the humor weight upon myself, it hasn't gone well. I can think of one particular instance of an ex-girlfriend who tries, sweatingly, desperately, in any social context, to make people laugh at every given opportunity. I don't know if she's ever managed it without uncomfortable politeness being involved. She's a sweet woman, and entertaining in her own regard, but the essence of humor just eludes her.

She's also a Chris Hitchens fan, though, which might be part of the problem.

The question of, "Why Aren't Women as Funny as Men," though, deserves some curiosity even as it begs a very volitile question. And the answer, the more specific question, if you will, is, "why is humor generally more important as a trait to men than to women?"

And that, as I feel, is closer to the truth. Hitchens is, unfortunately, correct about there being more terrible female comedians then their male counterparts. I used to practically have a tent set up at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village. The men on stage were generrally mediocre - not great, but good for a few laughs, whereas the women were either the best thing on stage that night or cringeworthy awful, overselling every bad, cliched joke with a quart of flop-sweat and an increasingly panicked smile.

Whenever I sleep alone, I go to sleep with comedy routines playing, and at that level, women are absolutely as good as men and probably better. I love Paula Poundstone, who was one of the first people to ever make me literally clutch my stomach. Alex Boorstien is phenomenal. Ellen Degeneres is, I'd argue, the funniest human being alive. There's no question of ability between the sexes, but rather one of need.

If you sit in on any group of guys just fucking around, you'll find that almost anything they say is designed to get a laugh, and that the humor becomes an almost ever-constant subliminal contest between them. Being male, I've never been in a group of nothing but women hanging out, but from what I've seen indirectly, while humor is present, it isn't as important. This, anecdotally, gains weight in my mind from noticing that all the funny women in my group of friends grew up hanging out with, and struggling to be one of, the guys.

Humor is, generally, agressive, as are guys.This is why we high-five and punch knuckles and beat our chests and talk over each other and do any number of other rude things. Most guys don't grow up as the dude who can beat an ass, and so we develop humor as a defense mechanism - just as agressive and, in a lot of circumstances, much more mean. But we do it, because if anyone laughs, we've won for the moment, and those moments are integral to survival amongst boys. Naturally, girls who grow up in such environments (like Sarah Silverman, by her own admission) will have the same instincts, and probably more so, what with the mentality that they'd have more to prove.

Women, however, tend to use humor like a social spice - it makes the conversation better, but it can't substitute for the meat. Yes, humor is a benchmark of intelligence, but the funniest - and most intelligent - women I've known in my life (who I've tried to date, of course, because humor is an amazingly attractive quality in women) simply sprinkle their wit into dialog when they feel it necessary. I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd guess that most women grow up through a period of adolescence where everyone is, or seems to be, remarkably bitchy. Once they grow out of this phase, it's not hard to imagine that they'd be wary of using humor in social constructs too much on account of it seeming, well, shitty. For the average man, laughter was the sign of victory; for the average woman, laughter was the sound of defeat at some alpha-girl calling her out in front of her peers. Physical violence is less of a fear for adolescent girl than it is for boys, so it's possible thatr where humor is the reteat for boys, it's seen more by girls as what was attacking them.

It's been well documented that women's "locker-room talk" is far raunchier than anything men could ever come up with, and yet anyone who's ever told a joke in mixed company can tell you that the women are far more likely to be offended than the men. I think that has to do with the natures of female vs. male adolescent agression. Male bullies are notoriously awful with humor (until the humorous ones get older and become bullies themselves) while female bullies use it as their main weapon.

This is all disjointed, and probably bullshit (as it's all based on my own speculation) but I'll add one more theory to telf's acute ideas above. Male comedy can seem to rest on just being bawdy and loud and agressive, and even if no one laughs, people will tolerate it. Female comedy, as far as I've seen, must rely on much more subtlety and craft, which is why the best comediennes are superior to thair male counterparts. It also describes why so many comediennes fail - because subtlety is very difficult, and few have the talent, and men have a pass at it - which isn't just, but just how it seems to be.

Also - I like Rita Rudner, no matter one anyone else thinks.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2006 [4 favorites]


Alao, to throw in on the Icy/Kid debate, I know of atleast one joke that isn't at the expense of anyone/anything.

"What's red and invisible?"
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
"No Tomotoes."

Well, I think it's funny.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:53 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know... I think he's talking in a more anthropological sense. Using the term 'comedian' as a personality type, not celebrity type. For example, i could probably come up with dozens of female comedians, just as i could male comedians, even a few of questionable identification; but, I must admit that when i summate all the times i've observed an outburst of laughter among a group of people, it's nearly always the result of something a male said or did.
That said, I don't go to my girlfriend's knitting circles, craft-nights, or sex-toy parties.
I suspect it's mainly cultural, but maybe there is some evolutionary advantage to making people laugh...
Momentarily disabling enemies... lowering stress levels and thereby decreasing the chance for stress-hormonal interruption of the female sexual response, or helping her carry a baby... hmm!
posted by wumpus at 4:02 PM on December 12, 2006


Mo Collins responds on her Myspace blog:

"I encourage all others who feel the same to contact Vanity Fair snd express their outrage over such a lopsided article. I feel like the black man sitting at the laugh Factory and being called names by Michael Richards...."

So do I, Mo. So do I.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 4:12 PM on December 12, 2006


sachinag : Lucille Ball.

Exactly. See also Deborah Messing, Tina Fey, Samantha Bee, Gilda Radner and Jane Curtain. (See also the dozens of other genius performers I'm not thinking of here.)
posted by quin at 4:18 PM on December 12, 2006


I feel like the black man [being called "nigger"] at the laugh Factory...

Oh, for Christ's sake.

I haven't the foggiest who Mo Collins is.
posted by cribcage at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2006


I'm obviously in the minority, but I thought it was a decent essay.

And I agree with kid ichorous that humor by nature is generally aggressive, either aimed at another or at oneself, e.g. yo' mama jokes, political satire, sexual innuendo, harsh examination of certain peoples' behavior and preferences, etc.

I'm not a fan of Hitchens, but all in all, this piece was better than usual. Yes, Amy Sedaris and Sarah Silverman (and Carol Burnette, Joan Rivers, and maybe even Phyllis Diller) can be very funny, but in my purely anecdotal experience, women care much less about being funny than men do, which results in, well, less funny women.

It's been well documented that women's "locker-room talk" is far raunchier than anything men could ever come up with ...

Cite, please.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:21 PM on December 12, 2006


John Shaft : Jerry Lewis pulled this same "women aren't funny" line a few years ago, and then retracted it shortly thereafter.

Difference is Jerry Lewis proved that he could be funny (and wise with the retraction).

Thus far Hitchens has proved to be neither funny nor wise.
posted by quin at 4:22 PM on December 12, 2006


I cannot read this author. I trudged through the first line...Who reads this guys stuff for pleasure? Anyone?

Amy Sedaris is one of the funniest people ever... and Maria Bamford makes me laugh...and there was a story in the paper today about Phyllis Diller quitting stand-up (but she is still available for movies)...I could go on...my wife is hilarious.
posted by jaronson at 4:38 PM on December 12, 2006


Humm, there does tend to be more male comedians. I'd have to agree, it tends to be a "guy" thing.

I bet saying something true thats gender biased, sexist.
posted by IronWolve at 4:42 PM on December 12, 2006


In my personal, anecdotal experience among professional comedy writers and comedians, women tend to fall short in comedy writing because of lack of ability or inclination to think abstractly. Literal is not as funny as abstract.

I know it's a huge generalization and I don't have time to fully explain.


Now that is the funniest thing in this thread.

No really, I haven't heard argumentation on that level since the early 70s, when it was generally "understood" that women were too hormonal and emotional to hold public office and were all terrible drivers because they couldn't concentrate on the road. Such a moment of nostalgia!

I suspect that your "no time to fully explain" translates to "I have nothing to base this on other than some vague feelings of unease and the girlfriends I have known." What a kidder.
posted by jokeefe at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2006


*throws pies in everyone's face while smoking exploding cigar*
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on December 12, 2006


Rita Rudner is Rita Rudner funny.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:04 PM on December 12, 2006


Oh jon, you cutup.
posted by jokeefe at 5:06 PM on December 12, 2006


Hey, how did I miss the meta?
posted by jokeefe at 5:10 PM on December 12, 2006


Women are stupid humorless whores - but only compared to men. I mean that in the nicest possible way. And I’m not a drunken repressed homosexual with castration anxiety and nightmares of vagina dentata - I’m just sayin’
posted by Smedleyman at 5:13 PM on December 12, 2006


CHRISTOPER HITCHENS SUCKS! AM I RITE!?!?!?!
posted by aerotive at 5:15 PM on December 12, 2006


*cuts up everybody*
posted by jonmc at 5:15 PM on December 12, 2006


Q: Why can't hellen Keller drive a car?















A: Because she's dead.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:17 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Who’s Christopher Hitchens?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:23 PM on December 12, 2006


There's also that thing where every single man alive thinks he's funny as hell. That's also something women don't have.
posted by Football Bat at 5:28 PM on December 12, 2006


I think men are funnier on average than women. I think it is less a matter of raw ability than of inclination. Men and woman are mentally wired differently but the advantages that women have, in verbal ability and empathetic insight among others, seem to better lend themselves to crafting humor than male advantages in spatial and abstract reasoning. I don't want to overstate the magnitude of the differences, they are seriously small, but my point is that if the difference almost certainly isn't do to differences in intellect because if it were I have a hunch it would benefit woman over men.

I think the reason why women aren't as funny as men is because it is less useful for a woman to be funny than it is for a man. As a man I find it very useful to be funny. I have gotten the attention and affection of women that are much more physically attractive than I am through being funny. I have known some women that I thought were fairly funny but I don't think that it had much of an impact on how attractive I found them. So while I think women are capable of being as funny or funnier than men in practice they seldom put in the hard work of trying to be funnier because they have, comparatively, much less to gain.
posted by I Foody at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2006


I didn't even bother to read the article. I know quite a few funny women. My girlfriend makes me laugh to tears rather frequently. Usually she's fairly quiet and introverted, but she says stuff that cracks me up. I have another female friend that's the same way.

And Sarah Silverman cracks me the fuck up.
posted by drstein at 5:49 PM on December 12, 2006


I was just watching How The Grinch Sole Christmas and I thought what if instead of it being "Whoville" it was "TheWhoVille" and Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey and the ghosts of Entwistle and Moon lived there and instead of tha Daroo dahoo shit the sang "Boris The Spider" and "Magic Bus" and thrashed the little houses and stuff and killed the grinch with a deftly swung Rickenbacker.

That'd be funny, right?
posted by jonmc at 5:59 PM on December 12, 2006


I thought of a better way to express what I was trying to say above. Being funny is kind of like playing poker in that if it was up to neurology alone women would probably be better than men, but men like it more so men do it more so men get better at it, on average than women.
posted by I Foody at 6:08 PM on December 12, 2006


I think you said it well the first time, I Foody. In fact, you turned Hitchens' argument into something concise and coherent, which wasn't easy.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:17 PM on December 12, 2006


Can we help it if men don't get it?
posted by Miko at 6:27 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Serious comment now.

while I think women are capable of being as funny or funnier than men in practice they seldom put in the hard work of trying to be funnier because they have, comparatively, much less to gain.

Though I take issue with the passel of utterly unspported gender stereotypes in I Foody's post, I would agree that women tend to use humor less in interactions with men. The 'hard work' of being funny is more commonly practiced among women in single-sex environments. (It's also, um, not that hard.)

When women are in groups together and men are not around, they are often insanely funny. Women tend to turn it down around men. Perhaps this is because the power and intellect humor signals is threatening to men, and thus less likely to win favor from them. To stay in good graces with single men or groups of men, many women know that they need to take the edge off their humor because it's not rewarded as an attractive or desirable female trait.

Doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
posted by Miko at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2006


I think Merrill Markoe is really funny. She used to be head writer for David Letterman when he was at his best. Her "What the Dogs Have Taught Me" was a really funny book.

You can also put me in the pro Rita Rudner column. Many of her jokes show up in books of quotations, and collections with titles like, "The 100 Best Things Anyone's Ever Said." I think her jokes are not just funny, but extremely well put. I believe it's possible that she'll be as long remembered as Dorothy Parker.

Nancy Cartwright has been funny as Bart Simpson for a lot of years, Julie Kavner does Marge very well, and Pamela Hayden is great as Milhouse. It's easy to think of these folks as just people who make voices, but they've got to find funny ways to say their lines, too.

Speaking of cartoon voices, June Foray has done tons of funny stuff over an enormously long career. Rocky the flying squirrel, Natasha the spy, Tweety Bird's Granny.

Madeline Kahn was really funny, and really cute, in "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein," and "High Anxiety."

There's lots.
posted by Trochanter at 6:42 PM on December 12, 2006


I would agree that women tend to use humor less in interactions with men.

Then what's with all the giggling and 'you're funny' ing women do?
posted by jonmc at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2006


Speaking of cartoon voices, June Foray has done tons of funny stuff over an enormously long career. Rocky the flying squirrel,

I had a brief fling with a girl who had a voice just like Rocky The Flying Squirrel (I am not kidding). She was cute and all, but I kept expecting Boris and Natasha to burst in during sex.
posted by jonmc at 7:04 PM on December 12, 2006


She was cute and all, but I kept expecting Boris and Natasha to burst in during sex.

And you're saying that WASN'T a turnon?
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:24 PM on December 12, 2006


Eh. I like [Janeane Garofalo] as an actress (and god knows she's easy on the eyes) but her standup was a little too whiny (especially the lookism stuff, which was hard to swallow coming from her).
posted by jonmc at 12:49 PM PST on December 12


Not surprising, coming from you.

Apologies for not having a permalink at hand, but in a recent thread here, you talked about how your self-perception was boosted by having your photo rated online. Woo-hoo! Yay, you! I'm all for anything that makes you happy.

The standards for girls are much higher. Janeane is maybe a 6. Maybe.

That's her point. Putz.
posted by vetiver at 7:31 PM on December 12, 2006


To Catherine O'Hara and Jane Lynch (mentioned earlier) of the Christopher Guest movies add Parker Posey, not as regularly identified as a comedic actress as SCTV cast member O'Hara or sitcom/comedy vet Lynch, but who deserves credit if only for the whole screamingly funny "Where's my Busy Bee?" business in "Best in Show" and the apparently improvised bit about her idea for a low-fat DQ Blizzard in "Waiting for Guffman." The mysteriously pregnant pause between "low-fat" and "Blizzard" in the latter just killed me when I caught that movie again on cable recently.
posted by raysmj at 7:43 PM on December 12, 2006


The standards for girls are much higher. Janeane is maybe a 6. Maybe.

Bullshit. A girl could be a one eyed troll and some poor slob would still find her attractive. Not so for men. Plus, Janeane was already attractive and famous.

That's her point. Putz.

Don't sweat it, schmuck.
posted by jonmc at 7:52 PM on December 12, 2006


I'm very late to this thread, but there are few talented women comics for the same reason that there are few talented women lead guitarists and few talented female djs.

All of those things require a lot of practice to get good at, a lot of practice that pays absolutely nothing. You have to fail over and over and over again, just for the love of doing it, and usually from the age of about 14 or 15 to your early 30s. And it's very lonely, and not only that, but it's insanely competitive.

Girls tend to have more need or desire to be social at the age. They don't have time to spend rehearsing jokes in their room for hours and hours. They're busy collecting friends. And the last thing most girls want to do is get involved in all the power-play bullshit that goes along with networking in a 'scene'.

It's not about women being less funny or creative, or whatever. They just have different motivations.
posted by empath at 8:20 PM on December 12, 2006


This goes for ANY creative field, btw. I think women are even under-represented in visual arts, film direction, etc, for much the same reason.

It's the lack of 'obsession' that really makes the difference I think. In general, women also don't collect baseball cards or comic books, or build trainsets or all the other many obsessive and detailed hobbies that men get involved with. Whether that's due to natural inclination or societal disapproval, I don't know. Probably a bit of both.
posted by empath at 8:29 PM on December 12, 2006


there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: "She's a real honey, has a life of her own … [interlude for attributes that are none of your business] … and, man, does she ever make 'em laugh."

Now, why is this? Why is it the case?


It's not. It's total bullshit. I have a few significant exes in my history of dating women, and I often cite one of them as having made me laugh a lot. They all have their charms and virtues. But she, in particular, was funny. I also find naxosaxur hilarious. One of my favorite wits here.

It's too bad this poor fucker never had the same experience. He seems to confuse mating game tactics for humor essentialism. Men need to work to attract mates. Females need to be selective about choosing them. Since we no longer set males against each other in death matches in human culture (exceptions noted inasmuch as they make the rule) males must find new and more civilized ways to flash their tailfeathers.

Making women laugh is a fine solution. And Lord knows we put a lot of effort into it. This doesn't mean we're the only funny ones on the boat.
posted by scarabic at 8:54 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


As a man I find it very useful to be funny. I have gotten the attention and affection of women that are much more physically attractive than I am through being funny.

Word, bro. One can coast a long, long, loooong way on a little charm and a good sense of humor.

Back in the day my singe bud's used always ask me how I managed to get hot women. I'm not very cute... unless you like that swarthy hyped-out nerd thing. I'm certainly not very bright. Not rich. Nor am I prone to ambition. And I can't play guitar.

So, how, they ask. How?

I figure that laughter deprives the brain of oxygen and impairs judgment. I can't explain my luck with women any other way. And, not to brag as I am as mystified as everybody else, my luck has been considerable. For instance my wife is gorgeous. Aside from my "loving husband" bias. She is. I seriously married up. I wake up every morning (for the last ten years) shocked and delighted the woman is still there.

But it takes work. I got to stay fresh. I can't rely on the same jokes over and over. If I didn't stay up late every night honing my material...

...er, wait that didn't sound right. Um. Perfecting my method. Nope. That wasn't any better.

Ok. Let me put it this way she won't put out if I'm hacky. If she says "I heard that on Conan"... Mr. Winkle does not get shore leave. It's a lot of pressure.

So yeah. Men are funnier because that is how natural selection works for us nerds.
posted by tkchrist at 10:06 PM on December 12, 2006


Oh wow. I miss when he used to come to Socialist Worker Party events all-but uninvited and lecture everyone. There was always such a respectful silence as we watched him stagger and sneer across the stage; then everyone would whisper about his problem getting worse, and him not really being on the left. Then Linda Smith would come and cheer us up. I guess alcohol hasn't killed whatever organ makes him a douchebag yet...

Hey, I'm funny - What's the difference between Pinochet and Christopher Hitchens?

About a month, hopefully.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:08 PM on December 12, 2006


It occurs to me...the only DVDs in my entire collection which can still make me laugh aloud after repeated viewings are Jesus is Magic (Sarah Silverman) and all three Strangers with Candy (Amy Sedaris) seasons.
posted by deern the headlice at 10:18 PM on December 12, 2006


Am I the only one who thought the most interesting part was that Vanity Fair has a "digg this | add to del.icio.us | add to reddit" toolbar?
posted by mkultra at 10:26 PM on December 12, 2006


If humor is a sign of aggression, Woody Allen is one badass mofo.

The Power Nap: I thought the prank about the car was gaspingly funny and well written. Thanks!

A while back I read something (here on mefi?) about a guy who went on a "brain boost" diet to help him get through school/work or something. He said it seemed to really work and improved his abilities at abstraction and concentration and all skills which depended on these. He quit because he noticed that he stopped having a sense of humor. Comedy, in movies, TV, stand-up, and real life just didn't work for him anymore. I think of this story whenever (which is often) people talk about 'funny' as a sign of 'smart.'

Humor and Intelligence loose enough concepts that they can mean a wide variety of things about given people and contexts. As we come to better understand brains, and can break down these concepts into their component neurologies. It seems likely to me that we could find zones of exclusion in the bits of brain that help us laugh, and the bits that help us make sense of the world. To say the least, one has to suspect the casual connection that Hitchens makes. Because of this connection Hitchen's implies that women are not funny, ergo women are not smart either. (Whereas my 'zones of exclusion' hypothesis allows the inference that Hitchens could be neither funny nor intelligent).

But where is the joke, if not on us? We have so seriously (and intelligently), brought forth so many exceptions to the Hitchens' rule. We've surely proved his thesis invalid many times over, but what has he proved of us?

Lastly, my wife is hilarious. Fuck you Hitchens.
posted by wobh at 10:41 PM on December 12, 2006


I can't believe that Lili Tomlin hasn't been mentioned. I am still laughing at stuff I remember from "The search for Intelligent Life" fifteen years ago. Oh wait, that was Jane Wagner.
posted by pointilist at 11:04 PM on December 12, 2006


Can't find the quote now, but I seem to recall Chomsky saying that Hitchens had become "increasingly erratic" (implying mental instability) over the course of the last five or ten years. I'm beginning to believe him.
posted by Clay201 at 11:27 PM on December 12, 2006


What's the deal with women? I mean, c'mon, they're not funny, and they wear a lot of makeup and dresses. Glug, glug.
posted by luckypozzo at 7:27 AM on December 13, 2006


Plus the fact that if a woman *is* funny, a lot of guys look at her and shudder in unfeigned horror.

Hiding one's sense of humour is often an advantageous strategy.
posted by watsondog at 8:57 AM on December 13, 2006


Why are the Irish so feckin drunk and angry all the time? Especially the women.
posted by meehawl at 9:05 AM on December 13, 2006


Why are the Irish so feckin drunk and angry all the time? Especially the women.

Beacuse we look better when we're drunk. especially the women.
posted by jonmc at 9:12 AM on December 13, 2006


I brought this up elsewhere, but this seems to be similar in concept to a discussion of why men aren’t sexy.
Women can be incredibly sexy, yet men can’t pull it off (case in point, you can’t base a movie or show or get people to pay to see two men kissing - Ang Lee level talent aside).
In the way that is stated, as with Hitchens piece, there seems to be a cultural blind spot, a sort of air of disingenuousness as it concerns gender roles and social order that one suspects is either purposeful or stupid. And one must question - either way - why is Hitchens getting paid money for this?

Anything can be couched in language and magnified in it’s own little margin such that it sounds valid.
Say, why do boys like wearing blue more and girls like wearing pink? What is it about the specific refractivity of that light wavelength that makes one appeal to masculine neurons while...etc.

I Foody isn’t getting paid (far as I know) and he’s more cogent and entertaining than Hitch.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:13 AM on December 13, 2006


In most species, the males engage in sexual display more often than the females. Humans are not an exception.
posted by Laugh_track at 11:13 AM on December 13, 2006


Lamest comments ever.
posted by Miko at 12:20 PM on December 13, 2006


This could have been one of the best threads here ever, is the real shame though.

Of course, it was doomed to become a shrill outrage contest.
posted by spaltavian at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2006


Well Miko, Farkers make much better comments because for Mefiers comments are essentially secondary. Farkers are innately aware of a higher linking that is no commenting matter. Whereas with a Farker you may freely say of him that he is lousy in the sack, or a bad poster, or fixated on boobies, and still wound him less deeply than you would if you accused him of being deficient in the comment department.
Farkers are overawed, not to say terrified, by the ability of Mefiers to produce links. (Asked by a Mefier intellectual to summarize the differences between the web sites, another Farker responded, "loquacious, I cannot concieve links.") It gives Mefiers an unchallengeable authority. And from the earliest origins of commenting on Usenet that we know about is its role in the mockery of authority. Irony itself has been called "the glory of Fark." So you could argue that when Farkers get together to be funny and do not expect Mefi’ers to be there, or in on the joke, they are really playing truant and implicitly conceding who is really the boss.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:03 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


What the fark?
posted by grouse at 2:02 PM on December 13, 2006


i agree: necessity, mother, invention, comedy, boys, hard work, all of the above -> funny.

and therefore any time one substitutes girls -> boys, girls also funny.

not really a genetic capacity (or, at least i doubt we'll ever know giv'n our current social clime).

many (if not all [there's no accounting for taste, they say]) women listed (famous or not, comediennes, girlfriends, sisters, wives, mothers, etc.) certainly prove that women can be funny.

however! i'm keen on this "women are insanely funny without the company of men."

as a guy i'll never know. it's a tree falling with no one around kind of number.

would anyone privy to such humor share a couple of bits? hopefully this won't violate some female code. i'm genuinely curious.

for the record, i've never felt the need to be a certain kind of funny in certain situations or to withold my good locker room material from a fancy dining environment, etc. our thanksgiving dinner guests can (most recently) attest to this. i think one of my favorites (favorite "funny in a way that probably [definitely] didn't fit the social situation at all") was after mindlessly shoving paper towels into my no-longer-desired glass of fruit punch, i (also mindlessly) decided to flip it over. needless to say, juice & towel bits went everywhere. without a thought ("indeed," some might add) i chimed: "and that's why paper towels make lousy tampons." given a present company of two very attractive girls (just met) and my best friend (who was angling for one of them [i was angling for both]) and a rather light "getting to know you" conversation prior to this point, i was hastily scolded by my pal (i believe he said: "what the fuck is wrong with you?") and summarily dismissed by the women. there was also some talk about a "line" and my being yards beyond it.

recollecting the moment, though: it still twinkles my eye.

so yeah. unlike the more diplomatic of the species, i (troglodytic male that i be) am totally willing to cross any line for even a botched attempt at humor. it's the striving, anyhow, no? granted, this is not always conducive to a completely smooth evening out, but i like it that way. it's all about tension & release, baby.

so. back to the request: lady humor so off-color it's never left the powder room- until now. share the funny. =)
posted by narwhal at 4:36 PM on December 13, 2006


Why are all the great writers men?

Why aren there so few great female painters?

Why are all the top chefs male?

Why aren't there more female rock stars?

Why are all the top clothing designers men?

Why are all the great architects men?

Why are all the best movie directors male?

Why are all the great composers male?

Just a few more article ideas for Hitchens. I think the answer is probably because women have boobies and think about children too much. Also they are fragile, weaker and have smaller brains. Oh. And they don't have a penis.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:08 PM on December 13, 2006


Well, whose notion of funny we're talking about anyway? You're all getting up in arms about the fact he's chosen women as unfunny category, where the real disappointing thing is, how can a real Englishman talking about humour or lack thereof fail to take a potshot at Americans and/or Germans, and trumpet the utter superiority of British humour? Unless he's such an all round traitor, that is. Boo.

But on a serious note - the 'mother nature is not kind to men / men can't be beautiful or sexy', now that is really funny, how does that work though? is it just that some men equal 'sexy' with 'whatever I'm supposed/inclined to find sexy as a heterosexual man' so they just won't see past it even when they're talking in general, not personal taste? or they can but will never admit it because otherwise they may (wrongly)think it requires reexamining said sexual orientation? is it really about fear of the gay? because there's plenty of straight men who have no problem at all recognising the hotness of other men. You don't need to be gay or have been awestruck by 'Ang Lee's talent' to see that (eh yeah that was exactly what drew the masses, not the 500 degrees of hot of the two actors and all that epic-scale repressed erotic tension, noo). Plus you know there's all those centuries of ancient art where ideals of beauty were male, and no they weren't all gay either. And just look at today's entertainment industry. It just boggles the mind that anyone could say women are inherently and absolutely prettier/sexier than men, and really mean it. You can't possibly be serious, come on.
posted by pleeker at 3:58 AM on December 14, 2006


Why are all the great penises male?
posted by jonmc at 6:16 AM on December 14, 2006


It just boggles the mind that anyone could say women are inherently and absolutely prettier/sexier than men, and really mean it. You can't possibly be serious, come on.

Well, as a general rule, I think that's true. I'm not saying men are never as beautiful or sexy as women but in general, women are more aesthetically pleasing to look at. Naked women look beautiful, naked men (even handsome ones) look a little ridiculous. Women know this and use their boobies to manipulate us, while at the same time letting us think we rule the world.

(I'm only half-kidding)
posted by jonmc at 6:23 AM on December 14, 2006


Pah, tits are overrated anyway. It's a plastic surgeons conspiracy.

Some men do look ridiculous when trying to be sexy, because they aren't, or they're trying too hard and can't pull it off. But when they are both handsome and sexy (not necessarily the same thing, but since we're talking aesthetic appeal), without even trying, there is no difference in degree of sexiness with a woman. It's just a different way to be sexy.

Of course if you're a man and are attracted to women, it's so obvious you find women more aesthetically pleasing to you, but there is a difference between that and saying women are generally prettier/sexier and for men it's harder to pull that off. It's just not true.

It is good to appreciate the sexiness of other people in your own gender, even more so if you're attracted to the opposite. It's a sign of being comfortable in your own skin, no matter how less pretty than others it may be.

Women are more inclined to do that, tend to pay each other a lot more compliments than men do among themselves, because they are more encouraged to be the pretty/sexy ones (and yeah, amazingly!, men are more encouraged to be other things, including being funny, who'd have thought?), but it's nice when even a straight man, no matter how he looks, can see the sexiness of other men. In a manly way. In a 'I'm so confident about myself and my sexuality I really don't give a fuck if someone thinks I'm not supposed to think of other men as handsome and sexy, even though I don't really want to have sex with them' way. Know what I mean?

For a man to say "mother nature has not been kind to men", it sounds so boring and depressing, really.

I know Hitchens needed that cliche to go on with the whole women-pretty men-funny thing. But if he really believes it, sounds more like a case of sour grapes to me.
posted by pleeker at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2006


“It just boggles the mind that anyone could say women are inherently and absolutely prettier/sexier than men, and really mean it. You can't possibly be serious, come on.” - posted by pleeker

Unless I’m misunderstanding you as well, that was drawn as an analogy to what Hitchens was saying to point up the shallow understanding and poor humor of the subject.

Elaine from Seinfeld saying men’s bodies are utilitarian “like a jeep” is funny and true in a limited sense. And in my analogy one can go further commercially with a two woman beign sexy with each other thing than two men. But again, that’s within a limited framework.
Extrapolating that theme into some grandiose framework while condescending to both sides and trying to play it off as wry social commentary - not so much.

“plenty of straight men who have no problem at all recognising the hotness of other men.”

I’m not one of them. That’s not a homophobic thing. Most people are targets to me. Which is worse, I suppose.

Speaking of which, who the hell uses the word “queer” anymore? Seriously, I mean the spades man, even when they goof on the reefer, don’t use the word “queer” anymore, you dig?

And indeed: “Oscar Wilde was the only person ever to make a decent joke about the death of an infant,”

That’s either factually incorrect or (again) a matter of taste. There are a million “dead baby” jokes. And jokes involving gross things.

Nah, he has no understanding of humor at all. Which is what is really offensive to me. The gender stuff is just a side dish.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2006


naked men (even handsome ones) look a little ridiculous

I'm going to assume you are straight (because you have said previously you are male), because as anyone who is sexually attracted to men could inform you, naked men are just as attractive as naked women. Sexual orientation is funny that way. Straight people think their own gender looks funny, gay people think the other gender looks funny, and bi people think both sexes are sexy. And funny.

Michaelangelo agrees with me, at least on the beautiful men bit. I don't know how he felt about women.
posted by jb at 5:59 PM on December 15, 2006


I would note that there is a very large market in gay porn, wherein two (or more) men kiss, mostly made without the talent Ang Lee.
posted by jb at 6:03 PM on December 15, 2006


I'm going to assume you are straight (because you have said previously you are male),

Straight with bi tendencies. And I can definitely appreeciate a good-looking man, but naked pics of men tend to look silly, whereas naked women look beautiful. at least to me. not sure why.
posted by jonmc at 8:16 AM on December 16, 2006


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