Anna Chatburn is a Progressive Women committee member. You can follow her on twitter @AnnaChatburn
Are women or men funnier? Can we make such sweeping generalisations? Many people have said (jokingly or not) that men are funnier than women, particularly when it comes to stand-up comedy. I’ve been thinking about why this opinion might exist… Here are some of the theories my brain has pondered, let me know what you think:
‘One of the lads’
At first I thought perhaps men assume they’ll identify more with other men, therefore being more receptive to male jokes. But that doesn’t explain why a lot of women as well as men also think men are funnier.
Men are more ‘prominent’ than women in society
Until the last decade or so there were far fewer female comics in the public eye and perhaps as women have historically been marginalised, that makes them less likely to be forthcoming with their humour in general. Equally ethnic minorities (also marginalised) aren’t generally given much of a platform either. So it must be at least partly cultural.
There’s been research!
There has actually been research about this…Participants made up funny captions to accompany sketches. More people of both sexes assumed men would write the funniest captions. But there was barely any difference in the gender of those who created those voted funniest. Women were far less confident about their gag-writing abilities than men. “When asked how they thought their efforts would rank, men believed they would receive a 2.3; women, a 1.5.” The study wasn’t exactly large scale but I’ve read about similar results elsewhere.
Confidence is key
I think stand-up comedy requires a fair amount of confidence. Self-doubt is the root of a lot of humour, but stand-up requires being bold enough to bare your soul. I often feel I should suppress my sense of humour in order to be taken seriously, but is that to do with gender? Actress Charlotte Thornton points out in a great blog post “Feminine and funny – can we be both?” that being funny isn’t necessarily seen as feminine. She points out that stand-up started in working men’s clubs. To stand up and give your views and open yourself up for criticism requires attributes traditionally seen as ‘macho’. Blokes on the whole tend to be less self-critical and analytical than women.
Perhaps women feel they have to prove a point
Some female comics talk about being female and feminism…however some men still often come out with surprisingly clichéd and cringe-worthy jokes (often under the guise of irony). I went to a comedy night in Greenwich a few years ago with some well known comics (all male) and spent a lot of the time cringing/ bored as the jokes seemed very dated and sexist.
The peacock theory
This is the idea that men make more effort to be funny in order to try to woo females by impressing them, hence they get noticed for being funny more often. However according to this NY Times article men are just simply cockier!
“Women are dirtier”
Its often said that women use more profanities. Could this be an attempt to be ‘one of the lads’ or show we’re not afraid of saying what we think? Or maybe we just are dirtier.
It’s the individual, not the gender
Surely it’s about the individual, not the gender? Of course, but people still make generalisations. I can probably think of a fairly equal balance of hilarious women and men in my day-to-day life, but I think the key is that comediennes aren’t represented as much as men.
More female comics please!
Comedy clubs are missing a trick by not including more of a balance – if I saw a line-up was all or nearly all male I would be much less likely to go! I’d like to see more of a balance on TV and in live shows.
You can judge for yourself if women really are the funnier sex. Join us on Tuesday 29 January for our Funny Fundraiser, starring Bridget Christie, Catie Wilkins, Kate Smurthwaite, Amy Howerska, and many more…