Heard the one about men being funnier than women? Sorry sisters, but those wisecracks are true.
I’M familiar with the gender pay gap but it’s only recently I was introduced to the humour gap. The idea is that women attempting to be funny in the workplace often fall flat while their male colleagues get all the giggles. The study discovered that 90% of male humour in the boardroom receives laughter, while at least 80% of the female humour was met by silence.
It feeds into the widely-held belief that, on the whole, men are funnier than women – an attitude so widespread that even feminist icon Germaine Greer pronounced this herself.
I’m going to get pelters for this, but I agree. I just prefer the material delivered by male comics. And a straw poll of my female friends showed that most felt the same. Does this make us anti-feminist? Of course not. There is no Feminist Code of Conduct that proclaims we must, at all times, back the abilities of our fellow females over men in every department.
I find the subject matter of female comics cliché-ridden and predictable: periods, hormones, diets, children, dating, sex and moaning about men. All of which makes me cringe.
A stereotype? Maybe. But it’s all about perception. It’s the possibility that I might have to listen to such bile that makes me not want to listen to them in the first place.
But what about Joan Rivers or Miranda Hart, you say? The list could go on, but not for long. Maybe that’s the problem: there are simply more male comedians. Even so, I say there are more bad female comics than there are bad male comics.
Maybe it’s because men are naturally predisposed to being better at comedy because, for one, they are able to say and do as they please with only a nth of the judgement women receive – all of which makes it easier to stand up in front of an audience and be cocky and confident.
Males are also programmed from the playground to make females laugh if they stand any chance of hooking up with them. They then spend years trying to entertain their pals with puerile fart jokes and crude wisecracks (which doesn’t end when they’re adults).
Women, however, are not “required” to be funny. We feel no need to outwit each other and are accustomed to being the audience. And when we are, we’re harder to please. We don’t laugh at just anything, while men laugh at the most base and asinine of jokes. Many women are also programmed, wrongly, to believe that being funny – ie to be seen as witty and smart – will put men off. How often do you hear a man extolling the comic values of his partner? Not often.
It remains hard to believe the ability to make people laugh has something to do with gender but it comes down to material and interpretation. According to the research, 70% of the female humour delivered in the workplace was self-deprecatory, and therefore deemed less funny than the confident banter of their male colleagues.
And female humour is often interpreted wrongly. I’m sure I’m not the only woman to drop some witty sarcasm into a conversation, only to be met with the sound of tumbleweed, when the same comment, if uttered by a man, would’ve been met by a chuckle of appreciation. As a woman, my humour is judged to have an angle; I’m being bitchy, provocative or defensive.
All of this is not to say women can’t be as funny as men or that there are no good female comics. Two of my favourite comedians are Ellen DeGeneres and Sarah Silverman. I will let out the odd giggle at Sarah Millican and like the promising English comic Jen Brister.
Comedy is obviously male dominated, but the best comedy isn’t gender specific; it’s about everyday life. The only way perceptions will change – mine included – is if more original female comics enter into that world, redressing the balance of funny in the process. And if the current world of pop is anything to go by – dominated as it is by ladies – the final joke could well be on me.
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