Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On having a sense of gender

I’m going to pose a controversial question at the end of this blog post. The only reason I can post it is because I am female. Had I been male, you would have said I was a sexist pig. Now the best you can do is to ask whether I am entirely unappreciative of the hard work put down my red stockinged sisters. (The answer to that question would be: “No I am not. But I don't think this has anything to do with that.”) Ah, well. The world is unfair.

I love a good laugh. Whether I get it from something I read, something I hear or something I watch doesn’t really matter. Comedy can be great in all its forms. Almost consequently, however, the comedians that make me laugh out loud, are male.

Of my favourite comedians I would count the Monty Pythons (all men, though some of them dress up as women a lot of the time), Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, Adam Hills* (Aussie hilarity, you need to check him out if you haven’t already), and several Norwegians so funny they make me laugh till I cry each and every time I see them. Again – virtually all of them are male.

The only comedienne I can think of that is really, really funny all on her own accord is Tina Fey, but what made her most funny work (in my opinion) hilarious wasn’t really her effort, but Sarah Palin’s… (Though Sarah Palin is a woman, so I guess my theory isn’t proved just yet.)

In literature too, I often find men funnier than women. Sure, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is written by a woman, and those books are funny, but they are more of the quiet chortle variety than roll around on the floor (I have no idea how that can turn into the acronym ROFL, but whatever…) kind. I have read books by men, though, that have put me in a permanent “cross your legs and hope not to wet your pants”-state of mind. Again, I can’t think of a single female writer who has had this effect on me.

In the blogosphere, the women are in majority (or at least so it seems). When it comes to blogs with an outspoken goal of being funny, however, the men are back in the lead. The female bloggers are often funny – but their blogs usually have another topic that they handle with humour.

It might be just my misinformation, my sense of humour, or maybe (even though I still don’t think this is the case) my unappreciativeness for the hard work put down by my red stockinged sisters; but I can’t help but wonder: are men funnier than women?

* Aaaand just because I couldn’t stand the thought of finishing off this post in such a controversial and non-funny manner (even though I did warn you), I am posting a clip with Adam Hills just to show what I mean when I say he is funny.


arlee bird said...

I'm almost afraid to answer this lest I sound sexist. Yes, I think men in general are much funnier than women. When I think of some the "great" comediannes like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, or Joan Rivers I often find them more annoying than funny. Women can be funny to an extent, but when it comes to watching or listening to them for any length of time they can start bugging me.

I find the same thing true with women talk show hosts. I can think of any that I really enjoy listening to.

Don't get me wrong--I love women and my generalized opinion may easily be proven untrue with examples of women I am not recalling as I write this.

So there, I gave you my honest answer. Please forgive me all of you women-- I hope I didn't make any enemies by being honest. But Cruella Collett asked a question and I don't think she wanted me to pander.

Tossing It Out

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Lee I must for once diesagree with you, Women are funnier than many any day, Lucille Ball was not annoying but one of the funniest ladies around and over here we have some extremely funny ladies such a Victoria Wood, Dawn French7just to name a few, putting all jokes to one side we women must have a sense of humour to put up with many men who we come into contact on a daily basis and treat us like dirt.A sense of humour is a MUST for us ladies.

Cruella Collett said...

Oh, I can already smell a nice debate in the brewing...

Lee - you're right, I wanted you to speak your mind. Thanks for being honest.
I usually don't think of female comedians as "annoying" as much as "not as funny" as their male colleagues. Maybe it has to do with the themes they choose to address? Quite a lot of female stand-up comedians I have seen based most of their acts on messy love lives or "women's problems", and I don't think that is as funny as many other subjects.

Yvonne - I thought about Dawn French and her partner Saunders when I wrote this, and while I agree that they in general are very funny, I deliberately left Saunders out because I personally did not at all like "Absolutely Fabulous". I don't know why, I just didn't think it was funny. Maybe I need to see more of French & Saunders, though.
As for women's (and men's, I believe) need for a sense of humour to deal with difficulties, I couldn't agree more. I'm not saying that women don't have a sense of humour. I just wonder if others agree with me that men often are funnier.

Of course, one possible explanation is that men and women just have different senses of humour, so that men find men funny, while women find women funny (but then what does that say about me?!?)

RosieC said...

Cruella, I honestly don't find this an offensive question. You're asking for a generalization, but that doesn't mean that you think no female comedienne is funny, as you said yourself re: French. I think you've laid the question out nicely, stated that it's your opinion, and asked for input.

I also agree, and I don't think Lee agreeing makes him sexist one bit. I frequently find many female stand-up and talk show hosts to be annoying. Of course, I can't ever get into stand up unless I'm sitting in the audience. Watching it on TV never does it for me, male or female.

Be this unfortunate or not (and this is probably very telling about me in ways I don't like to admit to myself), my favorite comedienne is Sarah Silverman. She doesn't talk about girlie issues or love lives. Honestly, there was an article about her a few months ago saying she was the sexy tomboy next door. Haha. But her humor is very crude, and her humor has a strong Jewish bent to it (herself being Jewish). I generally don't like potty humor, and I'm not an anti-Semite, but she's really funny.

Beyond that, though, I agree with you and Lee. I can think of at least a half dozen comediennes without even trying who are incredibly annoying. It's a sad, sad truth. The question is why? Does it have something to do with gender conditioning in us? Or is it genetic?

Sorry, I'm stuffing my grad-school self back in my pocket now.

Palindrome said...

generally I think men are funnier than women. Although there are some humorous ladies out there, there are not very many. Although, hyperbole and a half is one of the only blogs that gets me into hysterics and that's a girl so what do I know. :D

Cruella Collett said...

Rosie - I have spent the last few minutes laughing myself silly at Sarah Silverman (thank you for that - now I have "I'm f*cking Matt Damon" stuck in my head), so I definitely thing she is one of the exceptions.

And I'm glad you didn't see my question as offensive. With certain topics you can never be too sure.

Palindrome - Allie of Hyperbole and a Half is a good exception too. I really love that blog. And you're right, she's of the hysterics kind of funny, not just *snort* funny.

Okay, I am liking this. I'm learning!

ViolaNut said...

Aw, somebody got here before me, but I'm on a major French & Saunders kick right now and I'm DYING. They're NUTS. And I love it. Saunders does have one super-annoying trait though, and that is to make any freakin' wig they stick on her look like a perfectly natural hair colour. How can ONE person look totally normal as a blonde, a redhead, AND a brunette (and we're talking all shades here)? Not fair. Like, at all. :-P I read French's memoir last week and found it hysterical, and Saunders got some major "classy" points by keeping the whole breast cancer thing a secret from the media till it was all over. Now, I admit it, I love AbFab (it got me through some rotten nights in college), but go YouTube their red nose specials, like the Secret Chamberpot of Azerbaijan or the Mama Mia! one and see what you think. Now I gotta go get ready for work, and I'm late again 'cause I was up late watching... yep... F&S. ;-)

Clarissa Draper said...

I think that woman are much to busy to be concerned with funniness but I know in my house, I'm much funnier than my male counterparts.

Have you ever read Ellen Degeneris' (don't know if it's spelled correctly) book? I thought it was so funny.


Cruella Collett said...

Leanne - I don't know... I have seen the Harry Potter ones before, and I did think they were amusing, but not fun-fun-funny. I giggled a few times during the Mamma Mia one, but again - not really my cup of tea. I may have to watch more of their non-parody ones, though, and see if that does the trick.

Clarissa - I haven't read any of Ellen's books (or maybe it's just the one?), but I have seen her show a few times. She is funny, but not one I'd hold up with the comical superstars out there.
You may have a point that some women are too busy to be funny, but still - so are many men!

Angela said...

Yes, on the whole. I think men are funnier.

Summer said...

I think maybe comedy is a boys' club, therefore the numbers are simply skewed. Personally, I find Ellen DeGeneres and Kathy Griffin quite hilarious, and one of the books that I've ever laughed the hardest at was one of Jen Lancaster's memoirs. Hilarious stuff.

I really think there's just more men out there actively being funny than women. Also, something that I personally find amusing is the sound effects stuff--Dane Cook, Gabriel Inglesias, etc. excel at this. I'm completely convinced that men have better fine muscle control than women, which is why they can do all the sound effects and the super-tight dance moves. Just my personal theory...

PS: ROFL is "rolling on the floor laughing", I believe. :)

LTM said...

OK, Jim Belushi, I think I'll just say No. ;p Do you get 30 Rock? (Tina Fey's sitcom on NBC) HI-larious. And Jane Krakowski, Tina Fey, Elaine Stritch (Jack's mom)... are a major part of the humor! (And it's Tina Fey going beyond S.P.)

I don't think men are funnier, but I do think there are more men working in comedy than women. Not sure why...

Probably has something to do w/everything men do is to impress us ladies...

Oh! Was THAT sexist??? ;p

good stuff~

Boonsong said...

My answer to your question is, "Only when viewed from the side". I hope that's helpful.
Interesting post and debate.

All the best from Boonsong

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't really watch comedians much so I don't know how I feel. I asked my kids, who do watch comedians, and their favourite comedians are men. Good question :)

H.B.Markor said...

Wow, not going to get too into the debate, since most humor flies over my head,


You missed Hyperbole and a Half for funny bloggers, and Allie is a SHE and definitely the funniest dang thing I read around here!

Hart Johnson said...

First, a recommendation: Carrie Fisher. Find an interview online, or read one of her books. her humor is dry and her topics are dark, but she is 'pee your pants funny' about them.

Next, to throw a rattlesnake in the ring: I think society has more rules for women. I'm not a huge stand-up fan but I've LOVED things like 'Whose Line is it Anyway?' and many of the things I've seen on there that I fell over laughing at, a woman would have a hard time pulling off (pretending to be a monkey and throwing poo comes to mind)--why is that funny for a man and not a woman? Socialization about what is funny. It is FUNNY for a man to pretend to do that. It is... disturbing for a woman to do it. I hate thinking that, but it is the best example I can think of--most really silly guys could pull it off. Even the funniest of women would look like they were trying too hard. And is it funny when women dress as men? Not particularly, but Terry Gilliam in drag gets me every time. There is just more range to work with.

ALSO: there are many women comics who use comedy to make a POINT. Men for the most part don't DEAL with having a point (sorry to sound sexist, but there it is) and I think the POINT, which often appreciated, keeps restraints on the comedy of it.

And I think you asked it well and DID inspire a nice debate.

KarenG said...

If men are funnier it's because they get to the point sooner and faster in person and in writing. We women tend to ramble on, clarify our points, edit ourselves while speaking, and then it waters down the humor. Same reason men often write action better than women.

ViolaNut said...

Well, maybe F&S just aren't quite your thing, Mari... I mean, not everybody gets Python either (no idea how, but whatever). ;-)

As to the WHY question: I think some of it is definitely cultural, but in a different way than referenced here already. Namely, that a lot of comedy involves making fun of YOURSELF, and women in general have a harder time cutting loose and saying "I'm going to make a complete arse of myself" than men do. So that when they DO do that, it walks a fine line between cringe-worthy and hysterical. Women just care more about what other women (and men) think of them, generally, I think; I mean, when's the last time you saw a guy check out his own butt in the reflection from a window?

And, as Tami pointed out, men dressed as women somehow just gets so much sillier than vice versa (though again, I will hold up F&S as brilliant in this regard - check out the Loveheart sketch {Braveheart parody with French as Gibson and Saunders as Neeson [though French does 'fess up to being "a lassie" and Saunders's fake chest hair gets removed at the end]} for a good example, or their Fat Men, they're nuts too).

Erm. Gonna shut up now...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Okay, now it's my turn to get shot down in flames. My favorite comedians are men and most of the funny blogs I follow are men. (Although there's a few funny ladies out there, such as Hart and Falen.)
That said, I don't feel I'm a laugh out loud writer either on my blog or in my book.

Anonymous said...

Men aren't as afraid as some women are to go all out, to be seriously funny and risk being seen as offensive. And when it comes to comedy movies, the best ones are written and star MEN. So I'd agree with you that men tend to be funnier than women. Not that they're aren't exceptions. Tina Fey's hilarious, as is Wanda Sykes and plenty more women I can't think of right now!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I just thought of someone! Kathy Griffin! She makes me laugh out loud every time I see one of her stand-up shows.

Cruella Collett said...

Angela - you're not afraid to say it out loud like I was!

Summer - thanks for enlightening me on ROFL! And I think you have a point that comedy might be a man's business. More men in the business makes it seem like men are funnier, I guess.

Leigh - you did NOT just call me Jim Belushi?!? *snort* He is one man I definitely don't think is funny, and one of the reasons is his hostility towards women. But I should give 30 Rock a try. I have seen a little of it, and it was funny, so I might be able to change my mind then. (And if men are funny only to impress us ladies I am officially approving the tactic!)

Boonsong - you're too wise to get your feet wet in this debate, aren't you? ;)

Jemi - I love that you asked your kids! And I think it is interesting that they reached the same conclusion as me. Maybe we are being trained from a very young age to feel this way?

It's getting so long, I'll have to make two posts of this...

Cruella Collett said...

Maria - you're right, that IS a funny blog, and it IS written by a woman. And there are more of them. Many more, in fact. But I still feel that the men often are in majority in the comedy blogger area.

Tami - Princess Leia, huh? Okay, I will definitely make a note to do that. I think I agree with you that men can pull off things women can't. There are men (like Ryan Stiles from Whose Line) who make me laugh from just looking at them. Women rarely (if ever) have that effect on me. And you have a point (!) on having a point... I can't think of any women doing slapstick, for instance.

Karen - that is an interesting point of view. I will have to ponder over that one the next time I have the chance of seeing a male and a female comedian together.

Leanne - this might also be true. I suppose a lot of the "annoying" part about female comedians has to do with oversharing. And the reason we cringe is because they are female and oversharing, not the oversharing per se. At least I am starting to believe that after having thought a lot about this today.

Alex - I must admit I think those of you who are male and participating are quite brave! Especially since you seem to be sharing my "men are funnier" starting point.

Amanda - this is probably part of the reason too. No "good girl syndrome" to worry about when you're a guy. And I will definitely check out Kathy Griffin.

Thanks everyone for a lively and most interesting debate today! I have definitely learnt a lot from your wonderful input, and I will make a point of checking out some of the suggestions for funny females that came up.

I'm so glad that the comments here managed to show several perspectives, and that you all were so nice and civil even though your opinions differed. Those make the best debates!

February Grace said...

I think...it depends! How's that for a committed answer? LOL

I do believe that women try harder to be funny in many cases when they're attempting to be humorous and so it seems forced,(have noticed this on blogs especially) whereas men just say things and if it's funny fine if not, they move on. I think it's that 'apparently effortless' comedic timing that sets people like Hugh Laurie and the Monty Python guys apart (I think Jimmy Fallon has this too- loved him on SNL. Miss him there :(

When women are truly naturally funny- like Ellen Degeneres or Carrie Fisher as Hart mentioned- I think they can hold their own against any guy out there.

Still, I loves me some funny man- Bernard Black (character from Black Books) would not have been as funny as a woman imo- he just wouldn't.

Caz said...

This is a conversation the boyf and I have constantly. In general I agree that in my opintion more men are outwardly "pee your pants" funny, and great women comediennes tend to be witty and/or sarcastic in their social commentary.

But perhaps this is because we (I) have different expectations of men vs women in comedy? I like to think that living here in Melbourne, we have some world-class comedy on a regular basis. There are women who do a similar shtick to a lot of the male comedians and they almost make me cringe more than laugh. And while there are a few (and far between) female comics I admire, it's more for their witty and inspired comments that generate a chuckle than full-out laughter. But maybe that's just me and my social outlook/expectations for gender roles.

On another note, we were just at the taping of a DVD for Adam Hills a few weeks ago and managed to land ourselves second-row tickets. It was definitely 'pee your pants' funny although I'm nervous to see what I look like when the DVD comes out :-S

LTM said...

LOL! YES. John Belushi (sorry, my sic) was the one who during his tenure on SNL declared that women were NOT funny--despite Gilda Radner, and JRM would argue Jane Curtain...

but more importantly, are you attempting to UPsurp my blog debate status? OK... OK. You are the great debater on my blog anyway...

Rayna started it all. ;p

LTM said...


JRM just said by far the funniest comedian is Eddie Izzard dressed in drag doing his standup.

You realize what this means?



sue said...

A lifetime ago when I taught at secondary school, it was the boys who would act the clown to raise a laugh, especially when they knew they'd be in trouble for not having completed their homework. Every year there'd be one or two who could be relied on to raise a laugh when I got overly serious. Even after 30 years I can remember some of them and their antics and have a laugh - I can't remember any of the girls in the same way.

I'm not convinced that it's sexist, but possibly something to do with gender.

Interesting food for thought. Thanks.

Cruella Collett said...

I love that so many people are stopping by to tell me their opinions about this! I'm thinking I might do a recap post with all the comments sometime, since I think this debate was very interesting.

Now, some more replies from me:

Bru - it sounds like my kind of answer (I think the university have broken me. I now seem unable to ever voice an opinion without adding "on the other side..."). I agree with you that effortless comedy is often funnier, but I don't know if I like the thought that men are better at it than women. It might be true, though. And I love "Black Books". I don't think Bernadette Black would have been quite the same either...

Caz - that's an interesting point. Maybe I don't want the women to be as funny, I want them to be witty and clever? And I am so JEALOUS right now - Adam Hills LIVE? Oh, how I'd love that!

LTM - John Belushi I had to google. BOO on him for saying that women aren't funny - I never said that (but despite all the terrific suggestions I've gotten through these comments, I'm still wondering if they are less funny than men..)

And yes. It is part of my evil plan to make you a blog debater *evil laugh* (I'm sorry/you're welcome - tee hee. I love a good blog debate. Which totally needs a new word. Blogate? Deblog? Deblogate?)

And yes! Tart wins! I do love Eddie Izzard (but frequently I find his hefty outfits distracting. Maybe THAT'S why I don't think women are as funny - I watch their outfits rather than listen to the jokes?!?)

Sue - aha! So it doesn't just apply to professional comedians, but kids as well.

I think you have a point about it not being sexist - at least not deliberately so. If I am sexist in thinking that men often are funnier than women, it's entirely unintentional. And possibily something society have taught me to think (which would be terrible, but not easy to detect). It might have something to do with gender - I think so too. The further question I guess would be whether we are taught to think this way, or if we are - dare I say it - born different. Ouch. I said it...

Rissa said...

I think are men are more funny outwardly--as in career comedians. Not that I don't think woman are as capable-most of the woman I know have a better sense of humor than the majority of the men. It somehow comes down to a social constraint on impropriety-whether we want it to be or not. Men can be vulgar, act stupid, be ridiculous--and pull it off as the most natural thing in the world. Vulgar women, on the other hand, can be funny (I find Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman hilarious)--but it can seem more contrived.(also wik-I agree with the issue of women going into cringe-worthy T.M.I.--as I said, I guess we just expect it from men . . .but from women it just seems wrong whether it is or not )

Men just seem more free to make asses of themselves-women seem more self aware and that hinders the delivery, because even if the comic isn't concerned-the woman watching is (maybe they are funny and we are to busy cringing at the behavior to see it). I wonder if men find female comics more funny?

Anyway, not sure if any of that is sexist, didn't mean it as so if it is but . . yeah. I'll finish with this: I find male comics to be more funny than women comics--but do not believe one sex has the upper hand on the other.

On a personal level--my female friends are far more witty and have me in stitches more often than any male I know. So, maybe it's just the stage . . . .

Katie Rob said...

I feel the same way about music - all the really great bands and singers that I like are men. They just are.

If you want to laugh equally at both sexes, and don't mind a little crude humor, head on over to http://textsfromlastnight.com/

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