Steve Sailer has an interesting post about Adam Carolla’s “controversial” comment that men tend to be the more humorous writers on a comedy production’s staff: “Men are funnier because women are more important.” Of course, there would be exceptions; Tina Fey comes to mind. Sailer then notes that, in response to Carolla’s comment, Kyria Abrahams did some casual research into the material topics of a random sample of male and female stand up comedians. Abrahams writes in “A Woman Explains Why Women Aren’t Funny”:
The subjects the women spoke about were essentially all the same. They were, in short, all about themselves. Their life, their hair, their roommates, their feelings. In other words, all the female comedy was turned inward. Out of five 7-minute sets, there were only three jokes that spoke about outside events and only one joke about politics. It took 28 minutes before I laughed aloud.
The men, on the other hand, rarely spoke about themselves. Jokes about their appearance were used as soft openers in order to lead the audience into the set. This is not to say that male comedians are not capable of being horrible, self-involved, rambling bores. Dear God, are they ever! But out of my personal test group, they were not. They spoke liberally about history, religion, and politics. They spoke in pithy, crafted observations. Never once did they mention they felt fat.
Below is the list of topics I faithfully wrote down as each new premise presented itself (where topics repeated between comedians, I placed a numeric tally after the premise). In alphabetical order:
Apartment is annoying
Being a female comedian (x2)
Dating is awkward (x2)
Did poorly in school
Doesn’t want kids because she’s “selfish”
Hates New York
Her body (x2)
Her mom (x2)
How guys hit on her
It’s hard being a woman, putting on makeup, and wearing heels and stuff
Just got engaged
Just went through a breakup
Roommate is annoying
Sex and condoms
She’s too pretty to do standup (x2)
What she’s wearing
What/who she looks like (x2)
Being thanked on an elevator
Clichés people use
Free AIDS clinics
God won’t help you bowl/God doesn’t exist
Having sex with animals
Holding the phone between your ear and shoulder
How to treat AIDS
If the Jews killed Jesus
Mayan 2012 prediction
People asking him where he’s from
The “ethnic needs” section of the supermarket
The age of sliced bread
The Cyclone at Coney Island
The Roman Empire
The storylines behind rollercoasters
Vegan soul food
What/who he looks like (x2)
White chocolate is racist
The first difference I noticed was how much easier it would be to guess the male comedians by looking at their premises. If you saw “Coney Island rollercoaster” and you know anything about comedy, you immediately know the comic I’m talking about. But, say, did you hear the one about the…vagina? You know the one about the vagina? Am I right, ladies? Oh yes, that one vagina joke. I’ve heard that one!
It’s not that women aren’t funny. That’s a stupid-ass thing to think, since obviously there are funny women.
However, I think female comedians don’t really want to relate to a greater audience. And ultimately, I think their core audience is just fine with this. If bachelorette parties are entertained and gay men are drinking it up, the comediennes are doing their job. Just like Def Jam and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour do what they’re paid to do. A lot of comedy is pandering to a core audience.
Interestingly, when men point out the women they DO find funny, they inevitably point to comedians such as Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman. That is, it’s the women who break this self-involved stereotype—comics who don’t constantly talk about themselves, and if they do, there’s a punchline. Comics who write jokes instead of telling stories. Comics who are harsh and focused and practiced. Women at the top of their craft.
I think that Abrahams nails it; women’s vanity and self-absorption detract from their ability to be funny. Moreover, Sailer finds this to be quite useful to the human species:
In general, men are interested in a wider and less personally relevant range of subjects than women, while women focus more on their own lives and those of the people around them. As a man who is highly interested in an impractically wide range of subjects of little personal import, I say, Thank God for Women.
Unfortunately, the same stubborn in-front-of-your-face practicality of the fairer sex also works against their climbing from the cave. Cows, too, are only interested in practical affairs. Women tend toward the bovine, and that is not an attractive tendency. For similar reasons, women are less likely to be philosophers, poets, perverts, tyrants, or demonically wicked; they more rarely look beyond the horizon of the herd.