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Author Topic: Why Women Aren't Funny
Zachary Fizz
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Jessica Stevenson is, I believe, a woman. And she co-wrote Spaced.
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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I think that's the killer blow, Zachary!

Not to mention that Christopher Hitchens himself has been demonstrating for years that even as a Man, he possesses no sense of humour whatsoever...

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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I was talking to Kathy Burke a few years ago after a play and she was saying that there's a big issue concerning women getting breakthroughs on the comedy circuit - I asked if it was anything to do with the daunting circuit, cruel audiences etc when you're starting out and she told me to f**k right off, saying it was more a bias of tv and radio producers - she sounded paranoid but she knows what she's talking about.

One of the funniest people I ever heard died recently. Linda Smith made some of the funniest people alive seem dull-witted. I miss her.

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Cinnamon
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Jay Tea:
One of the funniest people I ever heard died recently. Linda Smith made some of the funniest people alive seem dull-witted. I miss her.

I was always in two minds about Linda Smith. She was good in bursts on the News Quiz for example, but the show she had on Radio 4 (can't remember what it was called) was dire.

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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A Brief History of Time Wasting and Wrap Up Warm were sheer genius, she was so much more than just a panelist and she would have just got better as far as her writing was concerned [Frown]

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Lainie
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet:
Not to mention that Christopher Hitchens himself has been demonstrating for years that even as a Man, he possesses no sense of humour whatsoever...

That, for me, sums up the irony of this article: Mr. Humorless pontificating (humorlessly, of course) about who's funny and who's not.

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Mosherette
Deck the Malls


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I heard Jennifer Saunders ripping him a new one on the radio over this last week, too. Go Jen [Smile]

One female comedian I can't stand, however, is Lucy Porter. I had the misfortune of seeing her as the support act for Dara Ardal O'Hanlon a couple of years ago and she was very poor; all the jokes were about shoes and chocolate and being a good Catholic girl (I think she had to put all that in because of the chap who used to pretend to be a priest for a living*). Nothing new or original or particularly funny at all. Unfortunately she seems to be gaining popularity now and I see she is now guesting on Have I Got News FOr You? [Frown]

Catherine Tate is another one I don't 'get' much of, but I do have to shamefacedly admit that I love Lauren.

*His words, not mine

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Psihala
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I enjoy both Paula Poundstone and Carol Leifer, myself.

~Psihala
(*Not that way...)

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Mosherette:
I heard Jennifer Saunders ripping him a new one on the radio over this last week, too. Go Jen [Smile]

Jennifer Saunders is a strange one for me. I don't find much of her comedy funny - French And Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous and her new one Jam And Jerusalem rarely raise a laugh from me. But, whenever I've seen her interviewed or being talked to in person, I find her absolutely hilarious.

quote:
Catherine Tate is another one I don't 'get' much of, but I do have to shamefacedly admit that I love Lauren.
I went through a brief Catherine Tate phase (although I found her either hilarious or utterly, utterly unfunny, depending on the sketch), and her as Lauren interviewing McFly on Comic Relief was utter genius. But I only watched the first episode of the new series, because it's catch-phrase comedy, and so I've already seen it all before.

Whatever happened to the days of comedy where people didn't just write one line, repeat it endlessly for 5 or 6 years and call it funny?

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seriously , everyone on here , just trys to give someone crap about something they do !! , its shitting me to tears.

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Cinnamon
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Jay Tea:
A Brief History of Time Wasting and Wrap Up Warm were sheer genius, she was so much more than just a panelist and she would have just got better as far as her writing was concerned [Frown]

A Brief History of Time Wasting was the one I was thinking of. I didn't hear the other one. Maybe I just didn't get it, but I didn't find it at all funny. Mind you, a lot of the programmes Radio 4 has in the 6.30pm slot these days are pretty poor in my opinion. Even I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue isn't as good as it was, but then it hasn't been the same since Willie Rushton died.

Oo, I've just thought of a female comedian I do like - Sandi Toksvig. She's pretty entertaining.

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Dieter Meyer
Deck the Malls


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Some sci-unce-ology from Language Log addressing this.

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geminilee
The First USA Noel


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I can see why he thinks that women can't be funny. It was very hard to find any really funny women.
Now, I tend to like the older comedians, but I am sure there are many more recent female comedians who are just as funny.

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TurquoiseGirl
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:
I have found that the surest way to be considered "one of the guys" in a situation is to be funny. Instant desexualization.

But that's a good thing, isn't it? It's the legitimate feminist ideal: treat everyone as "just people," rather than focus on the sex or the sexual or the sexuality.


Not when "one of the boys" includes listening to their assessment of other women they want to date and bemoaning the fact that no-one wants to date them. Interspersed with the occasional "Oh, hey, yeah, TGirl, you're a woman " (um so glad you noticed)"How can I get so and so to go out with me?"

It is especially painful when it is one of the guys you wouldn't mind dating yourself who does this.

Don't get me wrong, I like having male friends that are just friends. But I do, occasionally, like to get at least the impression that I am attractive to men.

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There are people who drive really nice cars who feel that [those] cars won't be as special if other people drive them too. Where I come from, we call those people "selfish self-satisfied gits." -Chloe

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Mistletoey Chloe
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I feel rather guilty in thinking that men do certain kinds of comedy better than women, as a rule. Physical comedy in particular, which is not a favorite of mine anyway. There's something about the delivery, too, or perhaps it's just a question of how our expectations are wired. I think women can *write* wonderful comedy, but in gerenal, and all other things being equal, it somehow often seems funnier coming from a man.

[Although one of my favorite compliments EVER was from a friend of mine, a professional comedian, who told me "You are the funniest woman I know." It still gives me warm twinklies. But he had it WAY over me in performance.]

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UrbanReindeer
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I guess when your head is that far up your posterior you can be excused for never having heard of Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnette, Gilda Radner, et cetera.

One of the first things my husband would say if you asked him to describe me is "smart and funny". Granted, I don't always find the SAME things funny that he does. Which, I think, may be this guy's problem. Just because you don't know women who necessarily share your sense of humor, it doesn't follow that we're all "not funny". Heck, I know a 55 year old woman that still adores poop jokes. My new copy of "Twilight Princess" somehow gave rise to a whole series of jokes in my house about slapping wolves on the head with one's male appendage. Toilet humor, sure. You had to be there - sure.

We can crack stupid body part jokes with the boys, when we're in the mood.

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Minstrel gone caroling
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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I owe 15 keyboards to various snopesters for causing various beverages to escape their proper places at various times with my apparently sometimes-hilarious commentary.

Mr. Hitchens owes no keyboards to snopesters.

Case closed. [Razz]

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snapdragonfly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:
I am wondering how much of this has to do with the traditional roles of a dating couple, where the best thing a woman can do to be considered a "brilliant conversationalist" is actually attentive and appreciative listening.

I have found that the surest way to be considered "one of the guys" in a situation is to be funny. Instant desexualization.

That has never worked for me.

Seems like whenever I was out with my friends being UTTERLY ridiculous and very undignified (but really funny, at least to ourselves) the men would be attracted like frakkin magnets. And the first time a guy who I liked, liked me back, but I didn't want to date him because he'd dated a friend before, and I didn't know what to do, so I tried on purpose being silly and goofy and ridiculous so he wouldn't see me romantically, but it backfired - I swear it was like I'd put on some sort of uber pheremone. He just HAD to have me then. (of course the minute I got all wrapped up in crushing on him* and wasn't laughing anymore he dumped me - asshat - shoulda gone with my instincts on that one! [Razz] )

That's not an isolated incident - in fact, looking back, it's been very consistent. The goofier or funnier or wittier I get, the more they seemed to like it.

As far as what attracts me, humor was always a non negotiable requirement, and I always had a crush on the class clown.

My husband is very funny.

*the friend had given her gracious permission - I was never the kind of girlfriend who would date a guy that another friend had feelings for.

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"Wolves, dragons and vampires, man. Draw the nut-bars like big ol' nut-bar magnets." ~evilrabbit

(snurched because one of my nutbar family members is all about wolves and another one is all about dragons...)(with apologies to surfcitydogdad)

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanReindeer:
I guess when your head is that far up your posterior you can be excused for never having heard of Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnette, Gilda Radner, et cetera.

I think Mr. Hitchens overstepped a point that has at least a modicum of validty. You've mentioned four excellent comedic actresses. He said, "Greatly daring, or so I thought, I resolved to call up Ms. Lebowitz and Ms. Ephron to try out my theories." His two authorities are comedy writers. Both of those are different from telling jokes, and it does seem to me that most popular stand-up comedians are men. (I won't say the best, because that's a subjective matter.)

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Esprise Me
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanReindeer:
I guess when your head is that far up your posterior you can be excused for never having heard of Lucille Ball

He mentions her on page two, and gives her due credit for being funny. He goes on to describe her ilk as an exception to the rule, but still.

The stereotype of the humorless woman is indeed tired and sexist. Insisting that someone, or a group of someones, lacks a sense of humor gives the speaker a free pass to insult him/her/them with impunity. If the target objects, the speaker can claim to have been "just joking," and instead of apologizing, throw another insult on the pile by insinuating that the target is too stupid to get the joke. This tactic is hardly limited to use by men on women, but it's certainly been employed in that context before.

That said, I think Mr. Hitchens does explore the "issue" in some depth, and comes pretty close to saying something meaningful. Perhaps what he reveals isn't what he meant for me to get out the article, but it's there nonetheless. The piece didn't get so much as an amused smile out of me, but it interested me enough to read all the way through. I thought his reflections on the perceived historical power imbalance between the sexes, and his quoting Rudyard Kipling as a source on the matter, was very revealing of his mindset--which I think is shared by a good many closet misogynists.
quote:
Men are overawed, not to say terrified, by the ability of women to produce babies. (Asked by a lady intellectual to summarize the differences between the sexes, another bishop responded, "Madam, I cannot conceive.") It gives women an unchallengeable authority. And one of the earliest origins of humor that we know about is its role in the mockery of authority. Irony itself has been called "the glory of slaves." So you could argue that when men get together to be funny and do not expect women to be there, or in on the joke, they are really playing truant and implicitly conceding who is really the boss.
On the surface, this seems like an intellectual argument, grounded in humility and understanding. Upon closer examination, it looks familiar. The other side of the "women lack the faculties necessary to be in charge" coin is the reverse, yet oddly similar "women have always really been in charge" argument. If women have the power and men are helpless pawns being led around by the testicles, then men can't really be held accountable for their actions, or blamed for their failures. It's foolish but seductive Eve "making" poor Adam eat the apple and incur God's wrath all over again.

There's a fair amount of contradiction in this article. Women don't get humor, but they catch failed humor remarkably well. Women are a tough audience for humor, being slow to get it and quick to shun it, but humor is a man's best shot to impress a woman. Women love it when they get a joke, but often don't see the humor--and can't make jokes themselves--because they take life too seriously to laugh at stuff. Humor is how men impress women, yet humor is inherently masculine, a private boys' club for the emasculated weaker (male) sex because it's their only consolation since women have all the power.

It all makes sense in light of the one point in the article in which he hits the nail on the head:
quote:
Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals. And there is a huge, brimming reservoir of male unease, which it would be too easy for women to exploit. (Men can tell jokes about what happened to John Wayne Bobbitt, but they don't want women doing so.) Men have prostate glands, hysterically enough, and these have a tendency to give out, along with their hearts and, it has to be said, their dicks. This is funny only in male company.
OK, make that two points:
quote:
People in this precarious position do not enjoy being laughed at, and it would not have taken women long to work out that female humor would be the most upsetting of all.
The problem is not that women lack the essential quality of being able to come up with a funny joke. The "problem" is that men* don't find women funny, even when it's the same joke told in the same way.

Humor is the result of the collision between absurdity and truth. When we perceive a ridiculous situation and simultaneously recognize it as being, at its core, very real, we react with the seizure known as laughter. At least, that's my take on it. Going with that definition, when a man holds up a male foible for ridicule before a male audience, there's an appropriate balance of absurdity and truth, so men (and women) laugh. But when a woman tells the same joke, it's no longer absurd; it's completely serious and threatening, at least to the men.* When a woman mocks women, her male* audience is too far removed from the subject matter, so the situation becomes imbalanced in the absurd, and lacks enough truthful resonance to be funny--men* don't know about menstruation or episiotomies, so it's all strange and creepy to them. Again, the problem isn't that women can't make a joke; it's that men* can't take a joke--rather the opposite of what the author inferred.

*When I speak of "men" in the instances marked by an asterisk, I am speaking of a specific subset of men, of which Mr. Hitchens is a perfect example. I am talking about a particular sort of ignorant, insecure misogynist, one who has been educated but not enlightened, one who is well-read but not well-versed, one who possesses facile and often convincing speaking abilities yet lacks the ability to really assess his own claims logically and examine his own true motives. Rather than try to explain and qualify this type at every turn, I generalized, footnoted, and backpedaled at the end. So, to repeat, these statements do NOT apply to men in general.

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UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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I apologize Eprise, I did miss his mention of Lucille Ball. Possibly because I didn't actually find her funny myself, but I included her on my list because most people did find her to be a very funny woman.

Jay Tea, I did realize he mentioned comedic writers as opposed to actresses, but since the topic seemed to be that "women aren't funny in general", I didn't really think the medium mattered so much to the point. In other words, I don't necessarily think that the ability to tell a joke is the same as the ability to be funny.

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"He feeds the sparrows of the field, but He doesn't sit there and cram worms into their mouths." -- Mouse

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Gale
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Aw, isn't he just pwecious? The thing that bothers me about comics like this is if you think he's not funny, you get accused of being offended and wanting political correctness. No, I just don't find much humor in someone who deliberately goads other people into reacting against his words and then using their reaction to make himself the poor persecuted picked on guy who's just speaking his mind. Come on, I was born at night, but it wasn't *last* night.

My personal experience is that I've found several men over the years who didn't really notice me until I made them laugh. I'm quick. I love word play. But I refuse to be drawn into arguing these sorts of clowns. For one thing, it bugs the bejeesus out of them if you just shrug and say "You could be right". Not giving a fight to a person who is actively seeking one is a very mean thing to do.

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by One-Horse Open Jay Temple:
quote:
Originally posted by UrbanReindeer:
I guess when your head is that far up your posterior you can be excused for never having heard of Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnette, Gilda Radner, et cetera.

I think Mr. Hitchens overstepped a point that has at least a modicum of validty. You've mentioned four excellent comedic actresses. He said, "Greatly daring, or so I thought, I resolved to call up Ms. Lebowitz and Ms. Ephron to try out my theories." His two authorities are comedy writers. Both of those are different from telling jokes, and it does seem to me that most popular stand-up comedians are men. (I won't say the best, because that's a subjective matter.)
They all did standup, though, did they not?

[Edit: And Hitchens is not a comic. He fancies himself a serious commentator.]

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Perhaps, but it's not what they're known for. Also, IME, women in ordinary conversation don't tell nearly as many jokes or make as many quips as men. (That is not to say that the women who do aren't funny.) If my observation is correct and representative, one could meaningfully say that women are less funny, in that one sense.

Jay "Mrs. T cracks me up at least a couple times a day" Temple

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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Eprise Me, that's the one point that Ruby Wax agreed with him on.

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seriously , everyone on here , just trys to give someone crap about something they do !! , its shitting me to tears.

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TurquoiseGirl
The "Was on Sale" Song


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Eprise Me,

Thanks for putting that so well.

It reminds me of something that happened in my first teaching position.

I had a male student complain that I was "sarcastic and rude" to the chair of the department. He, the chair, asked what I had said. Upon hearing what I said, the chair said "Actually, that was pretty funny."

So we did a test. On the same day, both the chair and I made the same comment to the student. He laughed when the chair said it; when I said it, it was viewed as hostile and he threatened me with bodily harm. The chair quickly transferred him to another class taught by a male instructor.

Come to think of it, back when I was dealing with abusive SOs, the quickest way to be deemed "deserving abuse" was to appear amused at something stupid they said or did.

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There are people who drive really nice cars who feel that [those] cars won't be as special if other people drive them too. Where I come from, we call those people "selfish self-satisfied gits." -Chloe

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by One-Horse Open Jay Temple:
Perhaps, but it's not what they're known for.



I guess I don't understand what that has to do with anything. Hitchins' ridiculous claim is that women aren't funny. The women you mentioned, who all started as standups, and who probably throughout their careers continued in standup, are all examples of very funny women.
quote:
Also, IME, women in ordinary conversation don't tell nearly as many jokes or make as many quips as men. (That is not to say that the women who do aren't funny.) If my observation is correct and representative, one could meaningfully say that women are less funny, in that one sense.

Jay "Mrs. T cracks me up at least a couple times a day" Temple

I tend to think most men are oblivious to much of women's humor, which can be sly and sarcastic, and it often flies over the head of all but the most observant, which tend to not be men.

IME, of course.

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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Chloe: I can't think of any female comics besides Lucille Ball who did well with physical comedy, but I have a few female friends who do the most hilarious physical comedy, much funnier than my male friends, whose comedy is more of the verbal variety.

AnglRdr: When I am funny, which is rare, my humor is very deadpan and dry. I tend to make people laugh with sarcastic one liners that are made mostly by my delivery. Usually there are several people in the group who do not even notice that I've said anything until the rest of the group bursts out laughing. I've never noticed if those people tend to be men, or if other women's humor works the same way, but I will try to take note of those things in the future.

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Officially Heartless

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr:
quote:
Originally posted by One-Horse Open Jay Temple:
Perhaps, but it's not what they're known for.



I guess I don't understand what that has to do with anything. Hitchins' ridiculous claim is that women aren't funny. The women you mentioned, who all started as standups, and who probably throughout their careers continued in standup, are all examples of very funny women.


My point is that if he's had the same experiences as me, he would hear fewer jokes told by women. That, in a very limited sense, could be reported as "Women aren't as funny." It's still ridiculous for him to extrapolate, as he did, and say that women aren't funny.

quote:
quote:
Also, IME, women in ordinary conversation don't tell nearly as many jokes or make as many quips as men. (That is not to say that the women who do aren't funny.) If my observation is correct and representative, one could meaningfully say that women are less funny, in that one sense.

Jay "Mrs. T cracks me up at least a couple times a day" Temple

I tend to think most men are oblivious to much of women's humor, which can be sly and sarcastic, and it often flies over the head of all but the most observant, which tend to not be men.

IME, of course.

You're actually supporting Hitchens with this statement. Who's funnier, someone that's understood by a few or someone that's understood by many?

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"Well, it looks we're on our own ... again."--Rev. Lovejoy

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trollface
The Bills of St. Mary's


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It should also be noted that on Newsnight he admitted that he worked out the subtitle of the piece was going to be "[...]so much deadlier than the male", and kind of worked backwards from there.

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seriously , everyone on here , just trys to give someone crap about something they do !! , its shitting me to tears.

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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You're confusing quality with quantity, Jay. Just because men may tell more obvious jokes doesn't mean men are funnier.

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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Esprise Me
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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How do you judge the quality of humor, though, if not by the number of people who find something funny? One could measure how hard those people laugh, I suppose; two people falling out of their chairs with laughter makes something funnier than four people chuckling. But is there any objective standard on which to judge how funny something is if you discount the audience reaction?

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"If God wrote it, the grammar must be infallible. Perhaps it is we who are mistaken." -MapleLeaf

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Mosherette
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanReindeer:
I guess when your head is that far up your posterior you can be excused for never having heard of Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnette, Gilda Radner, et cetera.

Is my head up my posterior if I've only heard of one of them, and even so I've never seen any of her work? (That would be Lucille Ball, and even now I'm not sure I've got the right person. I Love Lucy, right?)

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Silence should never under any circumstances be construed as agreement. A lot of the time, it's simply a reflection that someone just said something so stupid that no response could possibly do it justice. - Ramblin' Dave

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I've heard of Lily Tomlin, but I always get her muddled up with Ricky Tomlinson, so I might be thinking of the wrong person too.
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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanReindeer:

I guess when your head is that far up your posterior you can be excused for never having heard of Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnette, Gilda Radner, et cetera.

I've 'heard' of all those people, but couldn't tell you what they look like or what they do - testament to pervasive Americana - i'm pretty sure there was a Gilda Radner reference on a 'Family Guy' I watched at the weekend but it went right over my head as a lot of it does.

I was thinking about the female stand-ups i've seen over the years and I was tring to peg the funniest but i'd have to get back to you all on that one - word of warning - don't heckle Jenny Eclair - she's very very rude [lol]

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This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

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franjava
Deck the Malls


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I'm a Kathy Griffin freak. It's like listening to a bitchy, gossipy best friend. [Smile]

If women aren't funny, my husband has a pretty nasty case of tourette's (sp?) when I'm around.

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Never eat anything given to you by a toddler.

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