Christopher Hitchens has an interesting article in Vanity Fair entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” While I agree with some of the piece, I’d like to propose some alternate possibilities.

Hitchens’ article concerns, for the most part, deliberate humor – the ability and desire to be, and to recognize, funny. The crux of the article is this: Men need to be funny to attract women, and women don’t need that particular lure in their tackle box, presumably because the ladies have something sociologists call “boobs.”

I’d like to delve just a little deeper though and draw the distinction between somebody who is funny, and somebody who makes us laugh for whatever reason, for the two can be as far apart as Michael Moore and a salad bar.

We’ve all met somebody who has a good sense of humor and cracks us up, as well as somebody who doesn’t make us laugh who thinks he’s hilarious. My personal favorites are those who have no idea they’re funny but keep me rolling for various reasons — these people are almost always female. Think Lucy Ricardo, but in the real world.

My timing in running across the Hitchens piece was convenient, because I was having a similar discussion with my wife just a couple of days ago. I said, trying to be as sexually objective as possible, that listening to four women at a table is usually much funnier to listen to than four men at a table. Why? For me, it’s predictability. Men are much simpler creatures. You’ll hear them talking about football, which waitress they’d like to take home and introduce to their pillow, and who’s picking up the next round of shots and beers. Sure, a woman, not having these traits already living in her head day in and day out, might find these conversations funny, but only if she was extremely starved for entertainment and perhaps even lobotomized.

Women are wired differently and their humor tends to be more accidental, but as a result, funnier in an improvisational sense. Women are, as a general rule, more outwardly complex in their view of life. Women play more psychological games. With the option to solve problems via testosterone induced brute force removed from the table by a playful God denying them a Y chromosome at conception, women must instead be more cunning and intellectually manipulating on multiple levels. They’re emotionally deeper. They actually try to figure out “what he’s thinking” (if that’s not funny I don’t know what is). These peculiarities and complexities add up to a bizarre and complicated form of funny, in a “Rube Goldberg machine” sort of way. It’s there if you know where to look.

I agree with Hitchens that men become funny to impress women, but it’s that very fact that may skew the numbers a bit and lead us to believe, based on the simple math due to the sheer volume of participants, that men are funnier than women. So many blind squirrels pattering about are bound to find a few extra nuts along the way, if you’ll pardon the expression. So I think it’s a mistake to make the assumption that men are funnier simply because, at any given time, there are an overwhelmingly higher number of them trying to be.

But, even if we assume for a moment that men are funnier than women, absent that humorous inspiration – without the female to impress and the challenge of making her smile in any way that doesn’t involve helping with the laundry or offering forth a diamond ring – much of the reason for the humor would cease to exist. In other words, who is really responsible for the joke: The would-be comedian, or his muse?

Who’s funnier, men or women? Let me put it this way. Which tube of a two-part epoxy resin is stickier, the diepoxy or the diamine? Until the two are brought together, the answer is “neither.”

In the end though, all I really know about the science of humor is this: There is nothing less funny or more typically male than somebody discussing what’s funny by using epoxy as his chief example, so we’ll just stop here and move on to plow richer comedic farmland — hopefully.

According to the Discovery Channel, ”a certain brain region in females shows greater activation in response to humor, implying greater reward response and possibly less reward expectation.” Whew!


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