March 17, 2007

"Women can be hilarious... but fewer of them bother trying because they don’t get the same rewards for it."

Says John Tierney. And by "rewards," he means sex. It's evolution talk, of course. You wouldn't "bother" to be funny just because you like to be amused. If you want to be amused and you're female, it's less trouble to dispense sexual favors and get some guy to go to the bother of being funny. That's the theory. I'm not giving advice, just rephrasing the theory.

IN THE COMMENTS: Galvanized makes a good point about aesthetics:
Women, in conversation, are very aware of being judged by their appearance and, thus, feel others find them most attractive when they are smiling and/or laughing and most at ease in being reactive. To be funny sometimes requires affectation of the expressions, voice and body that may not be physically flattering. God forbid! LOL Men, on the other hand, understand that their wit and intellect are socially valued -- the content they contribute in conversation -- and, thus, feel the need to draw attention (strut their stuff in a comedic way when their physique alone doesn't draw), and what better way to draw out a positive reaction than through humor? It's all part of the dance. Comedy is a beta male's best response to an alpha's dominance because, hey, they all gotta find a mate. In the end, we all know that women are just as entertaining, but many women simply feel that leaving the comfort zone and being funny compromises beauty and therefore opt in favor of being aesthetically pleasing rather than intellectually stimulating. Plus, like it says, we just don't have to because we're not usually the initiators and can sit back and watch. In short, women are taught early on (sadly) that funny is not pretty, comedy is not becoming, shtick is unflattering, and also to wait to be approached and hope to be noticed. To court reactions with humor seems to be doing the male's job.

Some, however, do feel secure enough in their looks and risk it or just don't care and buck the system. I do believe, however, that it's innate behavior of the sexes, with some exceptions, thank God. Many women will always be overly conscious of their appearance because our instincts tell us that beauty draws, as many men will always believe that they are socially superior because that arrogance assists them being the initiators. But, again, I appreciate the exceptions to the theory.
She's speaking in terms of learned behavior, but I assume you could present easy laughter as something that would be selected for in evolution.

25 comments:

Sissy Willis said...

In my view, Tierney's right that the stand-up comics and evolutionary psychologists come closest to a universal explanation:

"Funny men are winners in the mating game."

Like the female bauer birds who "design" the males over evolutionary time through their choices of desirable bauers, we women design the fellows by our selection of males who make us laugh.

hdhouse said...

Tierney should stick to scrabble.

Sissy Willis said...

You've prompted me to blog:

My funny valentine

Paco Wové said...

That's Bower bird.

Sissy Willis said...

EGAD. Thanks for the ccorrection, pw.

Sissy Willis said...

Geez. I can't even spell correction correctly.

dave™© said...

Day 3 of the Law Professor Not Discussing the Scandal Involving the Attorney General of the United States.

Keep it up, lady. You're really showing your true colors.

LoafingOaf said...

Men try hard to be funny when they're only in the company of other men, too. Men feel they have to entertain and jump through hoops more than women in any social setting, because we're less likely than women to be noticed and have a decent social life without doing so.

it's less trouble to dispense sexual favors and get some guy to go to the bother of being funny

Women do ultimately wield most of the power in dating, so if they want us to go to the trouble to amuse them we surely will oblige 'em. But it's also connected to some women feeling if they're funnier than the guy, he'll freak out the same way he might get intimidated if he realizes she's smarter. If that's going on it's too bad, because lots of guys like funny women.


we women design the fellows by our selection of males who make us laugh.

There's designing going on on both ends. The article points out that men are attracted to women who laugh in their presence and sometimes a woman will excessively laugh so he'll like her more. (Men do that with their bosses a lot, too.)

When a woman says she loves so-and-so because he's hilarious, it's only sometimes what she's really attracted to, and it's only sometimes that he's actually considered funny by anyone else.

Peter Palladas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

So this saucy Turkish knave goes up to Cleopatra and asks, "Do you have a match?"

"Yeah," she replies, "My asp and your fez."

Peter Palladas said...

OK, so there are too many people already in the world for me to be saying this but: any man who wants to make babies has only to wear a perfume with a key yet subtle note of vanilla and have the persona to cause genuine happy merriment among women to father as many children as there are nights.

You can buy the one. The other you either have or else no Woody Allen glasses can substitute.

Mortimer Brezny said...

But it's also connected to some women feeling if they're funnier than the guy, he'll freak out the same way he might get intimidated if he realizes she's smarter.

Uh, right. I've met a number of these allegedly funnier and allegedly smarter women. They aren't funny at all, just obnoxious and childish, and they're usually just liberals who think buying liberalism wholesale makes you smart, nevermind that all pure renditions of a given ideology are incoherent. The funniest women -- and people -- I've met contribute to the funniness of others and are often self-deprecating and the smartest funny ones often laugh at other people's jokes because they like humor and understand humor from a multiplicity of perspectives. They don't think so little of others that they hold back the funny for fear of one's ego recoiling at the "constructive castration". They have a more sophisticated understanding of human psychology than that, because they are smart and have a sense of humor. But by all means, keep believing women who buy into crude misandrist psychobabble are smart and witty.

Annie said...

Jeez, Mortimer, who stepped on your toe?

Tell me that these evolutionists don't have a kind of anti-religion religion going, or at least a monomania. They have to find a reproductive advantage to everything, or else it wouldn't exist. Reproductive fitness is their god.

It's such a boring game, trying to figure out how every little human quirk must have gotten some cave man laid or not killed. And the hostility to funny women? What about just funny people? They tend to seek each other out, in my experience. A lot of men wouldn't want to be married to someone without a sense of humor.

Come to think of it, since a sense of humor is often what keeps you from killing yourself, it is adaptive after all. Probably much more important than the sexual-selection angle.

Maxine Weiss said...

I just saw the most darling little blog, that had a little space for readers to suggest topics they might like to discuss, and the Blogger's willingness to take his cue from reader requests.

Splendid.

Peace, Maxine

Mortimer Brezny said...

Jeez, Mortimer, who stepped on your toe?

A woman who bought into crude, misandrist psychobabble?

Galvanized said...

That article is interesting, but one of the three points should be included -- aesthetics. Women, in conversation, are very aware of being judged by their appearance and, thus, feel others find them most attractive when they are smiling and/or laughing and most at ease in being reactive. To be funny sometimes requires affectation of the expressions, voice and body that may not be physically flattering. God forbid! LOL Men, on the other hand, understand that their wit and intellect are socially valued -- the content they contribute in conversation -- and, thus, feel the need to draw attention (strut their stuff in a comedic way when their physique alone doesn't draw), and what better way to draw out a positive reaction than through humor? It's all part of the dance. Comedy is a beta male's best response to an alpha's dominance because, hey, they all gotta find a mate. In the end, we all know that women are just as entertaining, but many women simply feel that leaving the comfort zone and being funny compromises beauty and therefore opt in favor of being aesthetically pleasing rather than intellectually stimulating. Plus, like it says, we just don't have to because we're not usually the initiators and can sit back and watch. In short, women are taught early on (sadly) that funny is not pretty, comedy is not becoming, shtick is unflattering, and also to wait to be approached and hope to be noticed. To court reactions with humor seems to be doing the male's job.

Some, however, do feel secure enough in their looks and risk it or just don't care and buck the system. I do believe, however, that it's innate behavior of the sexes, with some exceptions, thank God. Many women will always be overly conscious of their appearance because our instincts tell us that beauty draws, as many men will always believe that they are socially superior because that arrogance assists them being the initiators. But, again, I appreciate the exceptions to the theory.

George said...

So this hot-to-trot playwright saunters up to the lady carpenter and says, "Got a match?"

She puts down her hammer and retorts, "Yeah, my adze and your farce."

Doug said...

With women, do they repress their humour because they think they may look goofy, or do they not attempt to crack wise because they don't need to?
I have heard people like Howard Stern and heavy comedians remark that they had to be funny to score with women to make up for their ugliness or chunkiness.

Back when I was in school, I remember learning that in some cultures, I believe Asian ones were mentioned, women are taught to cover their mouths when they laugh. Perhaps they think that a laughing woman was not as attractive. I rarely see guys cover their mouths when they laugh (except maybe to keep things from flying out of it).

Annie said...

To be funny sometimes requires affectation of the expressions, voice and body that may not be physically flattering. God forbid!

One of the compensations of getting old is that you don't have to worry about that any more. Unless they're in the Botox game, in which case you can't distort your face telling a joke even if you try, old women can let loose because what the hell. Similarly, older women can be really bawdy -- don't have to pretend to be more ladylike or innocent than they are.

dave™© said...

Speaking of "hilarious women", welcome to Day 4 of absolute silence on the US Attorney scandal from the Blithering Misogynist Idiot Imitating Altmouse.

Not to be sexist about it... her fellow "law professor" (and I use the term loosely) Instacracker is similiarly silent...

Kirby Olson said...

The article by Christopher Hitchens on this topic a few months ago listed a study at Stanford. I looked it up and there's a 4-minute video with one of the professors who did the study here and it's much more interesting than the accompanying article:

http://mednews.stanford.edu/releases/2005/november/humor.html

There are only ten men and ten women in the study, which I think is too small a sample to draw major conclusions from regarding women's greater tendency to depression based on a slightly different or more complex sense of humor but the prof did talk about that anyways.

When you look up "have no sense of humor" using google you get three groups mentioned a lot: Muslims, women, and liberals.

Don't know what those three groups might have in common. Anyone care to speculate?

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that there is some truth to the obervation that the two sexes have two different types of humor. Male humor is more likely at the expense of someone else, and female, at the expense of themselves. The beta male is getting laid, at least to some extent, by showing how stupid the alpha male is.

Many males just don't get the self-deprecating type of humor. Well, ok, the mother-in-law and wife type works, but overall? And that is why I think that some female comics who do well with women don't do as well with men.

The one truth I see in the article though is that some guys get what they want in life by being bigger and stronger. Some by being faster. And some of those who have none of those traits, do it by being funnier.

Galvanized said...

Thanks, Ms. Althouse, your inclusion on this post made my week. :)

Telecomedian said...

I was a professional stand-up comic and a morning show deejay before I got into telecommunications, and let me assure you - I never had any more success with women when I was paid to be funny than being an engineer. The groupies at a comedy club are not like the pretty young girls rockstars or baseball players get; comics get the most self-loathing, depressing, inactive women who somehow think that some touring comic trying to make ends meet at 500 bucks a week is somehow a good mating option.

This article is what happens when writers talk to academics, not subject matter experts.

Phoebe said...

It's all true. Look at Amy Sedaris, very conventionally pretty comedian who constantly uglifies herself when being funny. Only recently, in a book, did she not do it every time. Women don't generally have the guts to do that, since they have to be pretty. Prime directive.