Friday, December 16, 2016

are men funnier than women?

Several articles have recently discussed the issue of whether and why men are funnier than women. Most of these pieces take an evolutionary-psychology approach to the issue, claiming that men need to be funnier—and women need to be receptive to men's humor—as a function of mate selection. Humor is the human-male equivalent of pigeons' puffing out chest and neck feathers while doing a mating dance to attract females. Get a woman to laugh, and you're partway there when it comes to luring her into your horror-cave and eventually turkey-basting her with your warm, slimy DNA.

But are men funnier overall? Some of the articles dispute this assumption; some even outright deny it in favor of the notion that women are the funnier sex. My own intuition is that the jury is out, and that people these days run a little too quickly to evolutionary psychology to explain every little aspect of human behavior. (If evolutionary psychology had that much explanatory power, it ought to have commensurate predictive power, which our law-enforcement agencies would appreciate. Alas, EP does not: it's mostly post hoc analysis, which means you should approach EP with a hermeneutic of suspicion.)

For what it's worth, here's a recent example of a man and a woman—Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence—trying to out-funny each other:

(I suspect that Jennifer Lawrence's "Where do you keep your Oscar?" dig was stolen from Zach Galifianakis, who used the same joke when he interviewed Bruce Willis for his "Between Two Ferns" show. See here. Either that, or "Where do you keep your Oscar?" is a fairly standard Hollywood joke.)


Charles said...

Of course, examples like the Lawrence/Pratt video aren't worth that much at all in terms of which is the funnier sex; a given woman may be significantly funnier than any number of men, and women as a whole could still be less funny.

To be honest, though, I've never been able to see the point of the question. First of all, humor is subjective, so it's impossible to come up with a universal measure of how funny people are. Not only does humor differ from individual to individual, it also differs across cultures, which means you'd likely have to have many "standards" of funniness. And even assuming we could come up with such standards and then measure a large enough sample size to come to some meaningful conclusion, would we learn anything of actual utility? Does it matter if women are funnier than men, or vice versa?

What I suspect is going on here is another round of the age-old battle of the sexes, with men insisting that they are funnier and then trying to soften the blow by saying, "Hey, of course, we're funnier! Otherwise you'd never let us rub genitals with you!"

Kevin Kim said...

"Of course, examples like the Lawrence/Pratt video aren't worth that much"

Well, that is why I said "For what it's worth." I wasn't aiming for scientific rigor.

Charles said...

Yes, I was attempting to agree with you and share my own thoughts in that vein. I don't think there really is any scientific rigor to be had here.

Kevin Kim said...

Gotcha. Gotcha.

John from Daejeon said...

All their nonsense is no more than a lame attempt at getting people to see their new flick while trying to show that they are fun (i.e. see Pratt and Evans unique Super Bowl bits from 2 years ago in which all parties won out in Marvel super hero visits to local children's hospitals). As for their actual comedy writers, I believe both are female. One is the little woman behind Pratt and "Mom" (and her homeless dog roaming the streets of North Hollywood which cost her a cool $5,000--one Anna Faris)
while the other one will soon be playing a larger than normal "Barbie" on the big screen--one Amy Schumer.