Thursday, December 07, 2006

Don't be fooled. I am not funny.


Readers who know me know I love me some Christopher Hitchens. If you haven’t read his latest piece in Vanity Fair on why we ladies are more than a bit crippled in the humor department, I have provided a portion of it below. Of course, I could not resist my own entirely worshipful commentary, inserted in italics. It’s a liberty for which I know - in my deeply feminine and unfunny heart - Mr. Hitchens would forgive me.

Why Women Aren’t Funny

By Christopher Hitchens

Be your gender what it may, you will certainly have heard the following from a female friend who is enumerating the charms of a new (male) squeeze: "He's really quite cute, and he's kind to my friends, and he knows all kinds of stuff…

Guilty as charged! We gals just can’t resist a guy who knows stuff!

…and he's so funny … " (If you yourself are a guy, and you know the man in question, you will often have said to yourself, "Funny? He wouldn't know a joke if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.")

Ho ho ho! That is so SPOT ON, Hitch! I mean, if I’ve heard a guy use that “sauce béarnaise” analogy once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. Seriously, Hitch, the next time my boyfriend brings up that bed of lettuce with the sauce thing, I am so going to be chuckling, thinking of you.

However, there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: "She's a real honey, has a life of her own … [interlude for attributes that are none of your business] … and, man, does she ever make 'em laugh."

Hitch, you forgot the part where he goes on to say “And she absolutely loves it that I talk like a character from a 1940s Frank Capra movie!”

Now, why is this? Why is it the case?, I mean. Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.

Wow, Hitch. You busted me. I WAS going to pretend like I didn’t know what you meant by women having the whole male world at their mercy. I was going to bring up retrograde anti-choice laws in the US, and Muslim sharia law, and then segue into a listing of all the major world religions that treat women as inferior and reinforce cultural repression against women - including female genital mutilation and honor killings, and even talk about the still pervasive fear, even among American women, that the streets of their own neighborhoods, no matter where they live, are not as safe and as free to them as they are to men, and how that affects your understanding of your place in the world, which would most definitely NOT be a place of holding men at your mercy, but…well, like I said: I stand busted, Hitch. At my mercy you most certainly are.

All right—try it the other way (as the bishop said to the barmaid).

Can I just interject here and say that I bow down to you, Hitch? I totally would have gone for a “that’s what she said,” but you took the high road with the whole bishop/barmaid reference, and that sentence is all the funnier for it. Bravo.

Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her)…

Holy cow, you know, I DO call her that laughingly! How do you know that, Hitch? It’s like you can see right into the depths of my soul.

…is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh.

I couldn’t agree more. Superior physical strength, good looks, money, a cushy job at a national glossy magazine – none of those things really impress women. Go to your local comedy club and survey those guys, and you’ll see that in terms of attracting rich, powerful, and desirable women, those open mike stand-up guys have got it made.

Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life.

And it shows!

If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further.

Out of modesty, I have no doubt.

Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift…

If only I had known this when I was a skinny, pimply, bespectacled, no-boob-havin’ teenager with braces! Then I totally wouldn’t have had to develop a personality!

*…This is not to say that women are humorless, or cannot make great wits and comedians. And if they did not operate on the humor wavelength, there would be scant point in half killing oneself in the attempt to make them writhe and scream (uproariously).

Hitch, you scamp. I think you’re making a sly reference to the notion that a women laughing is very similar in attitude and vocal inflection to a women in the throes of sexual ecstasy! Am I right? Did I get it?

Wit, after all, is the unfailing symptom of intelligence.

I couldn’t agree more.

Men will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is—or they are—extremely stupid.

Wow. I am so moved, really, by your attempt at self-deprecation. It is charming, and utterly convincing.

Women aren't like that.

It’s so true. Women do NOT laugh at stupid things. I am reminded of that universal truth every time my mother forwards to me an email about the antics of cats.

And the wits and comics among them are formidable beyond compare: Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz, Ellen DeGeneres. (Though ask yourself, was Dorothy Parker ever really funny?) Greatly daring—or so I thought—

You know what I think? I think the test of a truly great mind is the ability to define the confines of the opposition’s argument, and then to destroy their argument by tearing down the definition of it that you yourself have concocted! And all in two and a half sentences!

I resolved to call up Ms. Lebowitz and Ms. Ephron to try out my theories. Fran responded: "The cultural values are male; for a woman to say a man is funny is the equivalent of a man saying that a woman is pretty."

And good for you, Hitch, for not taking this statement and inferring the larger (and surely ludicrous!) point that perhaps it’s not that women are not as funny as men, but that their humor is not being defined by the people that share their experiences, at least to some extent. I would hate to see you stoop so low. Like if you drew some analogy to those intelligence tests they used to administer to school children that always showed that minority and poor children weren’t smart because they didn’t know that, for instance, in a exercise wherein one must link words from two lists that are often paired in speech, the word “cup” must of course be linked to the word “saucer.” Because saucers are a universal truth of the lives of children, rich or poor, black or white. As is the humor of men. It is universal to both sexes. I can see that, Hitch. With a little help from you, of course.

There is, as you might have guessed, more to Mr. Hitchen’s argument. I invite you to immerse yourself in the world of his wisdom here. Martinis optional.


*At this point I have edited out a small section on a Stanford study of humor recognition in men and women that was so asinine it was difficult to make fun of effectively. But check it out in the original article. It’s all about whether women think some cartoons are as funny as men think they are. I’m not kidding.

18 comments:

Anon. Blogger said...

If women didn't have a sense of humor guys that say stuff like that wouldn't be *able* to speak! Sadly, he thinks they are laughing *with* him.

His observation about motherhood was sickening. Ironically, I agree that is seems that brain cells depart with the placenta (hey, I thought I said that first!), but gee, suppose sleep deprivation, recovery, the learning curve, and societal pressure to be the 'perfect woman'play a role in one's ability to come up with a decent punch line?

I wonder if he ever heard of Ermma Bombeck, and if he did, did he even get it?

Scary... he actually wrote that load, and someone proofed it, and someone gave the go-ahead to publish. Yikes... Just when we think women have made great strides we get a dose of crap like that flung in our eye.


I'm no fool... and you *are* funny. (but then again, we think chocolate is over rated...)

RandyLuvsPaiste said...

That blows me away, because Joan Cusack makes me laugh harder than anybody (except maybe Chris Rock).

Chris said...

You had me a little nervous with your first line (Readers who know me know I love me some Christopher Hitchens.) I couldn't remember you ever talking about Hitch, so it freaked me out. Don't scare me like that!

The fact is: there are funny males and females just as there unfunny males and females. Ultimately, humor is in the eye of the beholder, so what's the fucking point of making a sweeping generality about women not being funny? Hitchens adds more fuel to the fire that is burning with his own massive irrelevance.

vikkitikkitavi said...

AB: Well, come on! You knew that Hitch was going to get down to blaming our unfunniness on motherhood at some point, right? He wouldn't be Hitch if he didn't.

Randy: Hm. That is funny in it's own way, I guess.

Chris: I saw him speak live in a debate over the Iraq war. He was suck a HUGE FLAMING ASSHAT. I have never in my life witnessed anyone so completely self-obsessed. And drunk.

Spooney said...

Girl, you is one of the funniest peoples I know. I think funny women are extremely hot! I guess I'm a weirdo.

grooveva said...

I could make Hitch laugh so hard he'd follow me around like a lapdog. Unfortunately I f'n hate yippy little dogs.

Johnny Yen said...

Hey-- if he's been hanging solely around conservative women, maybe he has been around women who have no sense of humor....

MonstrousJoe said...

Seriously, Vanity Fair? ... I wouldn't know what that was if it was served to me while in a bed of lettuce by a bedan Bedouin riding a beden with a boudin.

Jess said...

Ohhhhhh... I want that necklace! The one you're wearing in the pic.

Whatever, I could get outraged at the fact that the guy obviously has a tiny dick and is afraid of women.

But mostly I just want that necklace!

GETkristiLOVE said...

You said, "Ho Ho Ho!" I know it's stupid and I'm female, but it still made me laugh.

Grant Miller said...

That was too funny, for a chick and all.

I've subscribed to VF for a year or so...I'm going to let the subscription end - it's just not funny enough and I've grown to LOATHE Dominic Dunne.

Grant Miller said...

And Sarah Silverman is one of the five funniest people in the world today.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Spooney: I wouldn't call you a weirdo, although I do take issue with your grammar sometimes.

Hitch: I have no doubt he would follow you around, although he is way too bloated to be one of those tiny, yippy little dogs. Maybe a pug.

JohnnyY: I don't know about conservative women, but if Nora Ephron (screenwriter of Bewitched, You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle) is your "funny friend" that you call when you're writing an article about humor, you're in trouble.

MJoe: Bidet.

Jess: The only reason I chose that picture of me to go with that post is because of the banana necklace, which is just funny. It just is. And you're not the only one who covets it, right KRISTI?

Kristi: Nothing like diminished expectations to boost laughs.

Grant: Down with you on Silverman. Her joke about being raped by a doctor is one of the most perfectly crafted pieces of humor ever.

BUT, I must admit I love Dunne. He's like an alive Truman Capote.

Megan said...

I recently read a brilliant psychological study of the difference between female humor and male humor. It said that while men may laugh at women who use humor in a masculine way, they certainly don't want to marry them. So you better watch out with your masculine humor.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Megan, at this point in my life, I am actually looking for reasons to never get married again, so that works out perfect.

Grant Miller said...

I really liked Dunne at first. Really, really, really - I bought a book even. But after awile I realized it was, to paraphrase Frank Zappa, a rich guy writing about rich people and read by white yuppies. I felt guilty after I read his articles.

Anonymous said...

If you add to the article's title and make it "Why Women Aren’t Funny TO MEN" (kind of obvious given the perspective of the author -- a perspective I can speak from as well), it does actually make sense. I don't necessarily agree with the explanation, but the phenomenon is definitely true for me. I find that women are less funny on the whole (partly because they just don't need to be, and, yes, maybe partly because of lack of ability -- if only because practice makes perfect).

Please don't bother suggesting that my sense of humour betrays a poor view of women on my part. That would be a pathetic attack, as laughter is involuntary.

Hitchens may have overstated his case by forgetting to consider women's opinions of other women's comedy, but that hardly defeats his entire case.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Oh, Anonymous! I love it when commenters tell me how I should respond to them. And don't worry, I would never argue that behavior like that betrays a poor view of women, or something like that.

Nevertheless, I will endeavor to explain once more:

1. Man tells joke. Woman doesn't laugh.

Conclusion: women have no sense of humor.

2. Woman tells joke. Man doesn't laugh.

Conclusion: women aren't funny.