Is Humor Some Sort of Man Thing?

As I mentioned before, I’ve never even heard this claim before that “men are funnier than women,” much less any ev psych claims on the subject, so I decided to investigate.

According to Cracked, approximately everyone thinks men are funnier than women, but for totally dumb reasons like evolution turning men into dicks who then act in evolutionarily approved ways rather than socially approved ways. Or because elementary school teachers laugh at the antics of little boys and punish little girls for acting up, which I suppose is the sort of thing you might believe if you’ve never encountered elementary school, children, or parents in your life and are completely incapable of understanding basic statistics.

It’s at times like this that a little voice pops up in the back of my head and says, “Math is hard. Let’s go shopping!” and I say, “Yes, disembodied Barbie, yes! Let’s give in to the corporate programming! Maybe we will get dumb shoes!” Then I go back to acting like a normal human.

According to The Independent, men don’t find women funny or don’t like it when women are funny or something like that. Why? ‘Cuz, like, masculine egos, domination, funny women intimidate men or come off as mannish or something.

Moving on to to Psychology Today, “humor researchers have long noted gender differences in the use and appreciation of humor. While women want to settle down with a guy who can crack a good joke, men, to a large degree, want a partner who laughs at their antics.”

Wait, “humor researchers”? This is a thing? That people get paid for?

Can I get that job?

Back on subject, this seems like a reasonable arrangement: if one side likes telling jokes, and one side likes hearing them, then everyone is happy, yes? (Except, of course, for women who want a career in stand-up comedy. Although Lucile Ball seems to have done quite well as a professional comedian.)

To be fair, “good sense of humor” is something I have heard that women put in their dating profiles a lot. I’m not exactly sure why; if I were making a dating profile, it’d probably say something like, “Must be willing to check the math on my calculations of rates of genetic spread over time,” or, “Must be capable of intelligently debating the role of the anterior cingula in disgust and facial recognition.”

Probably the guys over at Chateau Heartiste and the other PUA blogs have some intelligent answer to this mystery; any of you guys want to weigh in?

Let’s assume that everyone is telling the truth, and that women like funny men, and men like women who laugh at their jokes. On the male side, this leads to the obvious conclusion that “humor” is not just “masculine,” but a form of masculine aggression or alphaness, similar to being 6’4″, making over 100k a year, or doing Xtreme sports. We might even classify “humor” as a subset of “aggressively gregarious,” which obviously works very well at attracting women. (Suggesting that starting off your date with a series of knock-knock jokes is not what women want, but actually the ability to generally converse in an aggressive conversation style that lets you successfully deflect embarrassment from yourself while showing how much better than others you are, eg, the responses listed in “How to Blow Past Girls Dropping the “Creep” Bomb.”)

Aggressive behavior is actually valuable for women (they have to live in society, too,) but it is not generally their core competency. In particular, while men strut through life trying to dominate each other at every pass (they even randomly bash into each other while walking down the sidewalk just to assert dominance,) women tend to pepper their conversations with signals of non-aggression.

This all gets back to the different historical rates–and mechanisms–of male/female reproductive success. In a world where 40% of males reproduced, vs. 80% of women, male success has been ensured largely by being dominant over other males in order to control access to women. Female success has not been due to being dominant over other women, but due to their skills at social organization. Women are sensitive to aggression because, simply put, they are easier to kill than men, and no one wants to be killed.

At any rate, laughter is a form of punctuation, especially for women. This is part of why people note laughter in their online communications, LOL. Smiley faces are also common in female text, and general non-aggression signaling (“Sorry for writing so much, LOL! I’m just a chatterbox! :)” writes a woman who just wrote four whole sentences on a topic.)

To be honest, this quality can make women really annoying to talk to. They have emotions and get offended easily, and there’s a whole industry devoted to milking women’s offendedness for all its worth. Additionally, even when politics aren’t concerned, women tend to take critique really personally and get frustrated easily. When men get frustrated, they get aggressive. Frustrated women cry.

Laughter is a good technique for diffusing potentially awkward or frustrating situations. Laughing makes people happy and disguises aggression–so if you can make a girl laugh, she probably 1. enjoys your conversation, and 2. perceives you as less aggressive.

But what about men not valuing humor in women? Well, men don’t generally want dominance displays from women; they want to know that women like them. Women’s dating advice websites don’t generally cover how to make playful banter, suggesting that playful banter just isn’t that important a skill for women. (Though conversation skills help with making friends.)

Very tellingly, apparently women who crack jokes appear to be preferred as one-night stands, while less-joke prone women have an advantage on the long-term market. This introduces a chicken and egg problem: do men actually prefer jokers for one night stands, or do jokers prefer one-night stands? In general, the one-night-stand environment tends to select for masculine women (and men) with more aggressive traits (suitable to encountering and pursuing many partners,) whereas the long-term environment tends to favor more feminine traits, like staying devoted to one partner and not sleeping around.

Civilization, of course, is built on these feminine traits (among many).

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9 thoughts on “Is Humor Some Sort of Man Thing?

  1. I have to think this over a bit more because I actually do find women comedians to be slightly annoying and mostly because they try too hard. I think there are many extremely funny women but something happens to them on stage that just makes the funny fade.
    Interesting blog. Will keep my little gray cells pondering for some time. Might dedicate a blog to this topic myself!

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  2. “good sense of humor” is something I have heard that women put in their dating profiles a lot. I’m not exactly sure why

    Women who do this are attempting (and probably failing) to say “I’m not a stereotypical woman who lacks a sense of humor” or “Yes I will laugh at your jokes!” That such stereotypes exist at all is pretty good evidence that the sex disparity is real. There is a reason that “That’s not funny” is so darn funny.

    Of course it is true that there are very funny women. Lucille Ball you mentioned. Also Kristen Wiig comes to mind. But then again, 33 of the 1400+ chess grand masters are also women.

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    • “I Love Lucy” is one of the few sitcoms I have seen in any great quantity, so my small N may be biased. Like a lot of things, it may be less about the inherent funniness as about the aggression necessary for self-promotion and dealing with strangers inherent to life as a standup comic that biases the profession toward men.

      I get the impression that there are, more or less, two groups of women, one group with an appreciation for humor, and one group without. I probably associate more with the latter group, hence my confusion.

      I suspect the likes-humor group is actually the vast majority of women, while the humor-hating-crankypantses are a small but vocal minority.

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  3. […] Earlier this month I read a blog that touched the subject of humor, something I find extremely important. Being a woman however, I do know that I can’t get away with everything in this respect. This specific blog even went so far as to say that being funny might influence my chance of reproducing (long story short and very much simplified, for the full story do check out the original blog on Evolutionist X) […]

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