Humor can be a good way to advertise intelligence and mate quality. Because women are choosier than men, we should expect men to use humor more often and more creatively to signal their mate quality and attract women, while women should be more sensitive to men producing high quality humor when choosing a mate. Numerous studies on humor support this tendency of men to try and be funny as an honest advertisement and women to choose men who are funny.
In regular conversations, men are much more likely to crack jokes, especially when women are present, while women tend to laugh more especially in response to male speakers. If you check personal ads on dating sites for example, you will see that men show a proclivity to advertise their humor ability by the sheer number of ads containing humor compared to those of women. Men also put more effort into producing high quality humor in their ads, while women recognize that humor creativity is important, and seek men who offer it.
Evidence also shows that men who used humor in their ads were more likely to be successful in finding a date, but it made no difference for women using humor, as men do not particularly care if a woman is funny though they would like her to laugh at their jokes.
Women and Comedy
The emphasis that both sexes put on the humor production abilities of men, and the reverse role it plays in mate choice, is a recognition of the significance of humor creation in signaling mate quality and the fact that women are choosier than men. My own research, described in detail here , shows that on average, men had slightly higher humor production abilities than women, humor is correlated with intelligence, and people with a great sense of humor enjoy better mating success. All these findings point to the same conclusion: that humor might be a vehicle for mating success, mostly for men but not for women.
What in the comedy world can suggest that men are more prepared by evolution for the path to success? For one, men might use comedy to enhance their mating success. This can be done either directly or indirectly. For women, the cost of casual sex could be big, and they have to be careful who they go to bed with.
This is why women comedians are much less likely to have sex on the road or casual sex in general. In fact, one female comedian once told me that if a comedienne sleeps with other comedians, rumors about it spread quickly and would give her a bad reputation. Male comedians do not have to worry about this and sometimes even compete for who gets more sex. Male comedians are more likely to be interested in gaining higher status through comedy, which indirectly can lead to more sexual partners, as high status men are more desirable for sex.
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In light of sexual selection theory, high status is favored by women when choosing a mate because it gives them access to resources which are valuable for survival, food and health, and can help raise future offspring. It is worth noting that humor itself can increase mate desirability just because it is associated with another, sexually dimorphic trait, such as status.
This is another evolutionary mechanism that favors men in comedy, because the motivation for getting high status is stronger for men. Men are also known to be more competitive than women, again, partially because of biological tendencies. Stand-up comedy is a very competitive profession and not everyone is willing to put all the effort into succeeding in it.
This competitive nature in men might often lead them to take more risks compared to women. Men might be more willing to sustain the bumps in the road to glory. More men than women might be inclined to live an uncomfortable life with little job security for a long period of time, while traveling from place to place endlessly. Another issue that men might be better suited for, or at least more willing to embrace, is the long and lonely hours a comedian needs to spend alone. Writing is a solitary process, as is practicing the routine. Women are more social creatures than men, preferring to be around other people, either at work or in social situations.
Comedy does not offer much time for human interaction, with one big exception, the night of the show.
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It is possible that fewer women are willing to pay this price to succeed. If the average man does have slightly better humor production ability than the average woman, it might be plausible to think that when we look at the highest level of humor production, i. This is also due to the fact that the distribution of humor ability is likely not the same for men and women. This is exactly the same ratio we find among comedians. If we look at the highest possible level of humor production, the one that includes the greatest comedians of all time, the picture is exactly the same. For example, on the list of the greatest stand-up comedians published by Comedy Central a few years ago, only nine were women.
Overall, comedy life seems to better fit with male psychology than that of women, but there are a couple of things to also consider. Even if men are better suited for comedy life, and more men succeed in comedy than women, that does not mean that women cannot be successful comedians as evidenced by the many great women in comedy.
90 Best Books for Comedy Fans
If we make comedy life easier for everyone, maybe more women will turn to this profession. Also we should remember the number of failures in comedy. Most people who try comedy do not become famous and should expect moderate success at best.
But just as more men succeed in comedy compared to women, so there are many more men who fail. Just because men tend to be risk takers, have higher motivation that is relevant to comedy, have an easier time to travel and so on, does not guarantee that they will succeed. In the end, many more men fail than the one that makes it big. There are also some possible benefits for being a female comedian. Because women are quite a rare breed in comedy, they are sometimes paid more.
Since the audience is usually divided equally between men and women, and women want to see more female comedians, owners try to supply this demand by booking more female comedians. In sum, there are probably many reasons why there are disproportionally fewer women in comedy. In my view, this is a good case where culture and biology interact.
There is no doubt that more research is needed on this topic, and I hope to be able to contribute to it soon. This is my last post in this series on stand-up comedians and comedy. I have always been impressed by stand-up comedians and their work and know how hard it is to succeed in the profession. I would like to thank all the comedians who participated in my study, shared their experiences, and provided me with valuable information that I was happy to share with you all.
Special thanks to all the comedians and lay people who read and responded to my posts. No, let's pander to women and reassure them that their jokes are funny too and we're not laughing because men have been conditioned to not laugh at funny jokes by women. Comedy is a power -- you hit the right note and your audience has to laugh, they can't help it, no matter who or what you are funny is funny. Here's a tip, if you want to be a comedian -- be funny. Kathy Griffin is the exception to that rule. Real comedy without any laugh track is sh1twork, and women in this society are curiously exempt from having to do any of that dirty dangerous unpleasant difficult stuff.
The privileged claiming 'disadvantage' is just another ploy to trick others into giving them the benefits of their privilege. There's no such thing as a funny bloody aristocrat. They can only be lame and pathetic. Bipolar men tend to be more Manic in their mixed states, and Bipolar women tend to be Depressive in their mixed states.
Among the successful standup comediennes I know of, it's pretty clear that a large percentage are either:. And if testosterone is related to aggressiveness and competitiveness than they might have an advantage.
This whole article seemed to support the idea that there should be less women in comedy, that it's supported by nature and society. It also seemed to imply that women are less funny because they are less intelligent there is dumb humor and there is intelligent humor, and in my observations dumb humor seems to be rewarded more than intelligent humor, so that seems to negate the whole "men show their intelligence through humor to gain status" thing. Really the whole argument seemed dated to me. I haven't say a word on what I want or what should be.
I am just pointing out to explanations on why there are so few female comedians. You seem to confuse what is with what ought to be. There is nothing in the article that says women are less intelligent. I suggest reading it again carefully. I have just come across your articles and find your insights to be very fascinating. You make an interesting point when you say, " If we make comedy life easier for everyone, maybe more women will turn to this profession.
Thank you for researching this quite interesting subject. Let's assume - and this is actually not an assumption, as Hitchens said so himself - that Hitchens was referring to an average, rather than an absolute statement: the average woman is less funny than the average male. So let's replace one trait in your statement with another to see why the statement is in statistical error:. This is clearly not true as evidenced by the many [tall] female[s] Examining the extreme tail end of the humor distributions, you will find many funny men and women; examining the whole distribution will tell you a different story.
The difficult life of female comedians
Rather than a stereotype, what you're probably seeing in people's perception of humor is good Bayesian reasoning. So I can't see how his point was valid. Even if we accept that on average, women are less funny, or that the proportion of women in the highest level of comedy is smaller, generalizations to the whole female population are unwarranted. It's enough that some women are funny as men to falsify the whole argument about all women.
Just because people see fewer funny women, does not mean their conclusion about all women is valid.