I appreciate Adam Carolla’s willingness to defy PC shibboleths. I respect his intelligence. I do not, however, find him funny. Nor do I find Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, or Stephen Colbert funny. I like Tina Fey when she’s not foolish enough to wander into political territory. I loved Seinfeld, which was a joint Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld production. I hate Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is solely a Larry David production.
I laugh just thinking about the I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy meets William Holden (one of the last great gentleman of the Silver Screen). As you may recall, Lucy, newly arrived in Hollywood, drags Fred and Ethel off to the Brown Derby to see the stars. She finds herself seated next to Bill Holden, and begins to stare at him. Holden, tired of being stared at by every tourist in town, turns the tables and stares right back at Lucy. Part I of the episode ends with Lucy fleeing the Brown Derby, having embarrassed herself horribly (and amusingly, of course). Part II opens with Ricky bringing Holden back to the hotel room to meet Lucy. Lucy doesn’t want to meet Holden. Hilarity ensues:
I think that episode is probably one of the funniest comedic moments ever captured on film. In a peculiar way, part of the fun is that Lucy, the perfect comedienne, had no sense of humor. She could sell a joke; she just couldn’t make one.
Marx Brothers? Side splitting. Three Stooges? Not so much.
Are my comic tastes typical for a woman? I don’t know. I like to laugh. Significantly, I don’t appreciate crude humor. One of the reasons Jon Stewart doesn’t endear himself to me, aside from his lopsided political views, is the fact that he’s incredibly crude. I also don’t find meanness funny, which is why I enjoy the puckish Jay Leno and actively dislike the vicious David Letterman.
This rumination has a point. Adam Carolla does not believe women are funny:
Q. The lesson you learned from a sexual harassment seminar was “Don’t hire chicks.” Do you hate working with women?
A. No. But they make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they’re always the least funny on the writing staff. The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks. If my daughter has a mediocre sense of humor, I’m just gonna tell her, “Be a staff writer for a sitcom. Because they’ll have to hire you, they can’t really fire you, and you don’t have to produce that much. It’ll be awesome.
At Ricochet, Chazzy Star asks readers to chime in, pro or con, regarding Carolla’s opinion. I think Carolla has a point, sort of. There are two things at work here. First, women are less likely to do crude, vulgar humor. There are some exceptions, such as Lisa Lampanelli, who make crudity a centerpiece of their act, but I find her offensive rather than funny. Moreover, I doubt that I’m the only woman who feels this way. Because women shy away from crudities, they have a smaller comedic repertoire on which to draw. A lot of them also end up doing domestic or relationship humor, which can also be limiting.
That limitation leads me to my second point, which is that I think men are less likely to appreciate women’s humor than women are to appreciate men’s humor. While neither men nor women appreciate a vulgar woman, both will accept and laugh at a vulgar man. Likewise, while women may appreciate domestic or relationship humor, men are likely to consider that “chick” stuff, and to disengage. So not only do men have a larger repertoire, they also have a larger potential audience, one made up of men, who like manly jokes, and women, who also like manly jokes.
I don’t want to lock people into boxes, of course. Although it’s not apparent from my writing, which goes for snark and sarcasm, rather than humor (I just can’t write “funny”), I’m actually quite amusing in conversation. Several people have told me I ought to do stand-up, a thought that makes me feel faint. Stage-fright and I are old and good friends. In any event, mine is a reactive humor. I need to have someone say something that triggers the loopy drive in my brain, and then funny stuff starts coming out.
Do you agree with Carolla that men are inherently better than women at humor? Do you think I’m on to something when I suggest that women are more constrained in the humor they’ll create, and less constrained in the humor they’ll appreciate? And have you got any good jokes that are neither crude nor otherwise offensive? I do love to laugh.