Gender And Humor: Was Christopher Hitchens Right When He Said Women Aren’t Funny?

Huffington Post:

Celebrated polemicist Christopher Hitchens, who passed away last month, never lacked targets for his writerly ire: Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Gore Vidal — even Mother Teresa was not immune. But in a polarizing 2007 Vanity Fair essay, Hitchens outdid himself, taking aim at the entire female species. Women aren’t as funny as men, he declared. Case closed.

The entertainment industry seems to agree. According to the Writers Guild of America, women represent just 28 percent of all jobs in television, and 18 percent in the film industry. Such a radical imbalance might leave us all believing that if something is funny, it must’ve come from a guy. Sure enough, a recent experiment involving New Yorker cartoons found that participants of both genders misattributed funny cartoon captions to men, and the non-funny captions to women.

But lately, as the two of us travel the world in search of what makes things funny, Hitchens’ argument seems suspect. While exploring the world of stand-up comics and show-biz insiders in Los Angeles, one of funniest bits we saw involved comedienne Tig Notaro and a squeaky stool. In New York we delved into the venerable world of New Yorker cartoons, where hardly any name looms larger than that of female cartoonist Roz Chast. And while searching for laughs in the West Bank, we met Manal Awad, a woman who co-created Palestine’s first-ever political satire show, one so barbed and popular the government shut it down.

Such discoveries made us wonder: Does science back up Hitchens’ claim? Empirically, are women really less funny than men?

Read the whole story: Huffington Post

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