Amelia Dickens

Are Women Funny?


By Amelia Dickens

What to do when you hear those all too common words: “Women aren’t funny.” Sometimes they are charitably preceded or succeeded by an ever-growing list of exceptions. Sometimes its only ‘pretty women’. How many times have we heard these words, or even thought or said them? There’s no denying that in mainstream comedy, successful breasted practitioners are in the minority. Panel shows frequently feature a woman (or even two!) but this almost seems like an act of generosity or filling a quota.

So, are women funny?

An essential element to humour is identifying with negative characteristics such as humiliation, desperation and insecurity. Many of these are tied in with sex and as women are seen as being the ‘gatekeepers’ of sex, they are perceived as having an element of power that negates their empathetic and therefore comedic value. There is a definite element of, “Well, what right do you have to be making jokes?”

Because of the way films and television have traditionally been formatted, women are accustomed to identifying with male leads and male culture, while men are more likely to dismiss comedy that focuses on female characters and concerns as ‘chic humour’. Is this unfair to men? Absolutely, and the patronising assumption that men will be unable to understand jokes if the person telling them has a vagina is a prime example of how patriarchy can be oppressive to the male gender too.

Of course, this question can also be, and frequently is, answered by cataloguing the multitude of funny women and this tactic is immensely tempting. However, it’s a pretty undignified position to be put in, and it is difficult not to appear to be on the defensive. So without reference to specific comSHEdians, I feel genuinely optimistic that the humour gap is closing. More and more sit-coms are written, directed and starred in by women – even if to feature a leading actress with more than 10% body fat, it’s a pretty sure bet she did write and direct it.

So, whilst some people will continue to make this generalisation, most people will continue to know it’s idiotic. As long as we remember this, I think we’ll be safe, even without reeling off a binder full of funny women.

2 thoughts on “Are Women Funny?

  1. Women ARE funny! It is sad to me that we even have this conversation. I have laughed THE hardest just being with my female friends and talking. Laughing until my sides hurt and my face hurt from crying and laughing. Seriously. The problem is that for some reason, humor is power. And if you look at dating, it is supposed to be the man “making jokes” while women sit there and laugh. Here’s an inside known fact that many women would never admit: alot of men AREN’T funny! I know, I said it! Tons of men go around thinking that their rehashed stand up jokes that they robbed are HILARITY. OR their 13 year old dick humor is so FRESH. I’m here to tell you, it isn’t. Dick jokes can be funny, but so many of them are HACK.

    I agree that women are making strides and I think that is awesome!

  2. I reviewed comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe this year and there seems to be a real trend for female comedians, especially double acts. They were among the funniest acts I saw. I think that in the past, female comedians’ whole sets have rested on the fact that they are a female comedian, almost like a need to acknowledge that what they’re doing is unusual.Thankfully, I hardly saw any of that this year, just some very witty, crafty comediennes. And I saw some really shit male ones.

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