Here in Australia, the International Comedy Festival has just passed. The newspaper sponsoring the event made a big push to cover every event, and as a result journalists who didn’t normally cover comedy were recruited to have a go.
It was a bit of a bloody disaster.
A lot of sub-par reviews came out, and in particular, this:
Thus was kicked up the stupid old debate of whether women are funny.
I think women are funny. I think it’s stupid to cleave the entire population of the world in two and then say one half aren’t funny. Some men are funny, some women are funny. Some people are funny.
I think women weren’t perceived as funny for a long time because men were in charge of hiring comics, and due to the attitudes of the time they simply didn’t hire women. No exposure means women don’t appear to be funny.
I have a sub-theory that I’d like to share. I think for someone to be funny, they have to have a degree of silliness: an ability to let themselves and their ego go and do what’s necessary to elicit a laugh. I think if someone wants to be seen as pretty or handsome, and that is their driving force, they’ll struggle to be funny, because in order to be pretty or handsome, there’s a requisite dignity and poise. This dignity and poise gets in the way of flopping around or admitting amusing secrets about your hygiene to make the audience laugh.
This isn’t to say funny people can’t be pretty or handsome. I just think someone can be funny if they’re willing to do what needs to be done to be funny: to let the conventional modes of carrying oneself fall away and for humour to emerge. If someone does that, and is also just naturally pretty or handsome, but their driving force is to be funny, then they’ll also have the fortune of being funny and attractive. Humorously boinkable.
Back in the bad old days, the wayward men who were hiring talent were happy to have the handsome and ugly funny men, but were looking mainly for the pretty women. They might hire a girl to be funny, but she’d need to have that main drive of being pretty so the wayward men could check that box. As a result, a lot of those women weren’t funny, and the wayward men could turn around and remark that women simply weren’t funny. A perpetual cycle, unbroken until the angry women of the nineties.
End of theory.