Men are hard-wired to think they are funny. They use it as a courtship technique. A study by Eric Brassler at McMaster University finds that women rate men as more attractive if they make more jokes. And men are somehow aware of this, because they are more likely to make jokes if women are around.

This is probably part of women being hard-wired to select an appropriate mate; people who are funny are generally smart and creative people, because humor is about putting two unlikely things together in a clever way, according to an interview with Chris Robert, professor of management at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Also, Robert says his research shows that people who are funny are more likely to be promoted.

In the category of research to support what we already know, Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher surveyed more than one million employees to find out that people like fun offices. This news is revealed in their book, The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up.

Anyway, their point is that fun people are more likable. Which is the problem with women: We are not as funny as men. That is not their point. It is my point.

But my gut tells me it’s right. My gut tells me that most funny women are gay. First of all, Brassler’s research found that men do not think women who are funny are more attractive. Also, Christopher Hitchins has a great piece in Vanity Fair, Why Women Aren’t Funny, where he points out that Jewish women are funny, but only because they have male qualities of humor -angst and self-deprecation.

All this makes me happy because people often ask me if I’m gay, and I used to think it’s because I am awkward when it comes to flirting. (Quote from the first guy I dated since the onset of my divorce: “You are an incompetent flirt.”) But now I take the question of my sexual orientation as a compliment: it means that I’m leveraging my angst-riddled Jewish upbringing to be the funny girl.

But back to The Levity Effect. Gostick and Christopher define lighthearted as something more broad than humor. Maybe this is because their book lacks the amount of humor you’d expect from people who write about the importance of levity. But they have a few chapters about how you don’t need to be a comedian in order to create levity. (Which may or may not be justified encouragement to the unfunny.)

I want to tell you to be careful about being funny – because trying to be funny and failing is so lame. But I am certain that men are hard-wired to try no matter what, because they want to mate. Which means they get a lot of practice outside the office. So women should try, too. It won’t help us get a mate, but it will help us get the career we want, (which, in many cases, does help find a mate).

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I’m a man, I don’t think I’m funny at all. Ergo, not all men are hard-wired to think they’re funny. Stop generalizing.

  2. rhhardin
    rhhardin says:

    I knew it was over when my girlfriend said, “Our relationship has to be about more than jokes.”


    How’s the weather?

  3. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    I enjoyed this post for some of the points in it, even though I, too, disagree with your saying that generally women are less or not funny. I was voted “wittiest” back in high school, I love making people laugh, and I’m not self-deprecating, either. I make friends easily because I can make strangers giggle, and the desire to keep on doing that dictates where I spend my time, my work, my mate, almost everything. I was raised in a sarcastic family and learned to tone it down a lot because people often interpreted me as being serious when I wasn’t at all. I think being taught empathy and reading loads while growing up helped me get inside people’s heads a lot more easily, making it a lot simpler to quickly figure out what people like to laugh at.

    I agree with other comments that being raised female is a constant lesson in reining yourself in and acting lady-like. We develop senses of humor still, but because of different societal pressures we express them in other ways than men. Though I’m certain I am pretty straight and feel feminine, too, I played a lot of sports growing up, so I was definitely one of the boys. This helped me ignore a lot of the other b.s. telling me to behave like a girl should. Plenty of women are funny, though I agree that we are less allowed to be. I’m lucky enough to live in a small town that attracted a lot of healthy, athletic, independent women who are never slow on the uptake, and we have a lot of men around who deeply appreciate it.

  4. Marie McHale Drake
    Marie McHale Drake says:

    I am extremely funny. But I did have higher levels of testosterone than normal for a woman in my late teens. As that normalized, did I get less funny? No, I am funnier than ever. Then again I haven’t had my testosterone levels checked in a long time.

  5. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    So this is why I’m every dude’s friend, and women find me irresistible. Haha, just kidding.

    I didn’t even know people thought I was funny until I started dating a girl. But maybe they were just so shocked and offended by my “switch” they couldn’t think of anything else to say.

    I wonder if I went back to boys if I would be un-funny again?

  6. emily
    emily says:

    This was so interesting. I’m straight, and a girl, but I’m pretty goofy and make a lot of jokes. I have all of these things that in my head I think of as my “male” traits– I drink beer, I love facts, I fix things myself, I make jokes to get people to like me. Weird that I guess I think of humor and fun conversation as male traits– and conversely I think of deep, serious conversations as a female thing.
    It’s kind of crazy, but even though I have always unambiguously been attracted to men, I have actually questioned my own sexuality based on drinking beer, being good at geography, and having a goofy sense of humor. It’s like these random personality traits make me identify more with men than with women. It’s frustrating too that I find myself trying to be more “male” at work to be successful, and to schmooze more easily at a party, and to get farther at the gym.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      Emily, never question anything based on a love of beer. Beer is a sign that God loves us (paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin). All women the world over would be happier if they liked beer.

  7. Jane
    Jane says:

    I’ve always maintained that men don’t like funny women, especially if the women are also hot. I used to attribute this to the stereotypical male inability to multi-task, making it genetically impossible to give equal attention to punch lines and boobs. Your post opens up some disturbing possibilities. Either a) I’m not funny or hot; or b) what I consider funny is actually sarcasm and men generally don’t like/get sarcasm. Whatever. The fact that men aren’t attracted to sarcasm makes it even more ideal for the workplace.

  8. Steve
    Steve says:

    It’s interesting how many women took offense to “most women aren’t funny.”

    Humor is truly a sense that can be developed. Most men of above average intelligence work at developing that sense, (as expression) because they realize the value in attracting the opposite sex whereas only women of extraordinary intelligence seem to work at developing their expressive sense of humor. They usually have other ways of attracting men. Though most women have well developed sense of humor appreciation. It’s part of the give and take.

    On my first date with my wife I knew it would work because she laughed at all of my stupid jokes.

  9. Paul
    Paul says:

    Let’s get to the point, Pen.

    It’s OK for a woman to be funny if she’s Jewish.
    It’s OK for a woman to be funny if she’s gay.
    Otherwise, it’s not OK.

    To a lesser extent, this also applies to men.

  10. Chris
    Chris says:

    Women are inherently less funny than men, and no amount of feminist self-defense is going to refute reality.  Men evolved needing to be funny.  Women evolved needing to be beautiful. 

    Go figure that today women are prettier than men and men are wittier than women.  Sorry, I know women understand humor, but they are very poor in generating it themselves.  I’ve found my entire life that women will laugh at anything, the dumbest down, most simplistic jokes, whereas guys have much higher standards.  The best female comedians would be considered below average if they were grouped with male comedians. 

    I lol’d hard @ the one lady in this comment section insinuating that men don’t understand sarcasm.  We invented it.  Male wit & irony is far more complex than anything a woman has ever said.  Stop deluding yourselves.  I hear you feminists saying nobody watches the WNBA because of sexism as well, rather than accepting your inherent physical limitations, you choose to build yourselves up on delusions.  It’s unhealthy. 

    I’m not trying to oppress women, I’d much PREFER if your gender WAS as funny as men so I didn’t have to rely solely on other guys for adequate entertainment, but I’ve been less than impressed. 

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