You might be likened to a caveman if you actually think women aren’t funny. Or that women aren’t as funny as men.
However, there is scientifically-backed reasoning for the perception that there are more funny men than funny women, which might account for why, historically at least, there are more male stand-ups than female. It all has to do with social constructs that incentivize men to be funny (or at least try to be) and for women, well, to not be funny. My theory is that it comes down to one underlying reality: intelligence and male insecurity.
Let me explain.
The first time I remember being rewarded for being funny was in first grade, when the teacher allowed me to stand in front of the class and “talk like a Texan.” With two Texans-turned-Colorado-transplants as parents, apparently I had been working on my Southern accent from a young age. From my hazy 6-year-old memory, my impression consisted mainly of me saying things like, “Hah, Ah’m from Taxas,” to the giggling delight of the class and the doting eyes of my dreamy early 20s teacher.
A comedian was born. And from then on, humor was my way into people’s hearts, the way I got people to like me. But more than anything, humor was my most reliable strategy for winning the attention and affection of the ladies.
My experience is not unique, but rather consistent species-wide. As showcased in a compelling article in “The Atlantic,” a 2011 study published in the journal “Intelligence” found that “a good sense of humor is sexually attractive, perhaps because it reveals intelligence, creativity, and other ‘good genes’ or ‘good parent’ traits.” The study indicated that general and verbal intelligence predicted humor production (meaning more attempts at humor, regardless of how funny these attempts were) and that men showed more adeptness at humor production (again, not funnier humor per se, but more attempts at being funny).
So, as dudes, we learn that being funny is sexy and so we make more jokes. However, the “Intelligence” study didn’t say that humor is attractive only to women, but both men and women. So why do guys try to be funny more than women? It may have to do with how each gender appreciates humor in potential mates.
A 2006 study found that while both men and women appreciate a sense of humor in their partner, women tend to like men who are equally receptive to the woman’s humor AND who are adept at being funny themselves. Guys? They essentially want a partner who laughs at their jokes.
So how does intelligence fit in to all this? And why are men more likely to be incentivized to be funny more than women? Like in many areas, our actions are culturally and biologically defined by the pressure to find a mate and reproduce. And one thing that is more attractive to women and less attractive to men in male-female interaction is intelligence.
A 2015 study found that, in theory or when presented with a hypothetical situation, men show greater attraction toward women they perceive to be smarter than themselves. However, in practice, say, on a date or any other concrete, interpersonal interaction, men are less attracted to women they think are smarter. Essentially, men say they like smart women, but when put to the test, they retreat to their oversized pickup trucks, their chests inflated, leaving that sexy-smart brain-vixen in the dust.
But back to the “Intelligence” study, which concluded that “the human sense of humor evolved at least partly through sexual selection as an intelligence-indicator.” If humor is a demonstration of intelligence and men are threatened by women’s intelligence AND are simultaneously rewarded romantically by being funny while women are all but penalized for doing the same, it stands to reason why there “are more funny men.”
My conclusion? This has everything to do with antiquated notions of masculinity, where many men feel the need to be the provider, the decision-maker, the smarter and stronger of the two. Anything else is emasculating and indicates weakness.
To those guys, keep clinging to your insecurities, keep passing up all these smart, funny women. Real men who are single and worth a damn will thank you.