On the Facebook, my friend Christina Majaski posted up a question: Why are men funnier than women? There were all kinds of interesting responses, and it got me thinking about “funny”. What *is* funny? Why is funny so different for each of us? Is it possible to say something that everyone thinks is funny? Also, there seem to be levels of funny. Some things are worth an occasional “Ha!” or snicker, while others have us doubled-up and snotting because we are laughing so hard. Weird.
So, in keeping with the original topic, a question is begged: Are men in fact funnier than women? I know there are a lot more men comedians who make it big than women comedians, and I know that at your average social gathering, men seem to say funnier things more often. But, does that necessarily mean they are funnier? Because “funny” is so subjective, let’s look at a few things folks think are funny.
People falling down are always funny. Heck, people falling down kept “America’s Funniest Home Videos” afloat for years. But, people falling down isn’t in fact funny at all, when you think about it. Folks get hurt, folks get embarrassed, folks get frustrated, their clothes become ruined. So, why do we laugh when people fall down? Because, I’m convinced, in order to be truly “funny”, the thing has to be not funny at all. I think men are more in touch with that side of things than women.
Some people think that racial and pedophile jokes are funny. Hey, let’s admit it: some of them are. But, is racial cruelty or hurting children funny, in any way? Nope. I’m sure we all remember the “dead baby” jokes from grade school. “What’s red and bubbly and scratches at the window?” “I dunno, what?” “Baby in a microwave!” Now, I don’t know about you but that isn’t funny. Not really. Only, when said in joke form, it becomes hilarious. Maybe it’s the delivery that separates the sexes when it comes to funny. My mom thought that the bear on the Snuggles fabric softener commercials was funny. I think Leslie Nielson was funny.
Eddie Murphy is considered very funny by a large portion of the population. He’s crass, he swears a lot, and he jokes about things that really aren’t funny like hairy aunts and drunken barbeques gone horribly wrong. Bill Cosby made us laugh at misbehaving children and the dentist office, and Robin Williams makes abusing drugs and alcohol a funny thing. Clearly, none of those things are funny. So what gives?
In the end, I’m convinced that funny doesn’t exist. Funny is a defense mechanism we have adapted to deal with the really bad things in life. It seems that the real good comedians joke about the worst stuff. Women comedians tend to make “cutsie” jokes about innocent things like toilet paper and Tupperware. A man doesn’t find that funny. A man thinks a fart in church or showing someone his ass is funny. Go figure.