Women aren’t funny. Hey you – yeah, you over there with the vagina – you’ve heard that old adage a million times, haven’t you? You just waltzed into the nearest pub after work, or joined in a conversation in front of the telly, or maybe you even had the audacity to attend a comedy night. Suddenly, there it is right in front of you: the big, boring, ugly, predictable apotheosis of the evening, kind of like a gigantic stinking film of burnt Camembert that you have to scrape out the oven because you thought you didn’t have to keep it in the box when you baked it, OK? Or like a really long episode of Everybody Loves Raymond when you were expecting to see Drive. ‘Women. Aren’t. Funny.’
It’s likely that the elicitor of this particularly fetid piece of crap probably won’t shovel up another tired stereotype for dessert, unless they’re a really dedicated bigot. The sad fact is that ‘women aren’t funny’ seems to have escaped the sort of taboos that might prevent one from saying certain other things, even including other sexist jibes (‘women aren’t funny’ might be ‘banter’, but ‘women shouldn’t be allowed to go to university’ seems to have crossed that ever-elusive ‘pub chat’ line of acceptability.) Google the question ‘Are women funny?’ and you’ll find that the discussion comes up again and again throughout the media – especially, for some reason, the Huffington Post (those bastards.) Why do we keep giving people – actually, invariably men – a mainstream platform to air this view when other such variations – ‘women aren’t clever’, ‘women aren’t equal’, ‘women aren’t suitable for the working environment’, ‘women aren’t allowed to have sex with people who haven’t been pre-approved by their father’ – usually only appear in the most right-wing corners of Wankstains Anonymous (sorry, I mean The Spectator)? Why do we still see ‘Are women funny?’ as a legitimate question worthy of newspaper space, rather than for what it really is?
The kneejerk reaction to ‘women aren’t funny’ is to defensively list women who are (just for the record and off the top of my head: Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey, Jo Brand, Susan Calman, Sue Perkins, Amy Poehler, Lucy Mangan, Caitlin Moran, Sarah Silverman, Josie Long, Sarah Millican, Kathy Griffin, Kristen Wiig… feel free to angrily tell me anyone who’s been neglected from this fairly impromptu list.) Or you could go with the tactic to namedrop Michael Macintyre or Richard Blackwood, categorically the two unfunniest humans who have ever lived who are also men, which should silence the conversation pretty quickly. And no, that time that Richard Blackwood got tricked into participating on Brass Eye really doesn’t count.
Sadly, everybody who’s anybody knows that if you put on your ‘Centuries Of Oppression’ hat and arm yourself with the ‘Women Aren’t As Visible Because Of The Glass Ceiling’ klaxon, you’re just going to be held up as living proof of women lacking in humour as soon as you leave the room. The ‘Humour Is A Sign Of Intelligence Which Women Are Taught Not To Show So As Not To Intimidate Boyfriends’ cape isn’t very popular in these gatherings, either. So, faced with this piece of fuckwittery – while having to resist the urge to don cape, klaxon or pointy hat – what’s a girl to do?
I briefly put this conundrum to the Twittersphere, who suggested other such ripostes as ‘Well, nothing’s as funny as when you drop your trousers, love’, or the similarly and eminently mature: ‘Really? It looks like your mum had a good sense of humour, though. She made the biggest joke I’ve ever seen.’
A couple thought that cracking a ‘knock, knock’ joke was key. One memorable tweeter told me that in response to such an insult, she ‘removes their funny bone with a sharpened copy of The Second Sex, while laughing.’ Tina Fey went with the retort that she’s never tried Chinese food before, but she hasn’t tried consequently denying its existence. Other famous comics’ responses have included the bitingly sarcastic: ‘One of the reasons I think women aren’t funny is because their brains are always taken up with when they can next give the nearest man a blow job. When your mind is constantly filled with those ideas, it’s difficult to think up anything humorous.’ And if you can’t be bothered to open your mouth and waste your breath on the creep who just insulted every joke you might potentially ever make, then a slow clap will usually do.
But you know what my personal favourite response was to hearing a man professing that women aren’t funny? The genius who tweeted the Vagenda account with one single word that encapsulated her own coping strategy perfectly: ‘Lesbianism’.