The Vagenda

Women Aren’t Funny

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’.

20 thoughts on “Women Aren’t Funny

  1. I was on IMDB the other day and one guy was going on about how Sue Perkins’ new comedy was crap,partly because she was lesbian and partly because ‘women aren’t and will never be funny.’ Looks like someone needs a humour transplant

  2. “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.”

    There’s also AL Kennedy, Paula Pell, Sandi Toksvig, Joe Brand, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz, French, Saunders and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.

    And Tig Notaro! If you haven’t heard the set she performed after a particularly bad month or four, it’s well worth your time and part of it can be heard for free here:

  3. I think you can relate this to the previous Vagenda post on ‘backing down’. In a mixed group, lots of girls aren’t forthcoming with jokes in case they get fired down by ‘the lads’. I can be funny when I type, but was reluctant to join in silly joke-offs in the flesh for fear of this sneery ‘women aren’t funny’ rubbish.

    However, one day I thought “hang on. THEY’RE not very funny themselves! I’m just going to join in when I feel a punchline bubbling away.” So my shyness has stopped and I do join in, and am well-received. Perhaps if we all start being more forthcoming in these sorts of situations, the notion of women being funny will be more widely acceptable and accepted.

  4. Jo Brand does deserve to be on the list twice!

    It’s easy enough to think of more funny women. Even now, I’m surprised that I didn’t think of Victoria Wood, Meera Syal, Lucy Porter, the-now-contentious-because-we’re-all-much-too-sophisticated-for-her-eponymous-bbc1-show Miranda Hart, Nina Conti, or Shappi Khorsandi.

    Or Joan Rivers.

    Or Maureen Lipman, or Joyce Grenfell, or the somewhat neglected Nancy Mitford.

  5. Here are some more for your list:

    Julia Davis, Catherine Tate, Alison steadman, Julie Walters, Kristen Schaal, Jessica Hynes, Felicity Montagu, Amelia Bullmore, Miriam Margolyes, Ruth Jones, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Kathy Burke, Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho, Roseanne Barr

  6. I think I’m in a privileged group where I’ve never been told I’m not funny just because I’m a woman (I have been told I’m not funny when I tell terrible jokes though or try to impress someone and they don’t get it…). I also have a group of friends who are fucking hilarious and they make the men in their lives laugh as well! It’s always been a big part of my life and I’m surprised that this stereotype exists!

  7. The thing I always find weird with this is the self-reinforcing loop of “Women aren’t funny/ don’t have a sense of humour”- if a woman cracks a joke and a man doesn’t laugh, it’s because she’s not funny. If a man cracks a joke and a woman doesn’t laugh, it’s because she doesn’t have a sense of humour, not because he has failed as a comedian.
    And women aren’t funny as a statement is an inherently male-centric view point- it’s invariably a man saying “I didn’t laugh, therefore she (and all women) isn’t funny to ANYONE EVER.”
    Well who died and made you the arbiter of funny you self-important anal sphincter?

  8. Some of my faves
    - The lady who plays Sonja on Alan Partridge (also in 2012 and very funny in that too). And Lynne!!
    - Rebecca Front
    - Mrs Doyle (Father Ted) best comedy fall (out of window) ever. Significantly predates Miranda although she does a great comedy fall too
    - All the women on Pulling (watch it if you haven’t yet it is GREAT and the silly name doesn’t do it justice)
    - Jennifer Lawrence, whose existence I was made aware of from this blog (nice one) and who I’d happily marry despite being a straight female with a very funny boyf already
    -Morgana (impressions of Danny Dyer, Cheryl Cole, Russell Brand and Fearne Cotton are all ace)

    Find Jo Brand a bit of a one trick pony jokes-wise although she has her moments. Smack the Pony girls are way better.

    PS I found the more I hung out with men the more they laughed at my jokes, as I got the confidence to chip in with funny comments, although now my problem is men tend to think I’m funny and most girls think I’m filthy…

  9. One of my greatest achievements was when I insisted on giving a speech as the head bridesmaid for my best friend. (My argument: why should men get all the fun?) I’ve always been pretty confident doing public speaking but I was still thrilled to receive so many roars of laughter and a huge round of applause, possibly because they hadn’t expected me to be so funny, being that I was wearing a dress and all. Meanwhile, the (incredibly arrogant, misogynistic, generally rude) best man’s speech was truly dire: boring, badly thought-out, generally unfunny. *Smug* I received so many lovely compliments throughout the evening, although what I particularly enjoyed was the inevitable follow-up of “Bet Giles is sorry he had to follow you after that”. HAH. (Yes his name really was Giles . . . says it all, really).

  10. Sorry to go off topic but I was reading IMDB user reviews for Brave and a lot of people were calling Merida a selfish bitch/childish brat for not wanting to get married to a stranger at a young age. I don’t read reviews anymore, it’s too depressing.

  11. Doon McKichan, Jenny Eclair, and the late great Linda Smith. Tamsin Greig, Sheila Hancock, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench as comic actresses. Ronni Ancona’s impressions.

  12. Mulan and Merida gets flak for being headstrong/masculine-like/feminiazi heroines on IMDB, there really are such idiots in this world and they tend to congregate there