A lot of people have been asking me about my thoughts on Adam Carolla’s recent remarks about women not being as funny as men. I guess I’ve made them laugh a few times and happen to have a vagina, which makes them assume I’ll have some well thought out diatribe that is equal parts empowering and gut-busting. The truth is that my thoughts on this are really all over the place, but I’m going to do my best to sum them up and entertain you while I’m at it. DANCE MONKEY, DANCE.
If you missed it, here’s what he said:
The lesson you learned from a sexual harassment seminar was “Don’t hire chicks.” Do you hate working with women?
No. But they make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they’re always the least funny on the writing staff. The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks. If my daughter has a mediocre sense of humor, I’m just gonna tell her, “Be a staff writer for a sitcom. Because they’ll have to hire you, they can’t really fire you, and you don’t have to produce that much. It’ll be awesome.”
The “are women funny” debate has grown very contentious. You’re not worried about reactions to this?
I don’t care. When you’re picking a basketball team, you’ll take the brother over the guy with the yarmulke. Why? Because you’re playing the odds. When it comes to comedy, of course there’s Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin — super-funny chicks. But if you’re playing the odds? No.
If Joy Behar or Sherri Shepherd was a dude, they’d be off TV. They’re not funny enough for dudes. What if Roseanne Barr was a dude? Think we’d know who she was? Honestly.
(Read the whole thing on the New York Post.)
Okay. Believe it or not, I think I actually might understand what he’s saying here. But let me try to paraphrase more tactfully and less like a sexist piece of shit. By the numbers it really does appear that there are more “funny” men than women, so I completely understand how this would lead his simple little brain to the conclusion that this must be because men are inherently funnier than women.
I’m not going to try and take Adam’s experiences away from him. I have no doubt that he has come across women who tell shitty jokes and have been hired to work as writers on a show simply because they are women. Good. He should hold us bleeders up to the same standards that he has for men. But instead of asking why this happens and trying to change it, he actually believes that it’s because women aren’t as funny as men. Like… by nature. As if there’s something wired into the ‘Y’ chromosome that inevitably makes your jokes funnier than ours. Which is hilarious. ADAM CAROLLA YOU ARE SO GOOD AT JOKES!!!!
Humor is subjective to personal taste (not to mention circumstance, environment, culture, etc) and this alone renders statements like “dudes are funnier than chicks” completely invalid. So to state it as an ubiquitous fact while completely ignoring or respecting the context as to WHY this is the case is what moves this whole issue from personal opinion (totally cool, carry on) to disrespectful and offensive (not cool, go fuck yourself).
So let’s look at the possible reasons as to why Adam Carolla, in all his wisdom and expertise, has possibly not been exposed to as many funny women as he has funny men:
Comedy is a safe space for men to exert the traits they are encouraged to develop from birth. Be loud, be strong, stand out and exert your power. Don’t apologize and offend people if you have to. Girls, however, are socially conditioned from childhood to be pleasant, pretty and polite. Make friends. Be welcoming and nurturing. Listen. Don’t yell. None of these things are conducive to a standup comedy routine.
The majority of female comics excel in very specific ways in one of two categories. One is self-deprecating humor; jokes that revolve around how awkward and/or lonely and/or single we are, eating our feelings and living with cats. The other is overly sexual and graphic. Vibrators! One night stands! Menstruation! Small dicks!
(Of course, in no way am I saying that there are no male comics who lean on the crutch of self-deprecation (because that would be a wildly ignorant and inaccurate generalization, right Adam?). Many do. It’s one of the easiest forms of successful comedy, because people feel extremely comfortable laughing at someone who is laughing at themselves.)
But the problem with women falling into one – or both – of these categories (besides making you a one-dimension comic) is twofold. Both of these are tailored to the female experience and not the human experience in general, as if we are afraid to develop a sense of humor that DOESN’T revolve around being a woman for fear of being de-feminized and therefore not desirable. And because men don’t identify with many parts of the female experience (whereas women live every single day under the umbrella of the male experience) they don’t get the jokes. Or at least don’t find them as funny as other women do.
The second problem with getting stuck in these categories is that it perpetuates negativity towards women and reinforces stereotypes. Because women are not inherently encouraged by society to be as self-assured and confident as men are, our self-deprecating jokes are a dangerous way for men to laugh at the societal expectations that hold us down. Self-deprecating jokes about being single reinforce the idea that single women are pathetic and unhappy. Jokes about sleeping with someone you just met reinforce the idea that women who have sex whenever and with whoever they want are whores. Both of these categories also, in their own way, are rife with slut-shaming and feminine chauvinism, pitting women against women. But that’s another blog post.
It takes a lot of balls (pardon the horribly inappropriate pun) to walk up to a microphone in front of people and do ANYTHING, let alone try to tell jokes. Stand up comedy is the one art form in which people’s dissatisfaction or disapproval with your work is immediately made known to you in the form of silence. Most comedy clubs are run by men and there is an intimidation effect that probably deters a lot of women from trying it out. Women have not been bred to take criticism, and any comic will tell you that the industry revolves around it. This isn’t your problem though, Adam Carolla, this is our problem. And we’re aware of it. Well… at least some of us are.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the many, many layers that exist when it comes to this issue and I would REALLY like to know what you all think. For now, all I know for sure is that both sides are responsible for making a change. As women, we’re still working towards stripping the world of the compartments that we’ve long been forced to fit into. We won’t change that immediately and we won’t change that without the help of men. But what we can do is stop being so afraid. Stop being afraid to be fucking funny. Let go of your fear and realize the power that you have in humor. Always push yourself and those around you. Encourage your funny friends to start writing a blog or go to an open mic night. But most importantly, don’t sit there quietly when someone tells you what you (and your gender) are or are not.