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If you follow the US entertainment business closely, you have probably noticed that it’s a good time for female-led comedy. Comediennes like Tina Fey and Amy Schumer prove that women in showbiz can win over legions of fans with their wisecracking rather than their looks.
But before you reach the conclusion that funny women are the new hot women, a recent Atlantic article puts a damper on things.
According to the article, outside of the showbiz world, women still can’t win men’s hearts with their humor alone.
The article, titled “Plight of the Funny Female”, looks at several studies that try to find out if women can be equally as funny as men. The answer to that is positive. But then why is it that it’s always the guy who tells the joke to a gaggle of enraptured female onlookers?
Other studies found that while humor in men is deemed as a desirable quality, humor in women is less appreciated.
Men try hard to make people – especially their potential mates– laugh. That’s because doing so can demonstrate how smart they are. Research suggests that there is an important link between humor and intelligence.
The funniest people are also considered the smartest. Humor “signals a kind of ability to put yourself in someone else’s mind and understand what someone else will find funny,” David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist in the US, was quoted by The Atlantic as saying. “It requires social intelligence, and it takes social verve or confidence.”
Evolutionary psychology sees women as being more selective in choosing their mates than men are. Because there is more at stake for women in childbearing, it makes sense for them to find a partner who can provide good genes and resources to their children. And that usually means finding a man with brains.
But precisely because funny women are smarter, their intelligence seems to push men away.
In one study, researchers told men that the women they were about to meet scored higher on intelligence tests than they did. Afterward, the men were asked to rate the women.
The results, published in the November edition of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that the men marked the women as less attractive. They also indicated that they were less likely to date high-performing women.
Another study cited by The Atlantic analyzed casual conversations among young people. It found that while men told jokes in mixed company, women told more jokes when they were in all-female groups. The study posited that “women only joke when men are not around”.
Women can’t use humor as an effective social currency to make themselves more attractive, so they tend not to bother.
In spite of the scientific evidence–and the social pressure for women not to joke – some people still believe women simply aren’t as funny as men. The late British writer Christopher Hitchens once wrote in Vanity Fair magazine explaining why he believes women aren’t funny.
While men use humor as a tool to attract women, Hitchens wrote, “Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.”