Up until recently, I’ve always had a disproportionate number of male friends to female friends. At first I thought it might just be a reaction to having attended an all-girls Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade (general man-deprivation?), but no, that’s not the reason. It’s because most of the men I meet are, on the whole, much funnier than most of the women.
Before I push further with this, I should add that I have many brilliant, hilarious girlfriends, and that I am fully confident in womankind’s biological ability to be funny. This is why I find it so interesting that, for the most part, when I meet a new girl, her sense of humor seems to be either markedly lame or entirely nonexistent. Considering how smart and successful and well-adjusted many of these women are, this is not an issue of intelligence or any inherent social deficiency–it’s an issue of social and cultural power.
A sense of humor is essentially a kind of social currency. It displays confidence, it displays intelligence, and it displays a particular kind of command over the topic or conversation at hand. Being truly funny amongst a group of your peers says, “I not only understand what you just said, but I’m so comfortable with that information and quick on my feet that I can play with it and manipulate it in a way that is both impressive, entertaining and unexpected.” Funny people use jokes and puns and clever banter to mark their social territory in the same way that a dog pees on a fire hydrant–it’s a universally understood source of power over one’s peers.
For this reason, women who learn early in life that they can achieve a similar kind of social power with their physical appearance alone never bother developing an edgy, well-rounded sense of humor, because they don’t need it. The really funny women are the ones who either never received that kind of reinforcement throughout their formative years, or, for whatever reason, never sought or enjoyed that particular kind of power. These women take far more pleasure in competing on a social level than on a physical one.
The same rule applies to very good-looking men every once in a while, but not nearly as often, because even the most physically attractive men have to be at least a little funny to attract and keep friends and admirers. Women will list “sense of humor” as the number one trait they look for in men, but you will never hear a man say to his buddy, “You know, if I could just find a woman at this bar that was laugh-out-loud funny…”
“Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals.”
In my experience, there are definitely men out there who are threatened by smart, funny women, and those men are in luck, because there are plenty of women with the personalities of velcro who would be thrilled to sit pretty and giggle at their jokes all day. I’ve found that the smartest, most secure men love funny women, enjoy the social/intellectual challenge of conversing with them and recognize their good fortune when they find one.