Is Comedy Inherently Masculine?

Oh good, once again I can write about whether comedy is a male or female thing thanks to The Daily Wire and a video clip in which a group of white men agree that comedy is “inherently masculine”.

Why can’t I just laugh at this absurd little clip and move on? Plenty of reasons, because I haven’t written an opinion piece on this site in a while they present the hypothesis ‘comedy is inherently male’ then pronounce it “true” using flimsy evidence such as their own impression Sarah Silverman started out in comedy “emulating a man” then fail to examine why they think that, just present various ‘anecdotes’ that could be boiled down to ‘yeah’ or ‘I too have never been in the company of a relaxed woman’.

Because it is 2019 you may think that not only had the ‘Is humour a male or female thing?’ question been done to death but been answered. Not so, alongside asking same-sex couples who ‘The Man’ in the relationship is, we’re still wondering who puts the jokes where. And obviously we can’t even begin to solve climate change until this and whether same-sex couples emulate P in V sex (and in what order?) is answered. So, strap on; HERE I GO.

I want to zero in on one of the remarks made by Ben Shapiro: “men purport to be invulnerable and humour is about vulnerability, which is why my wife laughs her ass off any time I clock my head on the stove, whereas if she clocked her head on the stove I wouldn’t laugh for a second…”

This is lauded as a great example by the white man smoking a cigar who, I am given to believe, first presents the idea comedy is inherently masculine. Why? I don’t know, the clip cuts off there and I’m going to take a wild guess that the group don’t proceed to do a deep dive into examining why, so I’ve matched their research skillz and not hunted down a longer clip. But I will concede the vulnerability remark is interesting.

I’m going to make a sweeping statement here and you can #notallwomen me when this goes viral on Twitter. Margaret Atwood has published enough books (this is not me saying stop) to know that all women are scared of all men. We are. Scared of men physically hurting us, scared of men sexually assaulting us, scared of men’s unrequited attraction and weirdly, scared of men’s feelings being hurt by us.

That list is not exhaustive and all of them have ramifications but the last fear on my list is perhaps the one that might give a lot of men the idea that women and comedy don’t mix so well or naturally. To quote Atwood: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

So, if Shapiro is right and comedy is about vulnerability and women are more vulnerable than men (it’s not a competition, just statistics) surely his point about clocking his head on the stove negates the idea of comedy being inherently masculine. In fact, it suggests comedy is inherently feminine and to be masculine is to be the figure of fun. Mrs. Shapiro is laughing at Mr. Shapiro’s misfortune, not his joke, I doubt he finds bopping his head on a cooker hood funny at all. She is the one who conceives of the schadenfreude-style comedy because seeing the invulnerable be momentarily brought down is funny to the vulnerable. Unless you’re in some kind of Stockholm Syndrome situation. Which maybe women are.

It’s also risky to laugh at someone who is supposed to be the powerful one in the relationship. Could it be that society has conflated a little girl being polite with never critiquing (not criticising) the men in their life? So while boys grow up teasing and testing boundaries, girls grow up making sure that any joke isn’t mistaken for flirtation or offensive to fragile masculinity. I’ve witnessed on countless occasions women comedians take down male hecklers who have definitely interpreted it as a flirtation, which in turn can compromise that comedian’s safety. Does that mean men are the gatekeepers of humour or does it mean women have been holding back for hundreds of years?

It’s true, much of comedy is about vulnerability it’s just in polite circles we call it status and tie ourselves in knots talking about what constitutes punching up or down. For a comedian to be funny they cannot be of the highest status, they have to maintain a position from which they can point out the emperor’s crack is showing. Ergo to create good comedy you have to be at crack level and let me tell you historically to be a woman it has stunk, so where are we? At just the right height for humour to be inherently feminine.