It feels like at least once a month I have to try to rearrange words to make it appear like I am writing a different article with a new take on whether male/female humour is different/superior/exclusively about menstruation. This is because once a month someone or something announces that one gender is funnier than the rest. This month it’s SCIENCE. So we all have to pay attention because it must be true, I mean the title of the study is Sex differences in humor production ability: A meta-analysis. Anybody who calls ‘joking’ ‘humor production ability’ must know what they are talking about.
There have been previous studies along these lines and they usually have the same issues. Are you bored yet? I am! And I love comedy, science and studies and statistics, you’re reading the words of someone with an AS Level in biology. They usually conclude that either A) we’re all sexists and expect men to be funnier, therefore create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which men appear funnier even when delivering the same joke as a woman, such as in this experiment or B) they didn’t ask enough people for the study to even begin to be respectable. I know, it’s hard to be scientific when we all know the concept of a funny woman wasn’t even invented until Fleabag.
This analysis is compiled of previous studies (some unpublished) from 1976 up to 2018 to create a repository of the data and aimed to settle the assertion that women are not funny: “There is an ongoing debate about whether men and women differ in their cognitive abilities, how big the differences are, and how to explain them, if they exist… Humor production ability (HPA)—a cognitive trait defined as the ability to produce funny remarks, create funny ideas, and make others laugh—is one such domain. Social stereotypes about sex differences in humor—particularly the stereotype that “women are not funny”—are culturally pervasive.”
According to the data and “regardless of the underlying source of variability, men exhibit higher humour ability than women on the kinds of verbal tasks included in our sample of studies.”
There is a suggestion that this is due to evolution and the need among cis-het males to make women laugh in order to get laid (that’s not how they put it, I’m summarising beautifully). Therefore the cis-het boy’s brain is moulded and trained to make girls and then women laugh. Cis-het girls are moulded and trained to… I dunno, get the jokes they are told.
However when we are talking about something as malleable and plastic as the human brain, standing as we are at the cusp of the apocolypse a new dawn of the #MeToo and #TimesUp era I wonder if room is being made for women to take a more concerted grasp at the power play that is Making Jokes. Will this signal a new matriarchy or simply higher stakes of what passes for funny? I don’t know, just please take a break from trying to decide which of two genders is funnier. Especially when we all know salad is the funniest.