Kate Stone

Kate Stone

Does Parkinson’s Opinion on Women’s Humour Matter?

In an interview with Australia’s Stellar magazine, Michael Parkinson managed to pivot a question about men’s emotions into an answer concerning his belief that men have a better sense of humour than women. Before I continue, in the name of fairness here is the question and response I am talking about in full:

Your book is essentially a love-letter to fathers. Why do you think men find it hard to express their emotions?

Michael: Most men I know are the opposite, they’re very sensitive and also very funny. That’s the thing I like most about men. It’s a very contentious statement, but they’re much better than women in their sense of humour. There you are, that will get me – if I were on [any social media channels], I would be in trouble right now.”

I’ve spent some time today considering whether or not this should be covered on Funny Women. Half of me doesn’t want to, because EYE ROLL. Half of me does want to because it seems worth addessing as part of our remit. I have decided to write about it because while I don’t think this quote makes Parkie the new Christopher Hitchens of comedy, I do think it sheds interesting light on the man dubbed a “sexist old fart” by Helen Mirren.

Quite why Parkinson felt obliged to drop into conversation that he thinks women lack a sense of humour when compared to men is possibly answered in his next breath regarding social media channels. He isn’t on them, I assume they are beneath his dignity, but it is not beneath his dignity to maybe trend on them. That would be rather useful.

‘Oh no, not PARKIE!’ we’d all shriek before clicking on his name in the trending column only to see that he is not dead but promoting a new book in a pandemic. Christmas is coming, and what could be better for the father figure in your life than this book? You can’t think of anything else and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange doesn’t seem like quite enough.

How Parkie can meet Victoria Wood, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Joan Rivers and Cher, then conclude that women don’t have a sense of humour equal to men is, I’ll admit, a little puzzling. But it’s also pretty inconsequential. After all, let us remember that opinion is not fact.

What is consequential is that we can infer from his statement Parkinson does not like to be confided in about anything heavy without a little joke to lighten the mood. You can have problems, but ooh boy, you better have punchlines to match. Got an issue? Well if you’re taking it to Parkie I wouldn’t open with it.

It is November, on the 19th we will celebrate International Men’s Day, a day that raises awareness about the crisis that is our perception of masculinity. Men, when it comes to expressing your emotions, if you feel any urge to couch them in humour in order to to make them more acceptable, (to quote Meg Ryan) I would wrap it up.

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