Men Aren’t Funnier Than Women: They Just Get More Credit For It

Christopher Hitchens’ ridiculousness about men being funnier than women has been debunked by science:

While men were deemed ever so slightly funnier (0.11 points out of a theoretical possible score of 5.0), they were mostly considered funnier by other men. There goes the peacock theory. Other differences? Men tended to use profanity and sexual humor slightly more often than women (only slightly, thank you, Melissa McCarthy), though neither sex necessarily considered those types of jokes funnier.

In a second, related experiment, the judges’ memory bias was tested to see whether men were given more credit for their witticisms than women. Predictably, men and women remembered the funny captions better. But when asked which captions were written by men and which by women, both sexes tended to misattribute the funny ones to male authors and the unfunny ones to female writers. Moreover, women were far less confident about their gag-writing abilities than men. When asked how they thought their efforts would rank, men believed they would receive a 2.3; women, a 1.5.

It’s particularly interesting that men would be given more credit for being funny even though they tend to rely more heavily on categories of jokes that aren’t considered funnier than average. But then that’s sort of the point of this whole stupid debate, which in a way I’m frustrated we’re still having — men aren’t objectively funnier than women for all audiences. Different people find different things funny, but larger industry trends mean that men are given a wider range of opportunities to be funny in different ways — I can’t really imagine a woman getting a chance to do a true equivalent of Louis C.K.’s routine about how ridiculous men look during sex and not encountering a wave of body criticism, or being treated like she’s pathetic rather than hilariously honest. But as with all things, in entertainment and elsewhere, the fact that things are a certain way — or that dude columnists believe them to be a certain way — isn’t proof that they’re immutably true.