Splitsider

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

'Psychology Today': Women Have Lower "Humor Production Abilities" Than Men

Psychology Today posted a lengthy article last week on the challenges of female comedians called "'You Suck!' and 'Show Me Your Jugs!'", and it's loaded with ridiculous and inexplicable claims that would've made a great faux-fact addition to that whole "Why Women Aren't Funny" thing that happened almost ten years ago. While the piece does make a few legitimate points about the cultural and societal issues women face in the comedy world (notably Variety's sexist review of Sarah Silverman's new special) from the perspective of a real psychologist/anthropologist, the writer clearly hasn't been to many comedy shows despite the few unnamed comedian sources he cites in the article. Here are a few of the most questionable findings from the piece:

I don’t have data on the frequency of sex in the comedy world, but from what I have heard, male comedians enjoy quite an active sex life, especially on the road where there are no strings attached. In fact, casual sex with many different partners fits well into men’s evolved psychology. For women, the cost of casual sex could be big, and they have to be careful who they go to bed with. This is why women comedians are much less likely to have sex on the road or casual sex in general. In fact, one female comedian once told me that if a comedienne sleeps with other comedians, rumors about it spread quickly and would give her a bad reputation. Male comedians do not have to worry about this and sometimes even compete for who gets more sex.

How could a psychologist possibly gather accurate stats for how much casual sex comedians have on the road? This excerpt seems to imply that male comedians sleep around more because their psychology is more "evolved" whereas women are still trapped in the old "she's a slut" double standard. One female comedian's tale of sexual hesitance does not represent all women, which is interesting because the writer rallies against that same double standard elsewhere in the piece.

My own research, described in detail here, shows that on average, men had slightly higher humor production abilities than women, humor is correlated with intelligence, and people with a great sense of humor enjoy better mating success. All these findings point to the same conclusion: that humor might be a vehicle for mating success, mostly for men but not for women. Males’ greater tendency to use humor to make others laugh also seems to begin in childhood and adolescence, as more men than women report being the class clowns.

It's totally plausible that comedy has some kind of animalistic connection with sex, but this implies that men do comedy for sex, while women do comedy…for other, less intelligent reasons. Again, how are these facts gathered? Is there a national class clown registry we can double check, or do I just not understand this due to my lower humor production ability?

Also we should remember the number of failures in comedy. Most people who try comedy do not become famous and should expect moderate success at best. Only a few can become very successful and famous, and that’s the nature of every profession. But just as more men succeed in comedy compared to women, so there are many more men who fail. Just because men tend to be risk takers, have higher motivation that is relevant to comedy, have an easier time to travel and so on, does not guarantee that they will succeed. In the end, many more men fail than the one that makes it big.

So men are more motivated and evolutionarily designed to succeed in comedy because sex, so just cut your losses and accept your shortcomings, ladies. But don't worry, there's still hope if you're a comedy person without a Y chromosome. Here's what the article suggests you do:

There are also some possible benefits for being a female comedian. Because women are quite a rare breed in comedy, they are sometimes paid more. Since the audience is usually divided equally between men and women, and women want to see more female comedians, owners try to supply this demand by booking more female comedians. I don’t know how prevalent this practice is, but I heard it from a several comedians.

Because why put in tons of talent, hard work, networking, and years of dues-paying when you can ride the train of comedy tokenism to eternal bliss and success? Articles that claim females' inferior comedy chops under the guise of Real Science have become much less common to see these days, but consider this a grim reminder that it's sadly still happening — by a reputable publication, no less. I'm all for Psychology Today doing more insightful comedy coverage in the future, but if they want their findings to be taken seriously, they'll need to include a little less of the phrase "I don't know," because that doesn't exactly have a scientific ring to it.