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January 31, 2005

Are men funnier than women?

Warren Bell raises that provocative topic at National Review Online.

I don't know. Some women are very funny, at least once they get beyond the gynecology jokes. But I'd still have to say that men are pretty much the winners here.

What Bell says about his budding career as a comedian speaks to me, even though I'm not a comedian:

Well, here's an argument against anything genetic. I know for a fact that I wasn't born funny. I learned it in my teens as a way of getting attention. I wasn't a good athlete or particularly easy on the eyes, so getting a laugh was my best shot at getting girls to notice me. A good sense of humor is never going to compete with a 90-mph fastball in terms of babe appeal, but it's a better path to alpha-male status than, oh, say, learning to program a Radio Shack TRS-80 home computer. (I did that! So lonely!)

Most funny people I know tell more or less the same story: They learned to be funny in order to be noticed, sometimes by parents, frequently by the opposite sex. (One writer I know contemplated calling his company "Look at Me! Productions.") Young girls who want attention have other weapons — they can scream, they can cry, they can grow breasts. They can be heartbreakingly beautiful and call me a nerd for imitating the Coneheads all the time. Learning to be funny would seem, for girls, to be more of a last resort.
I have to say, though, that this didn't work for me in high school. At least in getting the girls. (You actually have to be funny to have a chance at that. -- Ed.)

Anyway, Bell's jumping-off point for all of this is the recent Larry Summers flap about women's math and science abilities. I've never taken the opportunity to laugh at Summers for promptly apologizing for having accidentally raised a serious question for further study, so let me do it here. Mwahahaha. The whole thing reminded me that ol' Larry should have listened to the Tom Chapin song "Mikey Won't Say He's Sorry." Here's a sample of the lyrics:
Mikey took my truck and he broke it,
Then he turned to me and said, "So what?"
So I said,"Say you're sorry" but he won't say he's sorry,
No he won't say he's sorry,
Mike: Cause I'm not!

So I went and complained to the teacher,
And I brought her to the very spot.
Mikey won't say he's sorry.
Teacher: You won't say you're sorry?
No he won't say he's sorry,
Mike: Cause I'm not!
He's not. He's not.
Mikey won't say he's sorry,
Mike: Cause I'm not!
Ah, if only Larry hadn't said he's sorry. But he is. And he's not even as funny as the women he offended.