Counterpoint: Men Can Be Funny

Yesterday, Rebecca Watson-of-24-hours-ago argued that men are biologically predisposed to be unfunny, bigoted messes. Well, I (Rebecca Watson-of-this-very-moment) took extreme offense at this argument. I’m clearly not the only one:

Can’t agree with the base premise that there are no funny men at all. Maybe not right this minute but the “suggestion” that this is biological or genetic is a bucketload. Let me offer two names (there are more) in rebuttal: George Carlin and Johnny Carson. I get that you were trying to be sarcastic as a hook to hang your story on, but it is so stupid an idea that it just won’t fly. Better luck next time, Rebecca.

(via the Skepchick Facebook page)

I’ll begin by acknowledging that yes, it is wrong and overly emotional to take offense at a clearly scientific argument, but I cannot help it because some of my best friends are men. Like, for instance, Richard Wiseman, who happens to be one of the speakers at the Entangled Bank event and who is very funny, often intentionally so. Here he is with another male funnyperson, Lewis Black, as they attempt to reason their way into comedy (something that I admit comes more naturally to women):

Then there are all the funny males I had on stage during my most recent Quiz-o-Tron, like the aforementioned Drew Curtis, or Bill Corbett, Ken Plume, Scott Sigler, Joseph Scrimshaw, Lucky Yates, and Paul and Storm. Sure, Molly Lewis outshone them all with a hilarious joke about panda bear sex positions, but the boys did hold their own. Even the good Dr. Phil Plait got some pity laughs!

I think these examples more than prove my point that Rebecca Watson-of-24-hours-ago was grossly incorrect when she claimed to prove with science that there are no funny men. For every five Larry the Cable Guys, there is at least one horse_ebooks. And isn’t that pretty impressive for a group biologically predisposed to be unfunny?

Better luck next time, me.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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    1. EXACTLY! How can Rebecca call herself an evolutionary psychologist if she can’t even give the most basic post-hoc rationalization to defend her theory? Clearly, these funny men have somehow adopted female traits. A really good evolutionary psychologist would also find a way to pathologize these funny men, since their behavior is clearly unnatural.

  1. Phlebas, it’s aping the structure and content of “scientific” arguments that women aren’t funny; “sure, there are exceptions, but women are genetically predisposed to not be funny, blah blah blah.” But it only causes outrage when the roles are reversed.

  2. Wasn’t this the argument anyway (Hitchens et al.)? Yes, there are funny women, but the exceptions only confirm the rule! People’s reaction are interesting. They *know* Rebecca’s post was mirroring a stupid argument, and how hollow the notion that women who don’t laugh at a 19th century joke don’t have a sense of humour.

    I’m sometimes told I am one of those exceptions, and people don’t get it’s an insult (I do like being funny, but no need to shit on all women in the process). “Maude is so unlike ‘normal’ women! Why don’t you just thank me for this outstanding compliment! Every woman wants to be told that she transcends the inferiority of her gender!”

    1. Ah, yes! The old “exception that proves the rule” defense of a bullshit theory. Evidence that counters the claim actually proves that it is true. Brilliant!

      1. That phrase and concept drive me nuts. The phrase actually means “proves” in the sense of “put to the test.” An exception puts the rule to the test. It doesn’t prove that it’s true. (This isn’t directed at anyone here misunderstanding it. I’m just way under my pedantic mini-rant quota.)

        1. The “exception that proves the rule” is a thing. It goes like this.

          Let’s say you have a sign on a street that says, “No parking, except on weekends.” The “exception” proves the rule: that there is no parking allowed at =any other time.= The presence and specification of the exception proves that there is an otherwise-comprehensive rule.

          It’s a thing, but it’s a thing that people misuse, like all the time. Kind of like the phrase “begging the question” which has a specific meaning, but people constantly use it wrongly.

          1. Exactly. The original concept totally makes sense. But the way people use it now is absolute gibberish. Total nonsense. Complete balderdash. Outright twattle. Okay. I’m done.

          2. To be specific, “exception that proves the rule” means that the existence of an exceptional case demonstrates that the rule otherwise holds. As in, if we agree that something is an exception, it must be an exception TO something else: the rule.

          3. “As in, if we agree that something is an exception, it must be an exception TO something else: the rule.”

            Yes. But I think the confusion (when there is confusion and not deliberate misconstrument) comes from the fact that the word “rule” is used in more than one way. It’s a fallacy of equivocation.

            “We have a rule here that women are not funny,” means “women are not permitted to be funny here.”

            “As a rule, women are not funny,” means something completely different: that women, in general, are not funny.

            “The exception proves the rule” is true only for “rules” in the first sense, but people apply it to “rules” in the second sense, which is wrongful reasoning.

    2. I seem to remember that Hitchens’ idea at least had some self-deprecating flair to it: his idea was that men are so ugly, boring and incompetent, that we *had* to be funny just to find a mate… It’s absurd evolutionary psychologybabble, but for some men, I’d guess culture can do that to them (there exists such a thing as “cute because funny”), but then that’d apply to women as well.

      Except I’m wrong as Rebecca has proven, scientifically, FOR SCIENCE!

      1. Ha! Thought I would rub it in for once (I usually try to spell American on this site)
        Actually I like American spelling IRL as welll – “sulfur” “hemolysis” – all sounds good to me.

  3. I think it’s safe to say that in general, neither men nor women are funny. That’s why you can earn a living by being the exception to the rule. For the most part, I find men or women who think they are funny to be the least funny of all.

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