General Question

Nially_Bob's avatar

Are 'females' generally worse in the field of comedy than 'males'?

Asked by Nially_Bob (3841points) June 29th, 2009

I know quite a few ‘women’ who have a fantastic sense of humour, yet this number does not come close to matching that of the number of males I know who are equally adept in this regard. Perhaps this is just my experience, perhaps I have been raised in such a fashion that I find it easier to perceive males as more humorous than females, there are many possibilities and yet I feel inclined to believe, given the popularity and quantity of male comedians relative to that of female comedians, that this is a widespread phenomena.
Please share your thoughts with me on the matter friends, do you believe this is true or false? If true is it an innate factor or an environmental factor which causes such? If false what is there to account for the lack of female comedians and so such?

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49 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Is “females” different from females. Is “males” different from males?

There are and were hysterically funny women comedians; Lucy Arnez, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radnor, Goldie Hawn, Ellen DeGeneris, the early Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Wanda Sykes, for starters.

marinelife's avatar

In terms of comics, let me add:

Let me add Ann Sothern, Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, Nanette Fabraes, Betty White, Carole Lombard, Debra Messing, Doris Day, Lily Tomlin, Judy Holliday, Jean Stapleton. The list goes on and on.

In terms of sense of humor, I give the nod to women who require enormous ones to deal with the enormous egos of men.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@gailcalled I placed the terms in inverted commas as some believe that the terms are, in a way, irrelevant and I wished to be respectful towards their beliefs. If you do not adhere to such beliefs then it is best to simply assume that “males” means males and “females” means females.
I am aware there are some hysterically funny women, as I mentioned I know quite a few women who are very funny but this number bodes no comparison to the number of males friends (and the two are fairly balanced in quantity) I have who are equally as, if not more funny. Additionally why is it that I could watch a comedy channel (for arguments sake let’s say Paramount Comedy) and amongst the advertisements it would be overwhelmingly likely that I would see more comedy tv shows wherein the protagonist is a male or live shows where a male is the host than similar programs where the female is the main character involved? If both males and females are equally capable of being particularly funny individuals what causes males within the comedy industry to generally be more popular? Why is it that when I meet a new group of acquaintances it is a male who is often the ‘funny’ member of the group as described by the rest?
@Simone_De_Beauvoir Always a pleasure to hear from you my friend. Any chance you would care to elaborate on your answer?

btko's avatar

I think guy comics are funnier. Not to say there aren’t any funny women comics – but they are far and few between

aprilsimnel's avatar

There’s a level of unself-consciousness that males are traditionally brought up with where they are allowed expression of certain emotions that lends itself to stand-up comedy. You can be angry, you can be scatological, you can be judgemental in comedy – as long as it rings of the truth, because it’s the truth that people are laughing at.

Women, at least until very recently in our culture, were socialized to be the peacekeepers, the calm, quiet ones who smoothed things over and were never angry. They certainly didn’t say Carlin-type dirty words, and most women to this day are taught to be more self-conscious about themselves, their appearance and how they relate to others. It’s hard to be funny when you’re taught to be inhibited. Notice the women who are comedians are bold, could be more categorized as “broads” (except maybe Ellen DeGeneres, who is a lesbian, but still a lady) and do not give a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks of them. Angry women are still “bitches” in Western culture, to some extent, and many people are uncomfortable seeing the full range of emotions in women. I’m glad that this is changing.

A full range of emotions is needed in comedy, though, because one can’t tell the truth and be inhibited at the same time.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Nially_Bob grins, you already know I don’t think there are differences between men and women in such matters – it’s all about who’s allowed to be funny, who’s considered funny, etc. etc. the world of comedy has always been a ‘boy’s club’ kind of thing – this is changing but very slowly

marinelife's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well said.

@Nially_Bob Women even today are not on a level playing field with men in the field of comedy. Surprise, surprise.

Your circle of friends, no matter how large, is hardly extrapolatable to the whole population.

Also, sense of humor and what is funny is very subjective. Maybe your male friends that you think are funny are very like The Three Stooges and you love that. Women just don’t do that kind of humor.

Your conclusion is not based on a large enough sample size, does not take into account other significant cultural factors, and is logically flawed.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Marina etrapolatable-nice word

kevbo's avatar

I’m going to say yes on this one based on the complaints of female comedians appearing in “Last Comic Standing” over many seasons who talked about it being a man’s world. Also, that a male’s sense of humor is consistently a top factor with success in dating. I’m sure it’s evolutionary.

Not saying it’s right, just that it is.

p.s. Rita Rudner & Margaret Cho

saranwrapper's avatar

Firstly let me say that there are a lot of female comedians that I find extremely funny. Okay, I think the issue with female comedians is that they tend to talk about female issues. Both men and women seem to be able to identify with and laugh at the problems male comedians discuss, where as men seem to have a harder time laughing at female oriented vagina jokes.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@Marina I emphasised the futility of using my opinions and those I have met as examples in the subtext of the question. I myself am not fond of unnecessary generalisations.
I’m aware that women are not on a level playing field to men in many industries, comedy included, but does this account for everything? As Kevbo mentioned is it not possible that there is an evolutionary factor involved? Why does there seem to be more males interested in entering the field of comedy than females? Would you put this down to what Aprilsimnel mentioned concerning the manner in which females are raised amongst many if not most societies?
Incidentally, extrapolatable is indeed an excellent word.
@btko What do you think is the reason for this?
@Simone_De_Beauvoir ‘sniggers’ Perhaps I was holding out on some new found insight of yours? (that or i’m just a sucker for a debate)

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

well personally for me? I like a lot more male comedians than female comedians. There’s only a couple ladies in the comedy business that I think are really funny. Whether that’s because the talent pool is just naturally small or I just don’t seek out female comedians remains to be seen.

tinyfaery's avatar

Men understand a man’s perspective, women understand a man’s perspective, but most men would never even try to understand things from a woman’s perspective. Hence, men do not get female humor.

loser's avatar

I think women are funnier, actually.

filmfann's avatar

@Marina & @gailcalled Your list must include Gracie Allen. She was unbelievably funny. A natural comedian.
I think women have a harder time breaking into comedy spotlights, but they are just as funny (and unfunny) as most male comics.

gailcalled's avatar

@filmfann: I agree about Gracie. How about Beatrice Lillie, Bea Arthur, Jack Lemmon as Daphne, Judy Holliday, Claudette Colbert, Katherine Hepburn, Carol Lombard, Patricia Routledge (Hyancinth Bucket), Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocumbe), Jamie Leigh Fisher in “A Fish Called Wanda,” Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, et al.

rooeytoo's avatar

This is not totally on topic but in a similar vein. I worked in a video store and would take note of the stupid movies that males would say are hilarious, the jack ass series as an example. Now as a woman and most women I spoke to in the same store, we all thought those movies were so stupid and not so funny as pathetic.

Males are brought up in the “boys will be boys” mode whereas females are to be “little women” and mother’s little helper, hard to be funny in those roles. But as always, many succeeded despite that and will most assuredly continue. Unless we get funnier than males then the rats in the maze and their spatial memory rotation or whatever it was, will indicate that there is something wrong and the world will have to change so that men are funnier again.

I don’t think anybody mentioned Phyllis Diller and she is one of the funniest of all times in my opinion.

I gave GA to Simone & Marina, you said it so well, thank you.

gailcalled's avatar

I mentioned Diller in answer #1; as usual, rooeytoo, we are in synch. Do you remember her early pre-plastic surgery routines about her husband, Fang?

Vickie Lawrence, Hermione Gingold…..

aprilsimnel's avatar

Carol Burnett was who I grew up on. Her Gone With The Wind spoof was a classic when I was a girl. People in my neighborhood were definitely not fans of the film, but everyone knew that gag with the curtain rods.

rooeytoo's avatar

@gailcalled – I missed it the first time I read your answer, but yes I see her in your list now, and yes I always loved her Fang jokes. In those days, they made men as nervous as Ms. Bobbit did in later years, but without the blood.

There are so many funny ones and way back then, they were funny without being crude or using the f word, ain’t it amazing!!!

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I’ve seen some comediennes whose subject matter never strays far from the experience of being female. Any comedian that marries themselves to one series of jokes is going to have a short lived career.
I cite as example, Jeff Foxworthy. After we all had enough of “you might be a redneck” we moved on, where Mr. Foxworthy did not.

Now, anyone who says female comics are less funny than their male counterparts is not being very objective by making such a blanket statement. There are many many female comics who are outrageously funny whose routines cover a lot of ground.

btko's avatar

@Nially_Bob , Well I think saranwrapper sums it up for me. I just don’t find many of the things women-comedians talk about funny. (i.e. I don’t find menstruation funny) :p

gailcalled's avatar

@btko: The great and enduring female comedians never made jokes about menstruation. Similarly, Victor Borge did not discuss poop, pricks or punctuation. Oh, wait. He did mention punctuation – in one of the funniest routines of all times.

@aprilsimnel: Just visualizing Carol Burnett descending the staircase with the curtain robs still attached to the curtains is making me laugh.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic Trailing slightly off-topic for a moment, do you think that there are male comedians whos subject matter has mostly involved “being male”?
Anyone making such a blanket statement as “female comics are less funny than their male counterparts” without significant evidence to reinforce the statements validity would not be in any manner objective.
@rooeytoo Are you implying that there are very few funny male comedians or am I misreading sorry? Incidentally, I know very few of either sex or gender that find Jackass humorous and I attend university ;)
@tinyfaery That’s a pretty large generalisation to make about the male sex Faery. What has led you to believe such?
@filmfann @gailcalled I have not heard of many of these comedians, perhaps because their popularity is mostly focused in other countries to that which I live in. I will try to find some acts of theirs when I have a free moment.

gailcalled's avatar

@Nially Bob; Where do you live? The UK, I see. Beatrice Lillie, Emma Thompson,
Patricia Routledge (Hyancinth Bucket), Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocumbe), and Maggie Smith are all on your side of the Atlantic.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Douchebag supreme

tinyfaery's avatar


wundayatta's avatar

I could give you a complex econometric argument about why there are more males in the comedy market, but you wouldn’t understand, anyway. So what’s the point?

Nially_Bob's avatar

@tinyfaery The observations of an individual are not valid evidence. With this said I agree with you for the most part (I think I have met more, let’s say, liberal males than you judging by the conviction you seem to place in this matter). My reasoning for such is that I too have observed.
@daloon No I would not (though my knowledge of economics has improved substantially over the passing years it’s still relatively bad) but feel free to humour me.
@The_Compassionate_Heretic I just read his wikipedia page and think I get a basic idea.
@gailcalled Scotland, we dunnae have nee fancy television boxes up ere lass :|

kenmc's avatar

I think it’s a conditioned thing.

Like “women aren’t supposed to be funny”, so less of them try to be.

wundayatta's avatar

It was a joke, @Nially_Bob. Now there’s a study! The labor market for comic relief. It would require an exhaustive amount of field work, I would think.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@daloon ‘I tug on my collar nervously’ Uh yeah! HAHAHAHA! I was joking too 0_0

tinyfaery's avatar

This question is about comedy and much too serious. Are we conducting some sort of study or asking opinions/observations?

wundayatta's avatar

What? @tinyfaery? You didn’t get the joke, either? Sigh.


SuperMouse's avatar

I can’t believe no one has mentioned Elaine May! Or how about Anne Meara, Amy Pohler, Tina Fey, Elaine Boosler (“Don’t ask me how I am! I’m blind!” Just picturing that scene from Night Court makes me laugh out loud!), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Now to the question… I agree with @tinyfaery. I think Roseanne making it is a good example of how that works. She hit because she seemed to have more than the average amount of testosterone and a gruff manner (especially in her earliest stand-up). Although her routine was always somewhat “female-centric” the comedy was presented in such a dry manner that men paid attention.

I also think there is a difference between stand-up comedy, which is where men do rule the stage (for the reasons @tinyfaery mentioned among others) and being a comedian. A lot of the women mentioned in this thread are gifted comedians, but very few actually have a stand-up act.

For the record I have an incredible sense of humor and my one-liners get laughs quite regularly!

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Nially_Bob – UK, huh? Jennifer Saunders is a genius, IMO, and one of my comedic heroines.

gymnastchick729's avatar

No, not necessarily… but if you are talking about dumb n dirty humor, that changes things…

Nially_Bob's avatar

@aprilsimnel Yes’m, ze UK. Jennifer Saunders is very hit and miss for me if i’m honest, she’s funny but sometimes her jokes don’t faze me. My favourite female comedian who was born in the UK is probably Jo Brand if you have heard of her.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Nially_Bob – She is funny! And I’ve also heard of Catherine Tate, whose work on Big Train I enjoyed, her own show not so much, and was pleasantly surprised by her turn on Doctor Who.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

the quotations in this question around the gender titles make me kind of suspicious

i think the only thing that would lead one to this conclusion is that there tend to be more famous male comedians than females, not necessarily better.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

From what I have seen on Comedy Central some woman are funny but they aren’t as funny has the men. There are also more men that get hour long specials.

noodle_poodle's avatar

I dont think one is funnier than the other but your right there’s more popular male comedians than female, its probably some daft quirk of society because err I dunno it takes ages to get anywhere in comedy and you cant take time out to have a kid orrr I dunno but its probably something stupid..I feel the trend is changing tho

wickedbetty's avatar

I think men have to try harder to be funny. Women are effortlessly fabulous in practically every way.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Without looking up any statistics, I’d have to say that there are more well-known male comedians than females. And thinking back on all of my friends and co-workers, there are more guys that use humor.

This doesn’t mean that women are worse at comedy…just that there are fewer who have have the talent or gone public. Maybe behind some male comedians is a clever female who writes his material. How many famous comedians write their own material or just deliver really well?

P.S. One of my favorites is Dame Edna. She’s brilliant in using comedy off-the-cuff.

gailcalled's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer: Good pick. How could we have forgotten (him? or her?). A nice example of an example who falls under none of the gender labels. Well, “in drag” would work.

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