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This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
With Apologies to the late Christopher Hitchens, whose 2007 essay ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny’ elicited outrage, The Heat director Paul Feig rebuts ‘The Myth of Male Hilarity.’
Poor men. You hear them at the office, in restaurants, in bars, their brains filled with meaningless facts about sports, cars and electronics as they entertain friends with their endless jokes about genitalia and bathroom activities, not to mention their humorous accusations as to the sexual orientation of their conversation partners. They loudly amuse themselves by hurling insults and epithets — the words “dick,” “balls” and “ass” being the etymological anchors of their attacks — all for the express purpose of making one another laugh. They seem to be having such a great time that you’d feel like a monster alerting them to this one unfortunate fact: Men just aren’t funny.
Oh, sure, there are men who truly make us laugh. None come to mind at the moment, but I know history has provided us with a few. Euripides was sort of a jokester. English poet John Donne got off a corker every once in a while. But in general, the male species’ sense of humor seldom rises above the enjoyment of watching one of their own take a swift shot to the testicles.
It makes sense. Men are genetically programmed to hunt and gather. It is they who must impregnate the herd and protect the collective. And so it’s only logical that their brains would need to possess lower humor standards in order to pass the hours entertainingly with their cohorts while stalking that night’s dinner or standing guard against the enemy. Imagine if they had to amuse their fellow warriors with jokes and banter that were actually funny. That impossibly high standard would leave them in such despair that they would become easy prey. Imagine the despondent hero, now tribeless, wandering the wastelands and muttering in tragic self-awareness, “I can’t believe I thought those limericks about that guy from Nantucket were funny.”
And so nature has provided humankind with two biological safeguards: 1) an intellectual anomaly that allows males to believe that they and their friends are funny, and 2) a survival instinct that impels women to laugh at men’s jokes. As long as the men feel good about themselves, no matter how delusionary those feelings may be, the tribe will continue to function.
Is modern society now ready to transition away from the Myth of Male Hilarity? After all, today’s world has erased most of the survival needs that once required a woman to inflate the comedic self-worth of the men around her. Grocery stores, police departments and in vitro fertilization perform the functions once reserved for her Y-chromosome counterparts. The 21st-century woman is finally free to reveal her comedic superiority and inform her penised inferiors that they will never again be permitted to make that “in my pants” joke.
Alas, women’s evolved nature, along with their desire to avoid the dystopian nightmare of men trying even harder to be funny, causes them to withhold the soul-crushing revelation of masculine jocular inferiority. But many more women now also will continue to follow bravely in the footsteps of those pioneering females who elicited laughter before them, risking societal harmony in the name of making the world a more hilarious place.
So, hail to thee, funny women. Continue to remove the bushels from your bright and uproarious lights, and we in the know will laugh politely at the “funny men” as we wink to one another behind their desperate but well-meaning backs. It’s just the right thing to do.
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