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May 6, 2010 / Brittany Hendrick

Sexual disfavors: Female + humor = doomed

“Look! The Jerk Shack. Where you belong. HAHA!” My sister’s boyfriend said to me, pointing at a coupon for a local Caribbean cuisine establishment.

“YEAH! …’cause I’m a shack!” I replied.

The above dialogue isn’t the premier example of how I use wordplay, situation, surprise, sarcasm/irony and timing to create comedy. But it’s the most recent, so it’s the best I’ve got for today. Give me a break. I don’t get paid for it. God. But I wasn’t always like that. Funny, I mean. I’ve been a shack since birth.

When I was in middle school, I distinctly remember telling my mother that I wanted to work for a think tank.

“Naahhh… I don’t think you do,” Mom said, scrunching her nose and shaking her head.

“No, I do!” I happily, and seriously, argued. You get to sit around and think all day and solve problems. How bad could it be?

Not bad, if you’re a socially inept creepster with an Oedipus Complex who plays RPGs on the computer all day, can’t tie his shoes yet manages a peach-fuzz moustache by age 12, and wears an Iron Maiden t-shirt and a sullen facial expression on school picture day. You know what I’m talking about.

OK, so at one time I could beat NES Super Mario Bros. 1 and 2 in one man (ca. 1991, don’t judge [up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-a-b-a-b-select-start {I SAID DON’T JUDGE}]). That’s beside the point.

Any child who has the desire to work at a think tank probably isn’t the life of the party, or at least a party where normal people are in attendance. That was me: an overly stoic, rigid dork with an under-developed personality. Don’t get me wrong– I still love to engage in dorky times, nerd chat and sundry brainiacaries. Except now I’d like to think that I have a personality. And not just any-old personality that runs a gamut of typical moods or social styles. I have a personality of which a large part of me is humorous. Yaaaayy.

It’s unknown when my final, adult personality surfaced. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say it was 10th grade, English class. That teacher, Ms. Tilley, proclaimed a small group of us– who sat in the back of the classroom no less– the Peanut Gallery. Looking back, the PG sieved naturally in response to the fact that we knew Ms. Tilley was not a very good teacher. Academically, intellectually, we weren’t getting anything out of her. The PG had to rustle its own mental stimulation, I guess.

Sarcasm and drollness were staples of my character. But the point at which these transcended into full-fledged funniness, who knows. It’s not immature, lowbrow, Jackass-type hilarity. And while my humor can be tawdry, it’s exaggerated, observational, verbal methods that don’t involve broken bones and bare asses.

Not that a sense of humor wasn’t already present within me. It’s always been there. Literally, I could sense the humor in something, and laugh. I have a sense of humor. A lot of people do. But sense of humor does not equal to one being humorous. Not all who laugh have the ability to make others laugh. I wield both. And it’s a problem.

Over time, I began to sense that my humor was a detriment to my attractiveness (I am talking about other people’s possible perception of me. I do not think I am unattractive.). Ooooh, sure, men and women say they want a partner with a “sense of humor.” Yet both sexes have differing definitions on what “sense of humor” mean to them. To a woman, a man with a sense of humor makes her laugh. To a man, a woman with a sense of humor laughs at his jokes. To me, I’m royally fucked.

A recent article I read in Scientific American Mind magazinesupports my longstanding hypothesis. I couldn’t even make my way through it at first because I got a little upset (because I’m royally fucked, remember). The piece is lengthy, and a preview of it may be found here. Be sure to scroll down. From the print version, I’ve picked out and summarized the important findings presented in this article that prove I’m destined to live a life of full humor and empty bed.

— Humor has evolutionary roots… the laws of natural selection explain this… a marker of genetic health when the choosier sex (females) selects a [funny] male.
— Both genders prefer a partner with a sense of humor– but there is discrepancy in how that preference plays out.
— Men want someone who will appreciate their jokes, and women want someone who makes them laugh.
— In [one] study, women chose funnier men as potential dates; men showed no preference for funny women.
— In another study (choosing between a one-night stand, a date, a short-term relationship, a long-term relationship or friendship), in every context other than friendship , men preferred women who would laugh at their jokes to those who made jokes.

Well, damn. While these conclusions are doubtless, am I really constantly committing evolutionary errors? First of all, I DO genuinely laugh at men’s jokes. It’s not like I sit stonefaced while a guy speaks and then laugh at my own ingeniousness. Second, I DO prefer men who make me laugh. Overall, I appropriately appreciate men’s humor within my assigned, female role. So, am I really that undesirable, evolutionarily speaking?

— I understand the biological burden men carry in order to attract a suitable mate… but is it possible that women who giggle without offering gags of their own are LAZY??? Sure, laughing at men’s jokes shows apprecation, blahblahblah. That’s easy. So easy that women can laugh and not mean it or even know what they’re laughing at; it’s brainless. But I think making men laugh in return is doubly appreciative– it demonstrates affection, effort, equality and skill. It’s proactive.

— Moreover, is it possible that men find funny women to be intimidating or emasculating? Do comedic females undermine males’ roles as competitors and providers? Does it harm a man’s ego if a woman is funnier than he is [in the same way intelligence may be an affecting variable]? As far as I’m concerned, a man who finds humorous women threatening, unnerving or plainly unattractive: they can have that socially incompetent girl who will pout, get mad every five minutes, roll her eyes in disgust, sigh, swat at him and say “that’s not funny” or “stop laughing at me” or “I don’t get it…” without giving him any real, effortful humor in return.Women like that may not castrate men via jokemaking, but they’ll do it in other, worse ways. I see it happening all the time. 🙂

Surprisingly, the magazine article did not consider these measurable aspects.


So, despite all this tragedy involving comedy, there is good news for me, right?


— Clever, original humor signals a lot of information, including intelligence, creativity, and aspects of personality such as playfulness and openness to experience.
— Studies show that humor is a good indicator of intelligence.
— A woman laughs a lot when she is attracted to a man or when she senses a man’s interest. In turn, that laughter makes her more attractive to him or signals that she welcomes his attention.
— Women who use humor to cope [stress] reported greater satisfaction in relationships.
— As a relationship progresses, a man’s humor becomes less important… whereas a woman’s humor becomes a blessing.


It’s unclear if I’m actually royally fucked, because the article doesn’t offer solutions. Men can remain in their humor roles unscathed, victorious; but what are humorous women supposed to do about getting the pinkslip on sexual selection? Laugh it off???

Look, I don’t know how or why I ended up being a hilarious lady, all right? I love laughing, and I love to make people laugh. It’s organic. I’m comfortable with it. It’s who I am. It’s not going away. Humor is intricately woven into my personality the same way it’s an intrinsic part of society.

Think tank girl hasn’t disappeared– I still love philosophical discourse and pedantry and snooze-inducing stuff. And I love witty repartee and making people feel lightened.



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