x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Men are funnier than women? Really? Just keeping reading ...

Some scientists from California claim that men are funnier than women. They must be joking.

Men are funnier than women. It's a fact.

You want proof? Groucho Marx. Charlie Chaplin. Buster Keaton. Mickey Rooney. Bob Hope. Lenny Bruce. Bill Cosby. Richard Pryor. Robin Williams. John Belushi. Eddie Murphy. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrel. And Homer Simpson.

And that's just Hollywood's most recognisable names. Egyptian comedian Adel Imam is one of the funniest men to ever walk the planet. And every other country on the planet has its own funnymen.

Tina Fey has her work cut out taking this lot on. We'll even throw in Lucille Ball and Kristen Wiig. But not Ellen Degeneres.

Before anyone takes offence at such misogyny, I am, of course, just joking and - in the process -successfully disproving this article's opening sentence.

But scientists, whose gift for comedy is second only to their unerring talent to be consistently inaccurate, think otherwise. Researchers at University of California at San Diego believe they have, through scientific methods, determined that men are indeed the funnier sex.

These results are based on a conceit so large it is, and here's the beautiful irony, laughable. The 34 men and 47 women in the study were asked to rate each other's captions on 20 New Yorker cartoons. By the tiniest of margins, men came out on top.

What's more, researchers noted that men tended to unknowingly give captions written by men higher scores than those written by women. So really, the results should have said: men think men are funnier than women.

This will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has been on a boys-only night out. When it comes to comedy in all-male company, the bar on what constitutes funny is so depressingly low that not even the mind of Stephen Hawking could correlate it with the typical howling laughter and high fives.

Not that women are not capable of being utterly humourless themselves.

"Oh, so you think that's funny?" To which the answer is - and, fellows, this cannot be stressed enough - always, always an unequivocal "no".

This is not the first time that research has attempted to frame this theory. Studies from the University of New Mexico in June and Stanford University in 2007 produced similar punchlines.

Certainly these results are funny, although not necessarily in a humorous sort of way. But this isn't the first time science provided the punchline.

Jokes about science abound: Proton to a bartender: "You've overcharged me." Bartender: "Are you sure?" Proton: "I'm positive". Not rocket science, sure, but clever all the same.

Scientists, on the other hand, undertake long-term studies to explain what ultimately comes down to personal taste. In essence, the inexplicable. They can no more explain a concept as subjective as "funny", than "sad", "happy" or "love".

Yet there's no escaping that throughout the ages it is men, not women, who have been cast in the role of clowns and jokers, as that list of famous funnymen shows.

But if it's not a scientific fact, as it surely isn't, then what?

Writing in Vanity Fairin 2007, the author and journalist Christopher Hitchens believed that it is not in men's interest for women to be funny, for existential reasons. Men, quite simply, have to be funnier. Why? "They had damn well better be," he said. "The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men."

Prehistoric men smacked each other on the head to amuse and attract women. In many ways, not much has changed.

But women, you have no one to blame but yourselves. Ask any woman what attribute she looks for most in a man, and the answer is, time and again, "being funny", which one suspects is the biggest joke the fairer sex has ever played on the rest of us.

You reap what you sow, ladies.

 

akhaled@thenational.ae

Follow on Twitter @AliKhaled_