Archive for September 2nd, 2010

Are Men Funnier than Women? Ha, ha!

Comedian Katy Brand

Are men funnier than women? It’s a question that for me warrants the answer ‘Who cares – if you’re funny, you’re funny, even (especially?) if you’re a kangaroo’, but it’s one that has led to much beard-stroking in some quarters.

Women are in the minority in the comedy world, and this alone seems to justify surveys such as the recent one undertaken by comedy website Chortle, which aimed to determine, once and for all, if women are indeed the unfunny nags that some suspect we are.

The survey was run by a team of respected statisticians who also hold degrees from the esteemed International Clown College; they conducted the research using their own patented ‘laugh-o-meter’ machine and painstakingly collated the results of intensive surveys carried out on an equal number of men and women who attend comedy gigs. Added to this was the week-long ‘Are You Funny?’ camp run with a sample group of 50 comedians, both male and female, who were tested on their aptitude in areas such as ‘Hecklers and How to Deal With Them Without Looking Like a Bigger Idiot than the Heckler’, ‘Microphone Technique’, ‘Audience-Interrogation Skills’, and ‘Top 50 Chicken-Crossing-the-Road Jokes’.  The results were then analysed by an independent group made up of feminists, masculinists and comedyists, who had two days to pore over the 150-page document drafted by the original test team.

Oh, wait. Actually, the Clown College-degree-holding statisticians weren’t saddled with this onerous task. Instead, the Chortle staff did something rather different – and easier: they analysed the five-star ratings given to female and male comics who played the Edinburgh Fringe last month. Going through the main reviews of all of the male and all the female comics who performed at this three-week long festival must be a pretty hard task, I hear you say. Yes, it is, so rather than do that, Chortle simply looked at the reviews on its own site and came up with the result from there.

And what did this no-stone-unturned, quality surveying reveal? That men are funnier than women. Ha ha! Or rather, ho hum. Here are the hard-hitting results:

Men are funnier than women – but only just, according to analysis of Edinburgh Fringe reviews.

A study of Chortle reviews, reveals that shows featuring a male comedian or an all-male cast scored an average star rating of 3.27; while the figure for female shows was 3.04 – showing that on average men attracted eight per cent more stars than their female counterparts.

Well, you can’t argue with facts like this, can you? All you burgeoning female comics should just give up now – leave the stand-up career for the big boys, and don’t let the door hit your pretty little ass on the way out.

Comedian Katy Brand has penned a witty and scathing riposte to this frankly ridiculous survey, and quite rightly points out that it is completely redundant:

This is the most insultingly pointless survey into this now tired subject I have ever seen, and trust me, I’ve seen a few. Other than the ridiculous circumstances under which this ‘research’ was conducted, leading to a moronic outcome, there are further points to consider. Are men funnier than women? The issue is not what the answer is to this question, the issue is why are you even asking the question at all?

She adds:

They wouldn’t survey their reviews to find out who averaged more – Jewish comics or black comics and then compare them, so why this? You might argue that it’s an issue that’s still alive and therefore warrants investigation. Well, I’m afraid you’re wrong there. For many it’s a dead issue and only brought up by journalists.

Aside from the maths in Chortle’s findings (which is as wrong-headed as it seems), the bigger issue is that Chortle, the comedy industry’s online home, is still concerning itself with the idea of men and women competing as genders for laughs.

As Katy so rightly argues, this survey is divisive. Rather than celebrating female comics and encouraging more women to enter the comedy world, it shows that no matter how successful women are in this field (this year was the first year that two women – Sarah Millican and Josie Long – were named in the Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlist), someone is always going to try to pit them against the opposite gender.

I’ll leave the last word on this ‘survey’ to Katy:

It’s desperately, laughably out of date, it’s idiotically researched and it has no place as a lead article on our website. I’m sorry this article isn’t very funny (perhaps you could add up all the jokes in articles by women on Chortle, and then add up all the jokes in pieces written by men and answer the ‘burning question’ that way), but, in the words of Josie herself, ‘I don’t know how much more of this shit I can take’.

Now if you excuse me, I’m off to find the Clown College-degree-holding statisticians to find out how by how many years my life has been shortened through reading pointless, gender-based surveys.

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