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Saturday, January 05, 2008

What's So Funny? or: It Takes Balls to Laugh

Men are naturally more comedic than women because of the male hormone testosterone, an expert claims.
Men make more gags than women and their jokes tend to be more aggressive, Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says.

I thought I'd start off the new year with this horse pockey from the BBC.

It's another round in the war between the sexes. You can state anything you want as long as you portray women as inferior to men and offer no proof or corroboration for the statement. And it's official when it appears on the BBC!
But I agree that there does seem to be a connection between testosterone and a certain kind of humor.

Research suggests men are more likely to use humour aggressively by making others the butt of the joke.
And aggression - generally considered to be a more masculine trait - has been linked by some to testosterone exposure in the womb.
Professor Shuster believes humour develops from aggression caused by male hormones.
He documented the reaction of over 400 individuals to his unicycling antics through the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne.

I think the prospect of a professor engaged on serious research into the sexuality of humour while riding a unicycle is faintly comic already. Observant men in Newcastle upon Tyne apparently beeped horns, made suggestive remarks, and behaved in what the professor describes as an aggressive fashion. Fewer women reacted to the wheeled Professor with taunts or wisecracks. This, naturally, is the fault of sex and not simple good manners...

"The idea that unicycling is intrinsically funny does not explain the findings," said Professor Shuster.
The simplest explanation, he says, is the effect of male hormones such as testosterone.

As we say in New York, if you believe that, I've got a bridge I want to sell you. There's no research here, no proof, no control, just 'simple explanations'. And it appears that the good Professor did not actually fall off the unicycle, which would have been genuinely entertaining, especially if he kept taking notes on audience reaction in mid-tumble.

Women can and do have a great sense of humor. Many of them even marry jokes! Here are some quotes from a few women who might have a thing or two to say about the Professor's researches, and who might tell him where to put his unicycle:

When you see what some women marry, you realize how they must hate to work for a living-- Helen Rowland

His mother should have thrown him out and kept the stork. --Mae West

If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. --Dorothy Parker

A woman's a woman until the day she dies, but a man's only a man as long as he can.--Jackie "Moms" Mabley

If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle. ~Rita Mae Brown

I'd rather rot on my own floor than be found by a bunch of bingo players in a nursing home. --Florence King

and finally, in closing:

There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.


Kevin Koch said...

I read that first quote as "Men make more gas than women . . ."

The professor's thesis makes more sense when read that way.

Nancy said...

Professors make the most gas of all.

deniseletter said...

For me you're right,time convinced me that maybe the bottom differences in a majority cases of battle of sexes about intelligence between genders ,are primary cultural,don't forget that the culture is very inner us and is in humor too.The BBC article,gives the illusion of humor as an only natural and biological Phenomenon,where the professor justifies his theory of male hormones.

Male comedians outnumber female ones is true,as in other careers,but the reason of that is not so simple, needs a worthy complete sociological study,cause the reason for that has a great amount of social culture specially in relation to subtle imposed behavior to women and what they can do in that limited environment to be what they really are.

Is like to think that in middle ages were less talented persons capable to do animation than now. Animation as we know didn’t exist, however the potential Intellectual ability was there.

And here is a quote of the Charles Solomon book: "The History Of Animation,Enchanted Drawings" related to Bugs Bunny personality: Chuck Jones comment "Bugs started out in a sort of a Harpo Marx mode, then moved through Groucho Marx,” he explains. “ He became a very sophisticated character , a combination of Rex Harrison playing professor O’Higgins (who normally would prefer to stay in and mind his own business, although still a very intellectual bird),D’Artagnan ( because of the things he was able to do) and Dorothy Parker ( because of the quips). If you blend those elements together, you have a pretty good idea of what Bugs was all about.” :-)

Nancy said...

Charles Solomon's book is not the main source for Bugs Bunny material: there are excellent monographs on the character by Jerry Beck and others.
My favorite definition of Bugs is that he is the way Americans of the forties chose to view themselves: tough, but fair, and only responding violently when attacked. Bugs simply could not be an aggressive character; he's too brash, too smart.
I find that he's a brilliant combination of the James Cagney city slicker with the classic African character of the clever rabbit. Actually a lot of cultures have stories about the small defenseless animal that outwits his hunters, but only in America, and only at Warner Brothers Animation, would someone have the brilliant idea of combining Bre'r Rabbit with James Cagney.
Tex Avery deserves a lot of the credit for making Bugs a 'cool' character rather than the hysterical Daffy-like personality he was at first.

Now as to female comedians: They've always been with us. Most are quoted as "Anonymous". Recently they've been able to come up on stage and write their own stuff. But there's still a long way to go.