This Guy Who Just Gets Comedy: Ladies Aren't Funny Because They Don't Throw Pies!

This Guy Who Just Gets Comedy: Ladies Aren't Funny Because They Don't Throw Pies!

Hey! Remember that time Christopher Hitchens wrote an article for Vanity Fair, in the year 2007, titled "Why Women Aren't Funny?" Sure you do, because that was some bullshit. It was perhaps the crowning moment in his slide towards "What the hell happened to this guy?"-dom, following his support for the Iraq War. And now, even years after his death, one must specify, when referencing Hitchens's very good work on the subjects of Mother Teresa and Henry Kissinger that they are referring to Hitchens "before he went off the deep end."

Or at least I do.

It was a very, very stupid essay. As you read it, even if you've read it before, your eyes can't help widening in horror and disbelief that anyone would come up with that shit (before cutting out because it's actually pretty boring). And yet, as noted in the essay, by way of a quote from the much-funnier-than-Hitchens Fran Lebowitz, the guy was pretty much plagiarizing Jerry Lewis.

And now — 15 years later — we've got some random manosphere dweeb plagiarizing Hitchens, though with significantly less eloquence.

Over on the men's rights site A Voice For Men, one Doug Mortimer has spilled 3,000 words on the same subject, in the style of a high school junior trying really hard to sound erudite. He was not afraid to ask the hard questions — like "Are women too stupid to appreciate the Three Stooges."

It’s often said (or at least whispered) that women are not funny. The relative paucity of female comics (or the humorlessness of the few that are out there) is often cited as evidence, but rumor has it that there are women (feminists excluded, of course) with a sense of humor, even if they abhor the Three Stooges.

17th Century playwright Jean Racine famously said “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.” Was he saying, consciously or otherwise, that women don’t do comedy because they don’t think? Well, of course, he is a dead – long-dead – white male, so that’s grounds for dismissal in some quarters. Yet a contemporary anecdote may illuminate the issue.

The year is 2022. We've come a long way since the Three Stooges. I'm willing to bet that even most young men nowadays are not listing Larry, Moe and Curly as their comedy idols. If anything, the Marx Brothers have aged a lot more gracefully (apart from that one joke). The same things don't stay hilarious forever, especially when they've been done over and over and over again.

Mortimer continues expounding on this theory, noting that he recently witnessed a one-year-old baby girl not even bother to laugh at her father pretending to get hit in the balls, instead becoming "distressed."

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with my next-door neighbor who has two children, a boy four years old and a girl less than a year and a half. My neighbor was lobbing whiffle balls to his son who swung at them with varying degrees of success. On one toss the kid connected and drove a line drive right back at his old man. Of course, it was a whiffle ball and it didn’t hurt, but the father pretended to be injured. “Oh, you got me, son! Oh, ag-o-nee! Oh, ag-o-nee…” The little girl, who had been standing by quietly, became distressed and almost came to tears. She clearly thought her father had been hurt. Of course, he immediately abandoned the ruse and took pains to reassure her he was all right.

Well, one wonders if she will be so concerned with her father’s welfare after she finds out about the patriarchy and toxic masculinity, but more to the point, does her behavior display some nascent maternal instinct, a sense of empathy that is so overpowering in human females that it renders them incapable of laughing at a human in physical pain.

I would just like to assure Mortimer, at this juncture, that I am certain lots of non-infant women would laugh hysterically if he got hit in the balls.

He spends about two more paragraphs on the innate hilarity of physical injury, and then moves onto the pies, starting with a lesson on the glorious history of pie-throwing.

Comedy, of course, has always been a staple of theater. Slapstick was a key element of British music halls as well as American vaudeville and burlesque. And one of the staples of slapstick was a pie in the face.

Perhaps the earliest proponent of pieing in the cinema was Mack Sennett, whose Keystone Studio, founded in 1912, was in incubator of numerous silent comedians. The cinema was in its infancy so the comedies were unsophisticated, to put it kindly. Sennett’s shorts were largely non-stop horseplay. Psychologists agree (at least they used to) that rough-and-tumble play is more typical of boys than girls. Psychologists also agree (at least they used to) that girls excel boys in verbal skills, which put them at a disadvantage in silent films.

Putting aside the obvious "girls actually get in trouble for shit that boys don't" criticism, the idea that there were not female comedians in silent films is ridiculous. Of course there were. Mabel Normand, Colleen Moore, Marion Davies, BeBe Daniels, Marion Byron, Anita Garvin, and many others were hilarious and wonderfully talented — and, in fact, quite adept at slapstick, which this guy seems to believe is the very height of humor. Just like now, they were frequently ignored in favor of men.

Mabel's Greatest

After what I think are about 12 more paragraphs on the storied history of pie-throwing, Mortimer finally gets to his point, which is that women don't like think pie throwing is as funny as he does.

Pieing represents an undeniable loss of dignity, which is anathema to the female façade, perhaps because women spend much more time putting on their face than men do. Imagine the uproar if a commoner dared to pie Queen Elizabeth. It would be tantamount to pieing the throne itself! Hillary Clinton getting pied would be an affront to all women! Even worse would be pieing Caitlyn Jenner! An affront to trans women worldwide! Hate crime charges would not be out of the question.

Uh, okay? It's really hard to know what to say here. I don't think I know any men who think pie-throwing is the height of comedy, and every man I know is without question funnier than this dude, who is clearly too busy crying about the imaginary throngs of "blue haired feminists." All of the non-imaginary feminists I know? Also way funnier than this guy.

A lot of male verbal humor is also visual. It paints a vivid picture in one’s head. Consider gross-out jokes. Though verbal, they are based in the physical reality of the human body. Oftentimes, the effectiveness of such humor can be judged by its effect on a squeamish audience. A good punch line in a gross-out joke is as likely to inspire retching as laughter.

A lot of gross-out humor is denounced as sexist humor but in truth it should more properly be labeled anatomy humor. There are probably as many jokes out there about male anatomy as female anatomy. Such jokes, though verbal, depend on physiology. Female humor is pointedly personal but rarely physical. Female conversations revolve around relationships, as do their self-help books and their humor.

He knows a lot about "female humor," and helpfully explains what it is in the next paragraph, noting that Paul Lynde was better at it, because he said mean stuff about women.

So we may well ask what is female humor? We concede that some women have a sense of humor, but do they create humor? Yes, but their brand of humor is overwhelmingly verbal. More to the point, women excel at catty humor. It is directed towards one person (usually not present). It is an offshoot of the female instinct for gossip. It is also the specialty of the male homosexual, who often outdid his female rivals. Paul Lynde, for example, was better at one-liners than any woman. On “Hollywood Squares,” he was once asked, “When a man falls out of your boat and into the water, you should yell “Man overboard!” Now what should you yell if a woman falls overboard?” Without missing a beat he replied, “Full speed ahead.” A woman would never say that, even if it popped into her head.

I refuse to believe that this man has met a single woman other than that one-year-old baby in his life.

Other than gross out jokes and pies to the face, Mortimer appears to believe that the only other funny thing in the world are jokes about how women suck, claiming that the only good jokes Dorothy Parker made were at the expense of women or herself — citing among them a thing she very likely never actually said (the "I like to have a martini, two at the very most" thing).

One of Parker’s best known bon mots was “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” In an era when men give the air to girls with blue hair, this sounds pretty tame. Parker’s wit, however, was capable of much more, often at women’s expense.

Feminists with blue hair! Oh no!

For the record, this guy would probably have called Parker a "social justice warrior" for supporting Sacco and Vanzetti, founding the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, frequently complaining that people were not taking fascism seriously enough, and having left her estate to Martin Luther King (and upon his death, the NAACP).

Today, however, we are told that we must provide a platform for voices that have been silent heretofore. So we have not just more female comics but more female comedy writers. Could this be the reason for the slow-motion death of Saturday Night Live? “It just isn’t funny anymore,” is a common observation.

And it has been a common observation since at least when I was a toddler. Saturday Night Live is always not as funny as Saturday Night Live used to be, except for when it is. This is because we remember the funny sketches and forget the boring ones. Duh.

Mortimer then explains that men now are also not as funny as men used to be, probably because they are sedentary and have low testosterone, which is a primary factor in enjoying pie-to-the-face humor.

Well, what happens to humor when you eliminate male input? Without a good writer, the female comic has little to offer besides sarcasm and snarkiness, which is what dominates humor today, male and female alike. How can we account for this? Other than lower levels of testosterone, that is.

Well, perhaps we could blame part of it on the sedentary nature of modern life. After all, physical humor burns up calories. It takes effort. And I don’t know if we have the gag writers today to conceive of complicated physical humor. In days of old, such writers were, of course, men. By embracing physical humor, they became the court jesters of Newtonian physics, which is also male-dominated. Of course, machinery was big during silent days. People worked with machines and wielded tangible tools. Today electronics trumps mechanics. You push a button and get results, but you don’t actually see gears grinding, fan belts turning, or pistons pounding away. You can’t come up with much physical humor in a cyberspace-dominated society.

I just ... I don't know that I know what to do with this. Do people not realize that comedy changes and evolves and if you tell the same jokes over and over again on repeat forever and ever you become a joke yourself? It would be super weird if we had the exact same comedy stylings today as we did in the silent era or even the 1950s. Everyone would be bored to death. How many times can someone say "Take my wife, please!" or get hit in the face with a pie? That's comedy hell. You know who does the same joke over and over again? Children. Because of how they are children and they don't know that many jokes yet.

He then wonders again if people are just not smart enough to be super into slapstick, which he contends is much more difficult than stand-up, especially stand-up that isn't even prop comedy. Because who doesn't love a prop comic?

So while we may lament the state of humor today, and blame it on political correctness or wokeness, feminization cannot be ignored. There’s plenty of room for improvement in contemporary humor, but what are the prospects?

Well, I don’t foresee any upsurge in slapstick, since it requires planning, timing, and props. Stand-up humor is much cheaper…a small stage, a spotlight, a comic, and maybe a few props are all that’s required, and usually all the audience gets. It is possible to create memorable humor under such Spartan conditions (Steve Martin certainly excelled at it), but it often requires intelligence to create and appreciate such humor, and the national I.Q. is certainly not on the upswing. Easier to stick to sark and snark.

I do not lament the state of humor today. The state of humor today is great! People are hilarious, and so, so much funnier than Doug Mortimer, whom we imagine could not get any laughs except by way of a pie to the face. Perhaps he should try that, because clearly writing isn't working out so well for him.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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