Girls are funny

I started to comment on this post at Yglesias's about are-men-funnier-than-women, but it got so long I've turned it into a post.

First of all, obviously, one can come up with a long list of counterexamples of funny women. So it doesn't pay to generalize too drastically. Nevertheless there is a tendency.

My own suspicion is that men are more likely to be funny than women because humor is fairly useless, and historically men have always reserved useless activities, such as athletics or the worship of God, to themselves. However, the increased leisure in our society has allowed us to realize that women are also good at useless activities. So I believe that this tendency will become less pronounced over time.

In television comedy the historical biases toward 1) men and 2) the room system combine to produce a generally frat-house-boy atmosphere in the production of content. (See the Friends lawsuit over at smokinggun.com.) Were the mode of production different -- and someday someone is going to have a Moneyball-type moment and realize the room is not inevitable -- I think conditions for women writers will improve.

That said, the hardest thing to cast is the funny female lead; but even then, a lot of that is because the network will always choose hotter/less funny over funnier/less hot. (They have this bias for the male lead, too, but much less so.) This is ridiculous, of course -- as a friend of mine says, I want to laugh when I watch comedy; if I want to see hot women, I can watch Cinemax. But the webs must have some piece of research that they feel proves it. Or the success of Friends, which I'm convinced has led a decade of development astray.

Anyway Yglesias also raises another point, over whether a sense of humor is as desirable in a person as everyone says it is, but I'm not used to writing this much and my fingers are tired. Years of the room have made me unable to write, only to pitch on something.

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