CraveComedy Asks: Are Women Funny?

Recently Adam Carolla said women aren’t funny. Is that true?

Sax Carr and Tim Powers by Sax Carr and Tim Powers

Before we get too far into this article, we’d like to say that our simple answer to the question: “Are women funny?” is YES! We'll say it again: Women ARE Funny. If you’d like to stick around to find out how we came to that conclusion we’d be happy to have you, but if you just wanted to know if we think women are funny, then yes we do. Thanks for stopping by.

Now the exciting analysis from Tim Powers and Sax Carr…

We think the first important point is that this question, as well as Adam Carolla’s suggestion that women are not funny, are basically useless statements that are immeasurable, indefensible, and serve no function then to pollute the public discourse. What does such a statement even mean? No matter how you spin it, it doesn’t hold water. Let’s examine:

Perhaps Adam meant to suggest that allwomen aren’t funny. There is not one funny woman in the history of mankind.  That, of course, is easily proven untrue. We all know at least one woman whom we find funny. Maybe it’s your mom. Even if by some horrible miracle you don’t know a single woman who’s funny, you still must assume that in a big world composed of 50% (or more) women, one of them, in THOUSANDS of years of history,  must have told a “Knock Knock” joke and got it to land on target. A blanket statement about the skills or ability of any group, be it defined by its gender or any other category is generally unprovable, and inherently false.  Unless that group is “the unfunny.”

Ok, maybe Adam was suggesting that some women aren’t funny. On a basic level, this statement could probably be true. We also all probably know a woman who is not all that funny. However it’s a staggeringly useless distinction as we probably also know a man or two that can’t tell a joke. Maybe it’s your dad.  Some women also aren’t astronauts or zoo keepers or tap dancers. Saying such statements means nothing. Unless Adam felt he was refuting some claim that all women, every single woman in the history of everything, are Comedy Central level funny (which, itself, is a subjective statement), this statement gets us nowhere.

Other distinctions are equally flawed, unprovable, or generally ignorant.  

What he was likely suggesting is that women are less funny than men. This too is an immeasurable and indefensible statement. Who is the focus group here? We know a lot of women who are funnier than most men we’ve ever met. How can anyone make a statement about collective funniness comparing half the world against the other half? People are simply too complex to go tossing such statements around.

Perhaps are we supposed to assume he was speaking only of professional comedians and humorists? Humorist and writer Julieanne Smolinski is one of the funniest people who has ever lived. Dorothy Parker has been dead for over 40 years and is quoted more often than her contemporary male “humorists.”  What does that mean? Do we need to make the funniest women and men we know have some sort of duel to the death? The DEATH of comedy? We will accept the hypothesis that if we were to pit the best male comedians against the best female comedians we might find one funnier than the other, but of course that’s in itself a little hard to judge as comedy is wildly subjective and personal.  (Example:  The Three Stooges)

The point we are making is that questioning the funniness of women is inherently flawed. You can’t measure it nor prove it. It is subjective and indefinable, and even direct comparisons between men and women fail. Women are funny because one woman is funny.  But more than that, LOTS of women are funny. We’re sorry if anyone reading this hasn’t met a funny women yet. You’re either missing out, or haven’t opened your eyes or ears to notice. 

So, we know that saying things like “Women aren’t funny.” means nothing. It is as bigoted and uninformed as saying “gays aren’t funny” or “Asians aren’t funny” or “Eskimos aren’t funny.”  We also know because we can cite examples to prove it, that women are, frankly, funny. We’ll have some examples for you on video at the end of this article. Is there more to examine? We think there are 3 points to discuss that shine some light on the issue.


Find those points, and video after the break: 


First, let’s take a look at a similar statement made by Christopher Hitchens in an article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny” back in 2007. Hitchens falls into a few of the same potholes that Carolla does, but perhaps in a less vitriolic context. If memory serves, he later apologized for the title of the article, which was more inflammatory than the actual content therein, but he made a few of the same gaffes on the page as he did the headline. Still, his main suggestion was that in a very non-professional sense (read: not in terms of comedians) women are culturally less expected to be funny. What he was suggesting is that in a social context humor is more often used by men than women. He cited numerous studies to prove it. (We won’t because the argument is stupid.)  This is probably less true now then it was in 2007 but we do see some truth in the suggestion that humor is a weapon boys are taught to sharpen early, both to defuse tension and to woo women. Women, while not taught to NOT use humor, are driven by culture to use it less. Does this mean women aren’t funny? No. Does it mean they are less funny? Also no. But it does speak to one of the many differences across the chromosomal gap that leads to a different relationship with the concept of funny as a social tool. Its not damning, but it is interesting.

Secondly, women and men bring a different perspective to comedy. Hell, they bring a different perspective to EVERYTHING.  Don’t call us hacky for mentioning here that “Men and Women are Different, see?” but for any number of reasons women and men lead different lives. Because comedy comes from experience, this leads to men and women coming at the jokes from different angles. Of course ,there are also perspective differences between any two groups, regardless if the distinction racial, cultural, or otherwise. A comedian from New York has a different perspective then one from Kentucky and this has some effect on his or her comedy, so it isn’t too much to suggest that women and men also have a different comedy. Now different does not mean better or worse, and of course there are female and male comedians who have remarkably similar styles, still it’s something to note. Think of comedy like cooking. You start with the recipes of the region and economic group you grew up with, and you add to your cookbook as you get older. On the day you cook your last meal, you can probably still taste the hint of your background in your style. You are a product of your roots just as a comedian is a product of their own perspective, and the comedians who influenced them, and much much more.

Lastly one of the least informed statements often made to defend the “Women are not funny” mantra is this: “If women are so funny, why are there so few of them in comedy or as comedy writers?”. Well you’ve answered your own question. The major reason comedians tend to be men is because women have to fight the twisted perceptions of men who think they don’t belong. If you want to play the numbers game then in our experience it’s the exclusivity of the club that’s in question not the attempted membership. Thankfully the boys club mentality is slipping more and more each year, and at most comedy shows we attend there are often just as many women as men waiting to perform. Still we need more women in the writers’ rooms, and on stages across the nation because that same perspective we just talked about in our second point is a valuable one. Comedians are our last philosophers and we need people of all genders, races, colors and creeds (sexualities, too) to take a mic and speak their views. We also need everyone to feel comfortable doing it.

That’s the biggest problem with what Adam said. His suggestion that women in his writing room were often the least funny may have the effect of turning away some young female writers who now feel unwanted or worse “not good enough”. Well F@%K that noise! If you have funny to sell, sell it here. We’re not going to let the words of this or anyone prevent us from considering anyone for the coveted job of making us laugh and nor should anyone else.

The good news is that from what we can tell most women who read Adam’s words had the opposite effect. They started hitting stages even harder, and they made it clear they did it regardless of judgement. As much as we think what Adam said was reprobate, if its effect is instead to strengthen women in comedy, well then THANK YOU,  “Ace” Carolla. Just don’t go saying that was your idea all along.

We have maintained in many articles that comedy is an art, as much as dance, painting, music, sculpture, or literature.  To say women are incapable of being funny is to say that women, as a group, are incapable of any other art.  This is, clearly, and you can think of your own examples to verify it, horse-hockey. Imagine if someone said “Women can’t paint.” We wouldn’t even see it fit to print.


After the break is a whole bunch of funny women being funny on video. Enjoy! 


Now for the examples. These are by no means even a fraction of the funny women performing on stage and screen today. Just a bunch we grabbed for your viewing pleasure. Want to see more great women on stage? Go to any comedy club in the country tonight. They'll be there. Now lets start with some classics…

Here’s a crappy quality video, but it’s the only one we could find, of a GREAT SNL sketch with Gilda Radner.  Watch as she very quickly recovers from a fumble and cracks up Candice Bergen (who, herself, has a comedy pedigree).

Nobody will deny that Sid Ceasar, Howard Morris and Carl Reiner are comedic geniuses, but there is no way this sketch would have worked without the very funny and underrated Imogene Coca:


Two of the funniest men who ever lived were Laurel & Hardy.  Here is the great Lupe Valdez holding her own against the two comedic giants:


On to some more modern funny women after the break. 


Here are some more clips of great funny women. We've also covered some very funny women on who are not represented here, feel free to look them up! 

The amazing Wanda Sykes on Dr. Katz (we miss this show!):  


Here’s our good friend Iliza Shlesinger at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.  She is one of the funniest women working today and her perspective is undeniably female:

We also love Bonnie McFarlane:


Kathleen Madigan, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Tim, has become one of the most successful female stand-up comics of all time:  


Oh yes there are still even more! Check it out after the break. 


Here's the last batch of great women comics from our desk to your eyes. Please enjoy. For more information of funny women, please consult your local woman. 


Amazing comedian impressionist Melissa Villasenor


Certainly one of the freshest, most exciting voices in comedy today is Maria Bamford.

Laura Valdivia, a gifted writer and performer, and good friend of ours:

Shannon Hatch, one of the funniest and underrated women working the LA Comedy Scene today:

and with the last word on the issue, Natasha Legerro

Our list of female-funny performers is inclusive, but not exclusive.  We could have also included:
Carol Burnet, Lily Tomlin, Tina Fey, Elaine Boozler, Elaine May, Catherine O’Hara, Chelsea Handler, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Khan, Carol Clevelane, Finch and Saunders, Joan Rivers, Amy Pohler, Ellen DeGeneres, Samatha Bee, Margaret Cho, Garfunkel and Oates, Caroline Rhea, Amy Schumer, Amy Sedaris, Lizz Winstead, Aisha Tyler, Mo’Nique and Maryellen Hooper. and much much more. 


PS: Women ARE Funny.