Women Aren't As Funny As Men
Written by Brittany Mignanelli
“Women aren’t as funny as men.” –Man, 2018
I finally heard it, in full, in person. I’ve heard versions of it before in a more backhanded way. Growing up, “you’re funny … for a girl” was a half-compliment, half-jab I became accustomed to receiving. I’ve heard other female comedians discuss this idea in their work (shoutout to Tina Fey's “Bossypants”). However, until March of 2018, I had never had this said to my face—and when it finally was, boy, did it suck. I was flabbergasted. Appalled. I had reached the level of "Areyoueffingkiddingme?"
I’m sure you’re wondering who this unsolicited criticism came from. As it always is, the culprit was a friend of a friend. He’s an esteemed comedy critic.
Oh wait, I’m just kidding; he’s a totally regular dude, with a regular job, with zero comedy background.
Spoiler alert: this isn’t the first time a woman has been told she isn’t fit for her role or her field by a guy with absolutely no credibility on the matter.
It should matter to everyone that a man would try to belittle a woman’s career based off of a very antiquated and unfounded theory that women aren’t as funny as men. But this “theory” cuts especially deep for me. I’m an aspiring comedienne. I have a day job, but when I’m not doing that, I’m taking sketch classes, and writing or producing comedy. When I’m not doing that, I’m watching stand-up, using reruns of “The Office” as improv research and carefully studying other female comics I aspire to be like. I’ve dreamed of being a professionally funny person since I did my first Steve Irwin impression at 7-years-old. It got some laughs at my family’s Thanksgiving in '98.
This attitude towards women being “less than,” in comedy or otherwise, is getting old. Do I need a man to validate my comedic talent? Absolutely not. Is it still awful to hear? You bet. It reminds me that this idea is still out there. It reminds me that there are little girls who may win class clown but will still be too afraid to pursue a career in comedy because some guy told her she’d never be as funny as a man.
I was that little girl once. I remember confusing the boys in my class by being too “brash” or “weird,” when really I was just being, well, funny. A college fling outwardly told me my "tweets weren’t that clever." A post-college boyfriend scoffed when I told him I wanted to start taking classes at UCB. At every age, I encountered these doubtful men, much like trolls at a drawbridge to whom I had to give a password in order to cross. Today, I worry about the little girls who, unlike myself, don’t have friends or family encouraging them despite the criticism. What happens when a stubborn boy tells them girls can’t be funny?
Those female comedians are never born.
Upon hearing my critic’s (unwarranted) opinion, I immediately sputtered, “I can list off 15 women who are funnier than you, right now!” I felt my blood boiling. My heart started pounding. My mouth opened, ready and armed to explain the importance of every female comedienne I’ve ever known with cited examples and a PowerPoint presentation.
Instead, I got very quiet.
Isn’t that counterintuitive, Brittany? Shouldn’t you have educated him? Schooled him, even? Given him that silver-tongued wrath?
I realized something important in that moment: it wasn’t my responsibility to teach this misinformed man about the joys of female comedy. I don’t owe the world this mitzvah. I’m not running the “School For Boys Who Need to Learn about Funny Women.” I let silence serve as an official end to the conversation.
But here’s what you can do if and when you hear this criticism (or something similar):
1. Shut down your male friends immediately when you hear this hogwash. If we let it happen, it’ll keep happening.
2. Find a female comedian and donate to her Patreon—like, now. This goes for all female artists, whether they’re comedians, or singers, or writers or painters. Buy tickets to their shows and purchase their art. Donating to their work will put food on their table and keep their lights on this month. Respect that they’re dedicated enough to their craft that they forgo the normal nine-to-five.
3. Support your local girl gang. Like their content, share their posts, give them constructive criticism. It means more to them than you realize. Tinkerbell just needed applause to be magic, remember?
4. Whatever support you give, give 10-times more to female artists of color. They have historically been overlooked for jobs, auditions, and stand-up slots.
5. Just be nice to ladies in general, please. We made you.
And remember: We’re not as funny as men—many of us are funnier.
Brittany is a field and digital producer living and working in NYC. When she isn’t making TV magic, she’s trying to make people laugh with sketch comedy. Read her interview with us here.