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Scientists “Prove” Men Are Funnier Than Women

Today in things that make us scream incoherently

A group of researchers from the University of New Mexico conducted an Official Scientific Study and determined that “humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males.” In fact, that was the title of the study. So, to sum this up: a bunch of scientists got together for a beer one day and said, “Comedians get all the girls! Stupid comedians!” And then they cried into the aforementioned beer and got funding for a scientific study based on something that is entirely subjective and involved non-comedians writing comedy. They hijacked comedy and tried doing science to it.

Before we get all angry over this, let’s get something straight from the start: This is balderdash. Poppycock. Fuzzy math. All of it. No one can define what is funny or who is the funniest — especially quantitatively — because what’s funny to one only has a partial chance of being funny to someone else. Look at Tim & Eric. Also look at the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. See what I mean?

This was the experiment to determine the incidence of humor: 400 college students — 200 males, 200 females — were asked to write captions for three cartoons. First of all, this is a hard enough task for a professional comedy writer. Because writing comedy is hard. Second of all, while college students can absolutely be funny, think of the official, serious comedy groups on any given college campus. The percentage of comedians to the number of students in the student body is tiny. There can actually be funny college students among these 400, but maybe 10 of them have successfully written a monologue or a sketch. The rest are happy to be consumers of comedy. So, scientists are asking people who have no desire to write comedy to write comedy, and then judge their ability to be funny after they complete this assignment. No bothering with using actual cartoonists, writers, artists, nothing like that. Just 400 random college students. Being judged by scientists, more non-comedians.

Here’s the thing: this study is stupid. In every way. Yes, many of us are sexually attracted to funny people. And people from both genders are funny. We didn’t need a scientific study to determine that. Many of us are conducting our own personal experiments on that very subject without even having to ask for money.

But why do this experiment at all? The objective of this study doesn’t seem to be the gender-related result; it was to connect intelligence and humor (yes, one needs the former in order to be successful at the latter — duh) and then connect that to sexual attractiveness. It was not intended to test relative “funnyness” of genders, and so really shouldn’t be used as proof of that. Maybe as a good start to go back with a differently structured study… but that’s still leaving aside the issue of quantitatively assessing an inherently subjective trait.

I should add that I do happen to know one scientist who is, in fact, a real comedian. He is very funny and happily married (to a professionally funny woman). So this is clearly not the case for all scientists. Just the lame ones. And if 100% of all these scientists were also professional comedians, then we will revisit this in the future.

Men and women are both funny. We all knew that without science.

(top pic via xkcd; Science Direct via Mental Floss)

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