Are Women Funny?

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About Andrew Ladd

Andrew Ladd is the blog editor for Ploughshares. His work also has appeared in Apalachee Review, CICADA, Memoir Journal, Paper Darts, and The Rumpus, among others, and his first novel, What Ends (New Issues Press, January 2014), was the winner of the 2012 AWP Prize in the Novel. Follow Andrew on Twitter @agoodladd.


  1. Tom Matlack says:

    Andrew great piece. As a huge Chelsea Lately fan I am with you 100%….

  2. Nice work, Andrew.

  3. David Wise says:

    I heard long ago that women are generally funnier than men, but as in cooking, the best comedians are generally men.

  4. Sandy Huckleberry says:

    I remember how coldly received were jokes made by girls when I was in high school. The boys did Monty Python skits for the Talent Shows, and we all know there was no room for funny women there (only funny men dressed like women, or pretty girls playing the straight man or worse)

    Wry, arch, bon mots are the preferred form for many women I can think of (from Jane Austen to Mae West to Dorothy Parker and beyond) because they can be delivered quietly and can stand on their own, appreciated or not.

  5. An excellent and interesting article. I’d prefer “feminine humor” to “female humor.” “Female” seems to suggest Michelle Pfeiffer in her Cat Woman costume and other Hollywood “female” images.

  6. Stef MacKenzie says:

    Ace article! I really enjoyed reading this Andrew.
    It’s such an interesting topic and one that raises so many questions and debates in relation to female presence and power on different media platforms.

    You’re right about Betty White too. What a lady…

  7. Andrew, thank you for your thoughtful, well-written analysis of an important topic. I have been reading, thinking, and talking about women and humor for a number years–an you gave me new ideas to consider. I hope you will continue to explore the topic.

  8. Andrew,

    Very interesting analysis.

    I noticed as a female in corporate America (years ago before leaving for entrepreneurial journey) that if I said something funny or ironic, the group of male colleagues (99 percent were male) would “not hear it.” But I could always count on one male to repeat my comment in a louder voice to great applause and laughter. So I think your point about “higher status” is critical–the higher status male gets more respect for his comments than the lower status female.

  9. Carol Burnett says:

    Excellent article. I’d never really thought about it… and probably won’t again.

  10. How can this not mention Margaret Cho… who makes me laugh so hard milk comes out of my nose… regardless if I was drinking it or not.

  11. Thank you. I’m glad there is an article like this to counter the Vanity Fair piece by Christopher Hitchens which was probably the most absurd thing I have ever read. Women can’t be funny because all we can think about is serious things like making babies? Please.

    I’ve been considered a funny woman, by both men and women, and I get the “bitch” label often. I also get discredited often, that is, I make a comment in jest that goes unheard because I am soft spoken, by nature (low-talker) and sometimes to avoid the bitch label. Usually one man hears it and repeats it loudly, receiving riotous laughter from everyone present, for which I receive no credit. Sometimes a man is kind enough to begin repeating my joke with, “Did you hear what she just said?” I like that. Plenty of women are funny enough to kick it with the boys, but we hesitate because we know that our audience has already dismissed us as unfunny women before we’ve said anything.

    Most funny women cited are bitches and lesbians, but I’d like to cite one who is neither: Anjelah Johnson. She tells girl jokes using “man” humor and is pretty. Also does good impressions.


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