Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Isn’t it curious that while women
laugh more than men, and are even socialized to laugh, they are often told,
subtly and sometimes not so subtly, that they have no sense of humor?
Another way that men and women
differ is in their opinions about what’s funny. The British Association for the
Advancement of Science conducted an experiment over the Internet. The results
of this search for “the world’s funniest joke” in which 350,000 people
submitted and/or rated jokes were published in a book, Laughlab. According to the director, Dr. Richard Wiseman, an
unintended result of the experiment was a more accurate understanding of the
jokes preferred by each sex. Males favored jokes involving aggression, sexual
innuendo and the put-down of women. Women preferred jokes involving word play.
“These findings reflect fundamental differences in the way in which males and
females use humour,” Wiseman asserted. “Males use humour to appear superior to
others, whilst women are more linguistically skilled and prefer word-puns.”
Humor that uses aggression, sexual
innuendo and the putdown of women—especially humor that uses all three—is not
conducive to healthy relationships and, in fact, is harmful.

A difference in taste in jokes is a great
strain on the affections.
—George Eliot, author

A study in the Washington
Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say
to the authors of that study: “Duh.”
—Conan O'Brien, late night
talk show host

Word play:
• A Freudian slip is
when you say one thing and mean your mother.
• When you dream in
color, it’s a pigment of your imagination.

Monday, February 27, 2012

men, women, and humor

While it is no surprise to most
people that men and women are different from each other in a number of vitally
important ways, the differences in how men and women view and express humor are
not always well understood. Just as there are societal expectations about
numerous other gender differences, there are also subtle variations in how men
and women participate in humor.
One key difference: men have more
permission to be funny than women have. Society expects men to perform. Being
funny and clever is one type of performance. However, men also tend to laugh
less, perhaps because male socialization teaches them that they must always be
in control. According to Susan Horowitz in
Queens of Comedy, “The most resistant audiences—for both male and female
comics—are male, mainly because they equate laughter with losing control.”
On the other hand, women have more
permission (perhaps even pressure) to laugh. It makes them a better audience.
Horowitz quotes comic Jerry Seinfeld, “They’re more open. I’ve always felt an
audience dominated by women is great for me because they don’t have any
withholds on getting silly and doing things for fun. A woman’s sense of humor
is much more free, open and loving—it doesn’t have to make sense. If it’s fun,
Indeed, women, even while they have
been socialized to contain their own sense of humor, are led to believe they
should laugh even if they don’t think something is funny. They’re told it’s
good to laugh at men’s jokes, good to show a lighter side and support men’s
humor. And that may not be all bad. Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter
Club movement and author of Laughter for
No Reason, states that even inauthentic or fake laughing delivers the same
health benefits as the real deal. This may be one reason women live longer than

In Honey Hush, Daryl Cumber Dance describes how “proper ladies” are
supposed to laugh. “Hold your hand over your mouth . . . hold it straight and a
little to the side, like you’re going to whisper something to someone next to
you.” Now women seem to be reclaiming their authenticity, consciously choosing
when they will laugh and how. Perhaps that’s one reason feminists are accused
of not having a sense of humor.

A man asked the reference librarian where he could find the
book, The Male: The Superior Sex.
Immediately the librarian responded, “Oh, that would be over in fiction.”

A couple of weeks ago a comedian complained to me it isn’t
fair that women can tell jokes about men and get away with it, but men can’t
tell jokes about women without being criticized. I wanted to tell him about the
various theories on laughter as a weapon of the underdog—but it had too many
words and no pictures. I told him that if all males would relinquish their
power, eradicate rape from the face of the earth and give women twice as much
money as men for the same job, then he could tell as many jokes about women as
he wanted. Until then, tough luck.
From Mary Hirsh, “ Heard Any Good Jokes Lately?” Minnesota Women’s Press

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Saved a Marriage Once

I saved a marriage once. In my humor workshops, I invite participants to take something away that they can use in their lives. One recently married workshop attendee was upset when her hilarious pranks didn’t seem to be funny to her husband. In fact, he was emphatically unappreciative of her efforts at humor. When I spoke about how we tend to give away our own humor instead of finding out what makes others laugh, suddenly the light bulb went on for her. She immediately understood why her prankster tricks weren’t working with her husband. Not only did he not appreciate that kind of humor, she wasn’t at all clear what actually made him laugh. The woman left the workshop intent on finding out. When we met again, she told me her humor relationship with her husband had improved immeasurably. She had discovered he was a punster. Now she enjoys finding puns that make him laugh.
Experiences like this keep me going in this business!
However, there also have been marriages that I could not save. For example, Cameron hired me as her humor coach because she wanted to lighten up. In truth, her husband, Keith, wanted her to lighten up. Committed as she was to being the best partner she could be, she came to me to learn how. For several weeks, she spent time getting to know his humor, creating opportunities to bring humor to their relationship as well as to the rest of her life. She had great success bringing humor to her relationship with her five-year-old son and to her work as a physician in a small town clinic.
During one of our conversations, she happened to mention her concerns about Keith’s gambling. Having spent four years in the Professional Education Department at Hazelden, I understood how addictions could destroy relationships. I urged her to protect herself and her son and referred her to professionals who could help with that issue. As it turned out, my suspicions that Keith’s gambling were at the root of the family’s problems were confirmed. The family had been devastated financially by Keith’s gambling and that he was unwilling to seek professional help. Cameron continues to lighten up and develop her humor outside that relationship.
Both of these examples illustrate an important lesson about humor and healthy relationships: humor is a tool, a means to an end, not the end itself. True intimacy requires a respectful, trusting relationship. Without the commitment to re-establish trust, Cameron’s effort to lighten up within her relationship with Keith was doomed. Humor doesn’t promote intimacy where there is distrust, disrespect or denial. Healthy humor is based on relational trust.


Write a fun personal ad. If you are already with a partner, write one for each other. Write what you think your partner wants in a mate. Compare ads.

Senior Personal Want Ads:
WINNING SMILE: Active grandmother with original teeth seeking a dedicated flosser to share rare steaks, corn on the cob, and caramel candy.

MINT CONDITION: Male, 1922, high mileage, good condition, some hair, many new parts including hip, knee, cornea, valves. Isn't in running condition, but walks well.

I’m tired of all this business about beauty being only skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want—an adorable pancreas?
—Jean Kerr, writer