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article imageMen 'Funnier Than Women' Thanks to Testosterone?

By Paul Wallis     Dec 21, 2007 in Lifestyle
Dorothy Parker might have had something to say about this. A British study has linked humor to male hormones. The theory is that it’s part of sexual competition, channeling aggression. The debatable point is that part of this research is unicycle-based
Put a researcher on a unicycle, have him ride around a mixed group of males and females of various ages. The BBC article explains:
Men make more gags than women and their jokes tend to be more aggressive, Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says.
The unicycling doctor observed how the genders reacted to his "amusing" hobby.
Women tended to make encouraging, praising comments, while men jeered. The most aggressive were young men, he told the British Medical Journal
Whether the average human, confronted with a unicycling professor, can resist a crack or two, I doubt.
Other studies have come up with a few differences between men and women, which is encouraging. The observations are that there are more male comedians, and women tell fewer jokes.
Shuster’s efforts involved 400 people, and he observed that 75 per cent of the men attempted some form of humor and jeered, while the women were encouraging and praising. Older men, he says, tended to react more like the women.
A psychologist came up with this:
He suggested men might respond aggressively because they see the other unicycling man as a threat, attracting female attention away from themselves.”
A truly stereotypical response. Actually, parents also tend to make admiring and encouraging comments with kids on bicycles.
Perhaps I’m the exception, but it will be quite some time before I see a guy on a unicycle and feel threatened. I find something fundamentally un-threatening about the situation.
Frankly, I’d like to see something a bit less unicycle-oriented as an analytical method. I really don’t think men are much funnier, if at all.
Some women, like Dorothy Parker, could easily match any male for humor. At least a few of the funniest people I’ve known are female. I know that my mother, The Iron Koala, cracked me up so completely that I had to go outside for two hours, and I still chuckle about the joke even now, 14 years later.
Shuster’s idea is interesting, but the comments about younger guys need a bit more thought. Young men are full of testosterone, anyway. The aggression may have found a different outlet, but it doesn’t actually have to go looking for one. Humor tends to be voluntary.
As a matter of fact, firing off jokes can be anything from nervousness to actual wit to trying to chat up an attractive woman.
(It works, too, because while laughing she’s paying less attention to how butt ugly you are. You may have to keep it up for decades.)
More about Humor, Testosterone, Psychology
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