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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Adam Carolla and the "Women Aren't Funny" Claim

Today, Adam Carolla did something you aren’t supposed to do, he was honest about his feelings. Adam Carolla, like a lot of people apparently since this issue keeps coming up, doesn’t think women are funny, or at least, that there aren’t a lot of funny women, and he’s very sure that there are more men who are funny than women. Maybe his most troublesome statement is his contention that many women in the comedy world are there because of a kind of affirmative action for gender, and that if they were men they wouldn’t be funny enough to make it. He cites Joy Behar and Sherri Shepherd as examples of women who wouldn’t cut it if they had a Y-chromosome.

Tina Fey, who even Carolla admits is funny, probably had the best response to this line of thinking when she wrote in Bossypants: “I don’t like Chinese food, but that doesn’t mean I try to prove it doesn’t exist.”

That’s really the thing, isn’t it? If Adam Carolla doesn’t find very many women funny, he’s allowed to have that opinion, and even to express it if he thinks it will help him sell more books. But Carrolla’s error is in thinking that his enjoyment is the dividing line between funny and unfunny. There are women comedians I think are funny, and others I don’t really care for, but for the most part they all have their audience. Carolla seems to think that the goal of all comedy is to make him personally laugh. Hypothetically, suppose there was a woman comedian that only made other women laugh. Well, aren’t women half (or even slightly more) of the population? Isn’t there something valuable, in and of itself, in women having comedians that speak more directly to their experience of the world?

Again, that doesn’t mean Carolla has to enjoy it, or even pretend to in the name of political correctness. But the arrogance on display in his statements is preposterous.

Now, as to his statements about how he doesn’t like working with women comedy writers, I am slightly torn. In a perfect world there would be so many opportunities for funny men and women that one creator’s bias would be no big deal, and Carolla would be free to create his type of humor for his audience with people who match up with his sympathies. On the other hand, part of the reason Carolla’s line of thinking is as prevalent as it is, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, is that for too long there was extremely few opportunities for funny and creative women to thrive.

It would be a shame if Carolla’s close-mindedness remained pervasive enough to perpetuate the stereotype it created. The odd part of Carolla holding such a view is that he obviously styles himself a no-bullshit free-thinking truth-teller, but here he is obviously fitting a narrative to his closed-off worldview. To go from thinking a few women are unfunny to thinking all or even most women are unfunny is the very opposite of free-thinking. Imagine the absurdity of the reverse. Would anyone be taken seriously if they tried to claim men were unfunny on the basis of Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia?

Some people are funny, most people are not, especially. A good number of the funny people are women. A lot more funny women would be visible and known if there were a longer history of opportunity for women in comedy, which means that Carolla’s statements are only going to get even more wrong as time moves on. Hopefully the future societies run by women won’t judge us men too harshly based on the work of Adam Carolla. I suspect we’d be found wanting.

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