It’s a well-known fact that only men are funny. And if you’re talking about online humour, only self-involved, young men are funny. Scorn, misanthropy and cultural snobbery are what are needed to be funny on the internet. Oh, and testes.
Are women really still seen as unfunny? Is it because so many of us talk about about children or Being A Woman. Apparently these are not topics for mainstream comedy. A friend told me how unfunny Jo Brand is because of her “jokes about periods”. I can’t remember the last time I heard Jo Brand talk about periods. Her brilliant comedy Getting On is female-centric but it isn’t really over-flowing with references to tampax. (Note to self, don’t use “over-flowing” and “tampax” in the same sentence.)
I’m aware that it’s a pretty tough call therefore to make both motherhood and feminism funny. I’ve not managed it… My favourite joke is “how many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?” Answer: “One. And it’s NOT FUNNY, OK?,” but the last time I told this joke I over-egged the ‘angry’ punchline and just got a slightly frightened silence.
One of the discoveries I’ve made since I started this online-single-mum thing is how many funny women there are out there. So many witty, silly, self-deprecating posts. So may well-written stories and anecdotes about life with kids.
Mumsnet has a bit of a ‘smug middle class mum’ reputation, and attracts trolls, but I’ve also seen some brilliant thinking, writing and living displayed on their talkboards. My favourite board is “AIBU” (Am I Being Unreasonable?). The questions range from the unintentionally hilarious (“AIBU to insist on catering at the PTA?” Errr… yes?) to the sad (“AIBU to ask him to stop seeing other women?”), to some splendid examples of silliness. My own personal, gently humorous, favourite is below:
“[If my three-year-old got onto AIBU]
AIBU to throw my bowl of pear across the kitchen?
Earlier today I demanded that my mother stop what she was doing and immediately get me a pear. She is by nature a difficult woman and she insisted on finishing her wee and washing her hands first . I explained loudly that this was unacceptable but, typically for her, my protestations only made her more stubborn. Then she moved the goalposts and decided that I could only have my pear if I said “please” (actually I worry about her in this respect – she is utterly obsessed with that word, it’s not normal) so I stormed around the house for 25 minutes or so and then eventually gave in and said please (so now she’ll think if she holds out long enough I’ll end up saying “please” every time – made a rod for my own back there ).
Anyway, she asked me if I wanted the pear to be cut up or whole. I replied “cutted up” and the utter arse of a woman cut up my pear! I was speechless with rage! Obviously, words were not enough to express my fury so I threw the cutted up pear across the kitchen and kicked her in the shins. WIBU?”
I love this kind of daftness — taking 15 minutes out of a packed day to make yourself laugh by writing it down.
We’ve moved on from the days of John Belushi deliberately sabotaging the careers of female comedians, and I hope we’ve moved on from Christopher Hitchens attempts to explain why women aren’t funny “scientifically”, so I’m not sure why there’s still a whiff of prejudice against the more mumsy end of comedy — that it’s less clever and less worthwhile. Perhaps it’s just being fueled by trolls, and it’s better to ignore it, but Mumsy doesn’t always have to mean baggy, saggy and a little bit past it. It can also mean a person who’s seen some real peaks and troughs of life and finds it pretty hilarious, whichever way you look at it.
(This post is dedicated to AllHailTheAubergine who made my day with the “cutted up pear”)