Are Girls Funny?

As an avid Netflix binge-watcher, I have made my way through the extensive selection of sitcoms the site has to offer. Some of my favorites feature female protagonists, including Parks and Recreation, The Mindy Project, and Inside Amy. Each woman is witty, sharp, and most importantly, funny. When I watch these shows I think of how well these women carry the story and truly rival, if not outshine, their male counterparts.

Left: via Comedy Central. Right: via The Comic’s Comic.


As a woman, I am aware that these are female-centric shows, but assume that they are also relatable for men. Sadly, this tends not to be the case; when I speak to my brother about some of our favorite shows on Netflix, he rarely agrees that female comedians are funny. Mindy’s humor is “too girly”, but Amy is “too crude for a girl”. He finds no offense, however, in Daniel Tosh’s sitcom, Tosh.0, or Louis C.K.’s, Louis. I hoped that my brother’s opinion was a result of personal taste and not the popular male opinion, but the more I examine the subject the more I recognize how few men appreciate female comedians simply as comedians.

In many ways, female and male comedians satirize similar topics: casual sex, politics, and prescribed social roles. While male comedians often face criticism for their controversial standup, their actual “funniness” is rarely questioned. When female comedians make jokes that are too controversial or too feministic, the immediate response is that they are simply not funny. This creates a space in which female comedians have to tread lightly with their content, and those who choose to deviate from this are immediately labeled with negative stereotypes. Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman are constantly berated in the media for their crude humor and are then labeled sluts, uneducated, racist, and overall, not funny. The backlash women receive is much more severe than men because they are not given the same benefit of comedy that their material is not meant to be taken seriously. Instead they are chastised for their insensitivity, because it is so unrealistic for a woman to use humor.

All criticism of female comedy is not this extreme; perhaps the most pervasive and problematic is the quick dismissal of female comedians. The overall opinion of viewers is that male comedians are funny, and female comedians just aren’t. Whether they are too feminine, too crude, too political, or too loud, funny women are not receiving the recognition they deserve from the majority of viewers.


This clip is a parody of the idea that “Women Just Aren’t Funny”, performed by successful female comedians.

Arianna Gershon

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15 Responses to Are Girls Funny?

  1. mediaphiles says:

    As a male I think that we prefer male comedians because it is easier for us to relate to them. I do believe that female comedians are funny, but it is harder for me to relate to what they say. I went to watch Amy Schumer with a girl friend last december, and I had a great time but I felt that she enjoyed it much more than I did. The same way when we watch Louis C.K for example I laughed way harder. I think humor is very relative. – Jon Baquero

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I love this blog post, Arianna! This idea that women aren’t funny is untrue and I’m glad that you brought light to this issue. There are so many female comedians that are hilarious. I think this issue relates largely to the gender stereotypes that still exist in America today.
    -Allie Kleinman

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I totally agree with you Arianna. I personally find female comedians funnier. Actually, I do not find male comedians funny at all. Maybe it does have to do with Jon’s point about being relatable though. As a gay male, I feel that I can relate more to female comedians and their humor. But I believe a lot of this relates to social expectations. Women are conventionally supposed to be delicate, polite, ladylike, and other misogynistic stereotypes. I sometimes think men are just uncomfortable when women (and LGBTQ people) talk about sex, because it is usually a masculine-centered conversation. Regardless, I love Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman. -Andrew Guido

  4. marymdalton says:

    The double standard still exists…but it is teetering…thank goodness.

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I don’t think I had ever really thought about this point until reading your blog post, but maybe that is just because I usually watch female comedians with my girl friends and guy comedians with my guy cousins and friends. I really like this idea though, and I think that you are right in this notion. I wonder if maybe women are criticized more for not being funny rather than topic choice because for the risk of the criticizer being called sexist. For example, if a male comedian were to joke about sex and sleeping around, he’d most likely be given a high-five or at least a laugh. If a woman were to joke about sleeping around, she’d most likely get shameful looks or a quiet audience. The problem with this example obviously lies much deeper than the critiques of male versus female comedians, but I think they are all interconnected. Glad you brought this to light!
    -Nicolette McCann

  6. mediaphiles says:

    I have also never really thought about this until reading your blog post. I am a huge fan of Amy Schumer and it is so ridiculous that she is at a disadvantage because she is a woman. I also strongly agree with Nicolette’s comment about the double standard when joking about sensitive topics- it is so unfair! – Kelsey Sierra

  7. mediaphiles says:

    The double standard is interesting when it comes to female comedians. Why are women questioned when they make perverse or crude jokes but the same is not done unto men who make these same jokes in front of crowds of hundreds of people? It is interesting to dig deeper here and see why this seemingly male dominated profession cant be advanced by women.

    -Meghan Murphy

  8. mediaphiles says:

    Yes! There is definitely a double standard among comedians and I am glad someone brought this up. I have noticed that a great number of people like to associate Amy Schumer with “relationship comedy”, meaning that she only focuses on romantic relationships and her own experiences behind them. Amy Schumer is so much more than that. A lot of the sketches on her show are about overall empowerment. It is about how to feel good about yourself instead of the surrounding factors such as a romantic relationship.

    -Shelby Halliman

  9. mediaphiles says:

    I think the reason many men do not find crude female comedians humourus is simply because it steps outside of traditional roles and we are not yet used to that. I have seen a few episodes of “Inside Amy Schumer” and it was a little weird for me to hear the crude jokes she was saying. They were funny, it was just weird hearing it from a woman. It will take some getting used to, but I do enjoy female comedians humor because it is just like male comedians: funny.

    – turner arrington

  10. mediaphiles says:

    Excuse the long quote (and obscenities), but:
    “Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday night read-through to start. […] Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”,
    Jimmy Fallon […] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
    Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
    With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.” – Tina Fey, Bossypants

    I read this book over the summer and there’s A LOT of great stuff about the perception of female comics – I highly recommend reading. As far as the comments on this post, I personally tend to disagree with the general idea of not finding things funny because they are not relatable – sure, some things are more relatable than others, but I think anyone can find something objectively funny (ex. finding Kevin Hart standups to be hilarious even though my experience as a white woman is the farthest thing from his experience as a black man). I think it more comes down to personal taste and , of course, the ugly double standard. – Kristina Kokkonos

    • mediaphiles says:

      Kristina, I agree with you completely with regards to things being objectively funny. No matter your gender, race, ethnicity, sex, etc. you should be able to appreciate hilarity. On a different note, it is also interesting to look into the types of humor that men use vs. women use. I recently read an article for my Organizational Comm class in which humor in the workplace was discussed. The study concluded that men can use more forceful and power role humor, while women often keep the humor to their peers. Very interesting and not surprising conclusions based on preexisting power dynamics. -Katie Nelson

  11. mediaphiles says:

    So many great points and conversational topics in this! I have never really taken the time to critically explore the reason for why people are more drawn to male comedians. I am not even sure if my gender particularly sways which type of comedy I prefer to listen to/watch. I will definitely now pay more attention for the underlying reasons explaining my preference.
    -Kendall Fischlein

  12. mediaphiles says:

    I definitely find female comedians funny but I do agree that they are very much underrated. Actresses like Tina Fey or Amy Poehler I feel have a huge following, but when it comes to someone like Amy Schumer the reaction is a lot more critical. Like what Katie said no matter your gender or race hilarity should be appreciated and I want to see more female comedians in the media.
    – Ziba

  13. mediaphiles says:

    YES YES YES! I love this post. Women are funny. I think Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ellen, and Amy Schumer have made huge strides for women in the field of comedy. There is still a long way to go, unfortunately, but I think there is a larger spotlight on the stereotypes about female comedians which will help to tear them down.

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