I publish a comedy site by women for women, so from time to time I get emails regarding the infamous 2007 Vanity Fair article Why Women Aren’t Funny by esteemed orator and journalist Christopher Hitchens. In it, Hitchens enlightens us that through the necessity of protecting our species, and because we actually harness more power and intelligence than men, and also because we’re pretty, women are not as funny as males. That is, unless we’re “hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.” The inquisitive parties who contact me asking about this article are sometimes budding young female comedians, sometimes Woman’s Studies majors, but most often they are budding young female comedian Woman’s Studies majors. They ask whether I have seen the essay and want to know, “What should we do about it?” They are enraged, appalled and exasperated. My answer is not quite what they expect. You see, I love Christopher Hitchens. And I think you should, too.
I sometimes fantasize that I have escaped the Deep South where people are irritated by my use of somewhat big words, and I’m on a panel assembled to conduct clever examination of significant issues. Like what we should do to evil Wall Street bureaucrats who we completely ignored despite reputable warnings until, well, our unemployment ran out. Or whether there are ghosts. Mr. Hitchens is also a member of this esteemed panel and true to form, he would say something thought provoking and outside the norm such as, “The end of our civilization will be caused by genetically modified sustenance, and is completely rooted from the moment Oprah Winfrey commenced a pious food holocaust by avowing she would stop consuming ground beef to escape Mad Cow Disease.” And I would raise an eyebrow and attempt to counter him. He then retorts, pointing out “It is a shame a girl such as you who had promise of intellect instead hid from the world eating Cheetos and Nutter Butters publishing humor from a dark messy corner somewhere, missing her chance to be a knowledgeable member of society.” And my answer would be something like, “But it would only appear that way to a toothless miserable alcoholic with a speech impediment and the demeanor of a dead toenail, sir.” And he would then argue using a number of irrefutable facts proving his point to be more accurate than mine, because he is a thousand times more well-read than me, and he would be right. In conclusion we would both be quite pleased with the exchange because he would have taught something, I would have learned something, and we similarly thrive on both positive and negative reactions.
I respect Mr. Hitchens’ writing, including the above mentioned Vanity Fair article, and I think women have a lot to gain from reading and watching him. Mr. Hitchens questions malevolent powers such as monotheistic religions, which oppress women. He is a master at deliberation in the worst possible way, and I mean that in the best possible way. If, as numerous women, you need a lesson on how to make a point without overly explaining yourself, he is your man. His assessment of female humor VS male humor brought attention toward our efforts to being funny women, instead of pretending we don’t exist. How many male writers have done that?
So to answer your question, my budding young female comedian Woman’s Studies major friend, I suggest that you don’t worry about what one man said. Work at your craft to become as funny as you can, and support other female comedians around you. Besides, comedy is subjective. I believe Mr. Hitchens when he says heterosexual pretty women are not funny to him. His mother was probably very attractive, and every time she pointed and laughed at his miniscule penis, it is doubtful he felt she was at all funny. With a dick that pathetically small, who can blame him?
Jacki Schklar is the publisher of Funny not Slutty and Comedy Rants. She is also a social media and internet communications consultant for organizations. She produces stuff, publishes stuff and cooks stuff. Most of which is funny, some delicious and some marketing related.