Being funny is of real importance to me.
Growing up I was fed the narrative that THE most important thing was to make people laugh. Although, as I have grown, I have come to appreciate that my life is made up of a series of priorities; namely surrounding things such as kindness, and love – humour, and my ability to utilise it, has always been crucial.
I don’t generally like to admit to this. In part because it makes my childhood sound a bit like a circus but mostly because I find owning and admitting to a sense of humour a difficult thing to do.
In the same way that it’s basically impossible to describe yourself as pretty without sounding like a total tosser, to describe yourself as funny takes a special kind of confidence, the likes of which I have never encountered before.
Being funny, like being pretty, is one of those things that other people can say about you… and god it feels good when they do.
To be thought of as pretty, whether we’ll admit to it or not is a something that most of us strive for in some capacity.
Thanks to society’s long-standing obsession with encouraging us to better ourselves and ultimately, our desire to be considered attractive by a potential partner (and our Instagram followers), the focus on our appearance is paramount.
To have our insecurities squashed and egos bolstered by someone willing to testify to our attractiveness whether by a like or as exampled via flirtatious or complimentary behaviour feels good. Gratifying and good.
The importance of attractiveness to most people, is the closest thing I can think of to the importance of humour to me.
Maybe because I write for a living, maybe because I am surrounded by some of the funniest people I know or perhaps it’s just down to the importance put on it by first my grandmother and then my dad; being funny just matters.
So there is little that fills me with more happiness than hearing laughter after something I’ve said or receiving positive feedback on something titter-worthy that I have written.
And yet, because I’m British, awkward, and aware that for a woman to be seen and respected as being properly, genuinely funny is difficult in what is still a totally male dominated space, there is nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than when someone tells me that I am being funny.
Particularly when a man tells me I am being funny.
Yes, I seem to have completely contradicted myself.
I live for positive affirmations, but GRRR I hate it when I get them from men! What a predictably impossible feminist I am, there’s just no pleasing some people eh??
Apparently not, since my humour is often commented on by men, and it drives me absolutely crackers.
The compliment, when escaping from a person in the form of uncontrolled laughter, is the greatest gift of all. Even a quiet chuckle brings with it a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Similarly when humour is used as a means of describing me, I am filled with a sense of unparalleled pride. To be described as funny is to be bestowed, as far as I am concerned, a great honour.
Humour, comedy, being funny relies utterly on validation, so to say that I get annoyed when I am congratulated on having any of these traits, sounds moronic, but here we are.
For me, this idea that I need my humour validating, particularly by men, implies that it’s not really mine to own in the first place.
And that is perhaps not a totally unfair or unjustified feeling.
The world is full of funny women. The world is also terrible at dealing with funny women.
When I make a joke I can be fairly sure where it will land. With my attempt at humour comes a confidence in myself that what I’m say will be well received, appreciated, and admired.
I am normally rewarded for my efforts with the aforementioned uncontrolled burst of laughter or at least a wicked glance from the recipient intended.
I know when a joke has landed and I take pride in that.
Do I sound like a wanker yet? I feel like I sound like a wanker. Do I seriously have a problem with people verbalising their appreciation for me and my witty one liners? What kind of a self-entitled little nightmare.
What is comedy, after all, if not something performed for the enjoyment of other people? If not met with laughter, is comedy still comedy?
Without the validation offered by an audience, normally in the form of laughter, what is a comedian’s purpose? What do they hope to achieve? What is the point?
Of every profession, being professionally funny is the one that requires the most validation of all. Without it, who is to say anyone is ever even being funny???
In comedy, validation is everything.
So why do I take such umbrage with the positive affirmations I am often offered by men; a validation that I clearly want, else, why would I bother attempting humour in the first place?
In truth, I don’t know quite if I’m explaining it properly, so let me set the scene for you and hopefully it will make more sense.
Last week I was texting a friend about something or other, he’s a nice guy, I don’t know him really well but we’re pally enough.
He made a quite funny remark and I, fancying myself as a bit of a ~comedienne~ after a large glass of vino, replied with something equally banterous (hereby a word).
I left the door wide open for him to continue the joke, equally, it could have been left or acknowledged simply with a haha or a lol or some other not entirely disingenuous means of expressing laughter.
Instead I got a message back: “that was properly funny.”
Now tell me – what am I meant to reply to that?
“Thanks”? Too weird.
“I know”? Too arrogant.
“That was the fucking point”? A bit rude.
So of course, being the awkward soul that I am I sent back the emoji of the 1960s chap busting some shapes on the dance floor and that was that. Conversation over. His reply, the abruptness, the matter-of-fact validation? It had thrown me for six.
In a way that replies like that have done so many times before. Because those are words that I have heard, so many times before.
There are certain men, there are certain instances, where I’ll make a joke, a funny joke, that, rather than being met with laughter, is met with what I assume to be a compliment, delivered with the seriousness of someone telling me that my house is going to be re-posesed.
And I don’t know why this happens.
I don’t know if it’s because comedy has for so long been an industry dominated by men. I don’t know if it’s because men are still struggling to find women funny and are surprised when they do. I don’t know if it’s because people don’t expect it from me. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t look like a traditional comedienne. I don’t know if they think they’re being nice.
I do often wonder though if they think they’re being helpful.
Like a teacher holding you back at the end of the lesson to pat you on the back and congratulate you properly because the A they gave you on your test wasn’t quite enough in the way of praise.
I often wonder if I am sneaking into a man’s space when I am deliberately funny.
I regularly hear this word being used to describe men. I know so many funny men.
The dialogue that surrounds funny women is still so different.
Still there is an air of surprise when a woman is described as being funny. And you can be sure her gender will be brought into it.
She’s the FUNNIEST woman I know. You can almost here the underlying: “well she’s bloody funny, for a woman.”
A thought we’ve all been guilty of harbouring I’m sure.
Famously, women just aren’t that funny. At least, we’re not that funny professionally.
There is no reason on earth why we shouldn’t be. Why we’re not. In fact, we probably are, but I suppose it all comes back to that validation, and I do wonder if men are entirely ready to validate women and their humour yet.
Why, for example, can’t women be pretty and funny?
Was it they say about pretty girls? They never had to develop a personality. Perhaps this is why the comedy circuit for women is full of women who don’t meet society’s expectations. But that’s infuriating.
Looks, as is demonstrated by men ALL THE TIME, have nothing to do with humour. Look at Ryan Reynolds. A god amongst men and a joy to follow on Instagram.
His wife, Blake Lively, to my mind, just as funny but since she’s beautiful the conversation surrounding her humour is still entirely different. She’s congratulated for it, by men who deem themselves, for some weird reason, to be joke connoisseurs.
Blake Lively, by society’s standards, is just too pretty to be anything else.
I’m sure that has everything to do with the confidence that is required to be funny. A confidence that women for a long time have not possessed and one that we probably still lack in an industry that is not entirely comfortable with our kind yet.
Amy Schumer misses the mark for a lot of people, so too does Lena Dunham, Sarah Millican and Miranda Hart. All funny women, all very different cups of tea.
Much like Jimmy Carr, Russel Brand, Russel Howard and Frankie Boyle all have different audiences, but there are few people who would accuse these guys of flat-out NOT BEING FUNNY as they do with the women who’s jokes they don’t quite get.
It’s a huge topic and one that I am grossly under-qualified to discuss, least of all because I’m not even that funny.
I have zero interest in a career in comedy, namely because I don’t think I poses even the remotest capacity to pick myself up should one of my jokes nose dive (as one inevitably would).
This post merely stemmed from the fact that I am fast becoming tired of the validation men keep giving me when I crack a joke, as if I arrived at a party I wasn’t invited to and won a prize for best dressed.
Perhaps I’m asking for a bit much. Perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill. Moaning about the very thing every single person strives for when attempting humour is about as frustrating a thing as I could have addressed.
I’m tired of being a surprise.
My sister is the funniest person I know.
And I shit you not, when I went to write that I very fucking nearly went to write ‘funniest woman’ I know.
To be funny, you know you are being funny. The only validation required is your laughter.
The last thing we need is to have our fantastic jokes mansplained back to us.