Comedy, Part 1

British polemicist Christopher Hitchens argued that Hillary Clinton’s treatment by the media in the Democratic nomination race did not amount to sexism, which you can’t compare to racism:

And one reason why the comparison almost never works is a very simple one: No anthropologist or ethnologist or geneticist of any reputation really believes that the human species is subdivided by race, whereas it would be a very incautious person who did not regard the human species as separated for reproductive purposes into two sexes or genders. One distinction is false, in other words, while the other is real.

I guess he’s missed sociology post the mid-1970s?  Because since then feminist writer after anti-racist writer after feminist anti-racist writer has drawn attention to discrimination being based not on our biology, but on how society gives meaning to our biology.

Mr Hitchen’s inability to understand discrimination may perhaps be explained when we discover his mother said as she sent him off to school in Cambridge: ‘If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it.’

Earlier this year Mr Hitchens also explained that men have to be funny to get dates with women, but women are “backward” at generating humour because:

Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.

Right.  So, as long as we’re sexy, we don’t need to be funny.  That is, if we want a male partner.  I wonder how gay men get on?  Must be tiring, all that trying to make each other laugh to get a shag.

He does admit there are some funny women out there, but gives us the Hitchens comic criteria:

Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.

Again with the “right.”  I won’t dissect any more of Mr Hitchens – when polemic crosses over into doltish offensiveness, it’s no longer interesting in my opinion.  There’s enough critique already, like the female comedian who takes him to task based on statistics, and an Alessandra Stanley rebuttal which finishes by pointing out female comics have to be gorgeous as well as funny these post-feminist days.

Christopher Hitchens rebuts Ms Stanley by saying she probably fancies him.  In an ironic and amusing way, of course. 

But he did prompt me to search YouTube for some of my fave funny women, like Aotearoa’s very own hefty dykey Topp Twins:

British Asian Shazia Mirza, cracking funnies at Islam from the inside.

Or American Margaret Cho?

Or maybe my all-time fave, Black British comic Angie Le Mar from south-east London – worryingly completely bereft of the Hitchens criteria:

Phew, though, back to Roseanne Barr, with her reassuringly cuddly, kabalist exterior, and mention of Women’s Lib close to dykishness despite the reassuring husband:

And I have to confess to being helpless with laughter every time Friends’  Phoebe picked up her guitar:

While Australia’s Cath and Kim let me laugh sheepishly at bogan aspirations.

This is just for starters – I’ve got other things to do today – what about Dawn French’s end jokes on the Vicar of Dibley or Sarah Silverman or Jennifer Saunders or Pamela Stephenson or Kristen Schall or Josie Long or Michelle A’Court…..please add more….

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3 thoughts on “Comedy, Part 1

  1. “Right. So, as long as we’re sexy, we don’t need to be funny. That is, if we want a male partner. ”

    I understand why women may find Hitchens remarks somewhat offensive, but I think it kind of misses the point. This is what Hitchens does and how he makes a living. He’d be the kind of guy that would get rid of a wasps nest by pouring oil over it and chucking a match at it… his tv appearances and coloums exist to stir things up and he likes pushing the boundaries. I take issue with a lot of his views (mainly his political leanings in recent years) but I do have a grudging repspect for the way he says what he feels and it that’s not always easy.
    Hitchens comment about attractiveness and sense of humour is obviously over-exaggerated, but I do believe it has an inkling of truth. Women who are average to good looking can pick up men whenever they like, seriously I believe that. Average looking men have more of a problem in this area and have to ‘show off’ their attribute in some way to attract female attention. If it’s not through huge pecs and biceps and Johnny Depp looks, it’s got to be through personality. The same thing happens in the animal kingdom. The males all vie among each other for the females attention who choses who she will mate with. It’s pretty pathetic for men when you really think about it (well, unless you’re one of the lucky hot ones!). So yeah, although there are women who are extremely funny, it does seem there is a lower proportion. Of course this could just be down to societal factors and the kind of male dominated atmosphere the comedy circuit is based on BUT I also think women don’t have to sharpen this skill as much as all the average looking guys out there. It also tends to be ugly/average looking guys who are funny as well. It would also partly explain why a lot of very attractive men and women seem bereft of personality… they haven’t needed to develop one, their good looks has seen the through!

    Even as a guy I consider myself a feminist so I hope this hasn’t come across the wrong way. I just feel Hitchens words ring true to a small extent, although I feel he’s going over the top with this whole idea and people shouldn’t take it so seriously as I dont think he really does himself.

  2. Hey Kennedy121,
    I agree with you about Hitchen’s raison d’etre – he’s a polemicist, it’s what they do.
    I also agree with you that his arguments have a semblance of ‘yeah, that sounds about right’ – until you look at the assumptions which underpin them.
    Humour and attractiveness are both ideas/concepts that only make sense in social terms. A hermit has no one to laugh at their jokes.
    So who decides what is funny, and what is not? Are black people as funny as white people? Are straight people as funny as queer people? Are women as funny as men?
    All of these questions are slightly ridiculous, because humour only works in particular social situations. Feminist jokes don’t go down well with misogynists (which may mean Hitchens is missing a rich source of women’s humour 😉
    And much ‘mainstream’ humour which is remarkably successful, when scrutinised, has frighteningly unfunny foundations. I’m recalling now popular British male comic Frank Skinner, and his repeated jokes about when he’s having anal sex with his wife and she asks him to stop, he’s like ‘yeah sure’. Yeah, that’s right, a joke about anally raping his wife which I saw on mainstream television in the UK – without fuss or much notice.
    I think when complex social phenomena like humour are brought down to simplistic biological determinants, really it’s just about reinforcing privilege. What about jokes across culture? I couldn’t understand humour in the UK when I first lived there, because all the jokes about French and German stereotypes didn’t make sense – regardless of whether it was a man or woman telling it. Ditto people who visit NZ and do not understand our national compulsion with ‘joking’ about Australia as part of our national identity.
    I think people are funny for a variety of reasons, not always about attracting the opposite sex – which is another problem with Hitchen’s thesis – not everyone is straight!
    Absolutely humour is attractive – most of my friends and previous lovers have made me laugh for sure – but it also gets used to cover up embarassment, to make new friends, to diffuse tension, to build alliances, to ridicule, to silence people you don’t agree with.
    It’s complex, and not, for me, explainable in an equation relating back to sex and attractiveness.
    But I definitely agree with you in terms of not taking Christopher Hitchens too seriously 🙂

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