Men and women find different things amusing and to prove my point I only need three words: “The Three Stooges.” Right now, if you are a guy you are smiling and nodding your head. If you are a gal you are shaking your head and softly saying, “I just don’t get them. They aren’t funny, they are just stupid.”
Women and critics dismiss The Stooges as juvenile and brainless. Which they are AND which is why they are so funny. Perhaps it is just the way men are wired. Apparently, men find pleasure in the absence of pain, so therefore pain being inflicted on anyone else is funny as long as it is someone else. So to see Larry, Moe and Curly poking each other in the eye, hitting each other with pipes or twirling ladders into one another’s noggins is quite amusing. Even if we know it is coming, even it we have seen it before, even it we have seen it 100 times, it is still funny. The more the character suffers, the more we realize that we are not the one suffering so the funnier we find it.
Women, on the other hand, apparently find a need to have empathy with the suffering character. So the antics, instead of being amusing, tend to be discomforting. While the masculine mind says, “hit him harder this time!” the feminine mind says, “I feel your pain and I want to help you out of this unfortunate predicament.”
Women want “higher humor” that is social, rather than physical. Humor that is based on awkward interactions of complex characters is the humor they are looking for. Discomfort, not pain is what makes women laugh.
But, wait, perhaps The Stooges are not as “low brow” as we have assumed. In a talk entitled “Are the Stooges Funny?: Soitanly!” (1996), Robert Solomon, who taught philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin until his death in 2007, argued that the Stooges humor “constitutes a counterexample to the major philosophical theories of humor and is the basis of a better view, which he called the inferiority theory.” So when I laugh at The Stooges, I am not just laughing at the prat falls, I am laughing at the ritual humiliation that runs counter to prevailing social constructs of humor in modern society!
It is interesting that almost every list of qualities that women look for in a man will include a “sense of humor.” Yet, it does not seem like the ideal man is Larry, Moe or Curly unless he is a kinder, gentler Stooge who finds his humor in complex inter-personal relationships. But then if those complex inter-personal relationships involve a few ladders and power tools……