The Secret Reason Men Are Obsessed With Funny Women

Photo: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
couple laughing

In an apparent attempt to keep the ghost of Christopher Hitchens alive and haunting us forever, The Atlantic published an article in their health section in 2015 titled, "Why Men Don't Like Funny Women." (Articles about funny women obviously belong in the health section because laughter is the best medicine.)

The article's click-bait headline has since been changed to "The Plight of the Funny Female," to no doubt indicate sympathy for us poor, funny women affected by the article's premise, which is, "Women want men who will tell jokes; men want women who will laugh at theirs."

So what happens then to women who are funny? Who love telling jokes and making people — including the men we date and marry — laugh? Are we all cast aside, like the author was by a man she dated, in favor of less charming chicks?

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Thankfully, the answer to that is HECK NO!

Plenty of men absolutely adore funny women and the funny women I know have no problem getting dates. In fact, it turns out that confident and smart men who are also funny see the ability to make them laugh as a requirement in a partner.

And it may be the key to making a marriage work, according to my friends and colleagues in the New York comedy scene.

When I asked Brett Wean, an improviser, and storyteller, what he loved about having a funny wife, he said, "For me, a woman's inclination to 'be funny' provides the spark to any chemistry we might have. A woman's willingness to be silly, make jokes, let it all hang out, and not hide behind some wall of seriousness, is sexy."

Brett's not alone in thinking a sense of humor is what makes women hot.

Comedian and local talk show host James Bewley says, "My wife hooked me because she was whip-smart and funny and quick on email. The fact that she can still make me laugh ten years on is the reason we're still together. It's the reason we can put up with a temporarily cranky child squirting all the toothpaste in the sink instead of brushing their teeth like I just asked them to do for the hundredth time."

My friends Erin Judge and Jesse Ross are a married couple who both love Erin's brilliant jabs.

"I once met a man who made me laugh so much that I first had sex with him, then ate his head like a mantis," she explained. "That's when I started cracking jokes: after I absorbed his powers."

She added, "My husband used to laugh out of sheer terror, but now he seems to genuinely enjoy my jokes. I call it Schlockholm Syndrome."

For his part, Jesse says the argument in The Atlantic has no merit. "Why on earth wouldn't I prefer funny women? Eff that. Laughing feels good, especially while f*****g!"

Engaged comedians Calvin Cole and Caitlin Puckett believe that their shared sense of humor is "absolutely key." Calvin says, "Caitlin is one of the few people, guy or gal, that makes me genuinely laugh all the time. The fact that we have complementary biologies is an enormous bonus."

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Caitlin added, "I feel my most attractive and confident when I make someone laugh. I've never been in a relationship or even attracted to someone who didn't think I was funny. The only way to end my undying love for Calvin is for him to stop laughing at me."

Musical improviser Evan Kaufman goes even further about how essential his wife's comedic ability is to their new marriage, saying, "My wife Caitlin Kean isn't only very funny, she makes me funnier and helps me realize when things aren't funny. We got married to create a writers' room, really."

Musical comic and performance artist Kelly Dwyer concurs that humor is at the heart of her long-lasting relationship with her husband.

"Sex with my husband is bad a running joke," she confessed.

"The setup is predictable and the punch line comes too early. But seriously, if you're in the same relationship for over ten years, you absolutely must have and appreciate a good sense of humor. Weird, scary, boring, and even tedious stuff can be what ends a marriage. It NEEDS comic relief. Knowing what makes my husband laugh is far more valuable than knowing what makes him cum."

When it comes to sex, male comedians aren't the only ones who can get some laughs alone. According to my women comic friends, tickling a guy's funny bone often leads to boning.

"The first guy I ever had sex with certainly appreciated and respected a funny woman," stand-up Angela Cobb said. "We were getting close to doing it and he stopped and said, 'Do you think we should wait?' I quickly responded, 'I'm 25 years old. Wait for what ... 'til I'm on Letterman?' I like to think that sealed the deal."

30-year-old stand-up comic Jessica Watkins says, "I have yet to do a show and not have a man try and have sex with me after. Humor is so alluring. I can say I have a boyfriend and the guy will still buy me a free drink!"

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Selena Coppock, stand-up and the author of The New Rules for Blondes, shared her experiences with dating which affirm the opinion I hold about one type of guy who really appreciates a funny woman.

"I tend to date pretty macho guys," she says. "Hockey fighters, firemen  and without fail, they all LOVE that I'm a standup comedian and they support it. They love shows, they like the playful and thoughtful nature of comedians, and these are men's men."

If we're looking at this through the lens of evolutionary psychology, it makes sense that working-class alpha males like funny women. Because they tend to be big and strong, they don't need to prove their masculinity and dominance using intellect alone.

They're not threatened by a smart woman, but instead, see her value, and due to the nature of their work, they appreciate the stress relief that comedy brings.

It is a need to dominate that's at the core of "thinking" men not wanting to date funny women, but thankfully, that need is waning in men across the board. As Bronwyn Isaac put it in a piece for The Frisky, "Do a lot of men still think men are funnier than women? Yes. Is that disappointing? Yes. I feel bad for the tiny world these men are limiting themselves to."

But, she continues, "Funny women don't have time for cowardly men. We aren’t attracted to small-minded stereotypes of toxic masculinity, and we know that being our absurd selves isn’t condemning us to a life of loneliness and rejection. It’s just the opposite: it’s opening us up to a fuller and more authentic experience."

Several funny women I spoke to said they've never had to deal with the kind of small-minded men Isaac describes. When asked if she thought men didn't want to date funny women, frequent Nightly Show panelist Kerry Coddett replied, "I've never really had that problem. I actually find that once I make a joke, men instantly warm up to me. My boyfriend thinks I'm the funniest person ever. At least that's what he told me!"

Is it intimidating, especially for younger women who aren't enjoying or attempting careers as professional comedians to show their comedy chops to prospective partners? Maybe. And understandably so, given the cultural preference detailed in The Atlantic that many college-aged men seem to have for women who are willing to take a back seat to their intellectual "prowess."

But, as writer Alice Bradley assures these women, "There's always the dum-dum who thinks if you're funny you're going to make fun of them. Those people are not to be dated. In that way, being funny is an excellent jerk-filter."

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My pal Sara Benincasa, the comedian, and author who was interviewed for The Atlantic article agrees with Alice's advice. "I would add that it strikes me over and over again that when we give up pretending to be some imagined ideal - obedient, sweet, kind, pretty, etc. - we end up attracting people more than when we were trying to like cosplay Good Womanhood (TM)." She says, "Humor is more of an aphrodisiac than polite conformity."

True, says comedian Amanda Gail. She joked, "I just saw my ex-boyfriend's profile on Tinder and he specifically said: wit and funny girls are an absolute must ... so I guess it was my looks that he didn't like."

The bottom line, according to storyteller Julie Threlkeld, is that "being truly funny requires intelligence, empathy, emotional maturity and a worldview that can be articulated. The only people I've found who don't appreciate that," she says, "are the ones who are lacking in those things themselves." No joke.

Carolyn Castiglia is a comedian, television personality, and writer. She appears regularly as a talking head on HLN, and has made many memorable cameos on cable networks including VH1, MTV, Comedy Central, Food, and more.