Q: Why are all the dumb-blond jokes one-liners? A: So men can understand them.
From the Edmonton Sun, September 5, 1993
By Scripps Howard News Service
Q: A man is dating three women and wants to get married. He has to decide
which one to ask. He gives them each $1,000. The first one spends $800 on
clothes and puts the other $200 in the bank. The second one spends $200 on
clothes and puts the other $800 in the bank. The third one puts the whole
$1000 in the bank. Which one does he marry?
A: The one with the big breasts.
There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who are laughing at
that joke, and the ones who aren't. The former tend to be women. The latter
tend to be men.
Welcome to post-feminist humor. Welcome to male bashing.
Q: Why are all the dumb-blond jokes one-liners?
A: So men can understand them.
Nancy Gray is a stand-up comedienne. She is also the author of a book
called Stupid Men Jokes (several of which are sprinkled throughout this
article). Unlike most first-time authors, Gray says she had no problem at all
snaring the interest of publishers.
"We only shopped the manuscript around to about 10 publishing houses,
because it was such a hot topic. We had two or three publishers making us
offers," says the 35-year-old comedienne from North Carolina.
To produce the 128-page volume, Gray wrote many of the jokes and gathered
"I called all the female comediennes I knew, and I also solicited jokes
after my shows. I got a lot of jokes that way, from women in the audience,"
says Ms. Gray, giving anecdotal support to the notion that male bashing
continues to gain in popularity.
Q: What do you call a man with half a brain?
Ok, enough already. Why the anti-male humor?
To Mel Helitzer, humor aficionado and professor at Ohio University's Scripps
School of Journalism, the answer is all too obvious - and it's not all that
funny, at least not to women.
"You know," muses Helitzer, "psychiatrists listen very carefully to the kind
of humor you do during your sessions. What you're joking about is really
what's bothering you."
Helitzer, who teaches a course in the uses of humor and has written a book
called Comedy Writing Secrets, contends that joking about topics that actually
disturb us is one of the specie's better defence mechanisms.
"No one told Waco stories the first day (after the siege-ending fire), but
by the next day there were plenty of them. It's the same with women's jokes.
Humor is our way of coping with the crazy world around us."
Q: What do you call a man with his hands handcuffed behind his back?
To no small number of American women, the world lately has looked pretty
skewed, if not outright crazy.
"Last year was the so-called Year of the Woman in general, and I think we're
finally starting to realize you don't need to be a single professional woman
to be a feminist. We got tired of the Anita Hill thing, the Kennedy thing.
We were always in the news for the last few years, sure - but we were always
the victim," says Gray.
Anita Hill. William Kennedy Smith. Zoe Baird. Kimba Wood. Tailhook.
These and other things galvanized women, the comedienne says.
"My mother, who's from another generation, would never have even talked
about the election. To her, politics are a male thing, but this year, she
really got into the election. I sat and watched the Anita Hill hearings with
her. Even she is starting to be vocal, which says to me that many of us are
tired of watching men run our lives."
"Things have changed since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. There's
been a lot of concern, on the part of humorists as well as others, about the
harassment of women. So jokes that used to be acceptable office jokes - you
know, like the one about the guy who comes home and says to his wife, 'I just
won $10 million in the lottery, so be packed and ready to go' - nowadays, that
joke is no longer acceptable.
(A woman calls her husband. "I won the lottery. Sixteen million. Start
"What should I pack? Where are we going?" he replies.
"I don't care," says the wife. "Just be out of the house by the time I get
Whoa. What gives here? If it's off limits for the gander, shouldn't it be
the same for the goose?
Helitzer: "What we're seeing now are gender-reversal jokes. If you were a
man, you wouldn't laugh at them , but really, the jokes haven't
changed. The point of view has. I do a lot of after-dinner speaking, and
it's very important for me to know who's in the audience. If it's Knights of
Columbus, the lottery joke would work. If it's a group of nurses, I'd reverse
the gender. Women are delighted to hear jokes where men are the targets. I
mean, absolutely deee-lighted. I'm a little surprised, because they are
talking about equality."
But to Marilyn Motz, a professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State
University, this vein of humor is a phenomenon not limited to gender.
"I think there's a big difference between making jokes about people in
positions of power versus jokes about those who are powerless. It's not
inherent between males and females, it's more a reflection of who in our
society is in a position of greater or lesser power. That's true of whatever
is considered to be acceptable humor and an acceptable butt of a joke," says
Motz, whose specialities include women's studies and folklore.
Wellesley College sociologist Rosanna Hertz sees male-bashing as evidence
that men are slipping from their traditional position of social exaltation.
"Men are no longer viewed as sacred, although I'm not sure they ever were,
frankly. But they had that aura about them because they brought in the
paycheque. But women are now saying, 'Hey, this isn't such a gift you're
making to us.' These jokes just represent women's views. The one I
personally like is when all the comediennes make fun of the men who refuse to
ask for directions."
Q: If a man and woman jumped off a 10-storey building at the same time, which
one would land first?
A: The woman. The man would get lost.
All right, time out for a reality check. Isn't it just possible that all
these anecdotal reports of female rage are off target? Couldn't they merely
be the product of a vocal minority of women who are rilly, rilly, rilly PO'd?
Ummmmmm, not likely - at least, not according to The Roper Organization, one
of the country's leading poll-takers. Spokesman Brad Fay was asked: Did any
recent survey ask specifically about feminist humor?
"No, not exactly. But we did take a poll that did a good job of male-
bashing," he joked.
The survey, which Roper has done for Virginia Slims cigarettes every five
years, most recently found a considerable jump in "Riot Grrrrl" mentality.
"We found dramatic increases in criticism of men...It did indeed suggest
that, among the women in the poll, there was an increase in critical sentiment
about men and their attitudes and behavior."
Take these examples of women's responses of agreement to poll statements,
and compare the results from 20 years ago. Think of it as then-and-now
snapshots, looking at 1970 and 1990:
- Most men are basically kind, gentle and thoughtful.
Then, 67 percent agreed. Now, 51 percent do.
- Most men are interested in their work and life outside the home and don't
pay much attention to things going on at home.
Then, 39 percent; now 53 percent.
- Most men look at a woman and immediately think how it would be to go to
bed with her.
Then, 41 percent; now 54 percent.
- Most men are basically selfish and self-centered.
Then, 32 percent; now, 42 percent.
Ooooof. Ouch, huh guys? And to think, the most recent data were gathered
even before the Hill-Thomas hearings...
(Most girls tend to marry men who are like their dads. This is the real
reason mothers cry at weddings.)
Just maybe this ha-ha warfare is in some say inevitable. Lillian Maresch
suspects so, anyway.
As co-founder of Generation Insights, a market research firm specializing in
baby boomers, Maresch wonders if male-bashing jokes aren't linked with
psychology of aging.
"We're seeing the middle-aging of America. As the Me Generation turns
middle-aged, they've become the Mid-Life Generation. And when they go through
a major change, the entire country is transformed. This group redefines the
behavior that's appropriate for the culture," Maresch says.
"As people enter mid-life, we see men and women psychologically cross paths.
Men become more nurturing, more family-oriented. They become more inner-
directed. Women, on the other hand, become more aggressive. They become more
powerful, more dominant. This may be one of the explanations for what we're
Q: When is the only time a woman can change a man?
A: When he's a baby.
Helitzer, the humorist professor, once toiled as a speechwriter for Adlai
Stevenson. He says what once upon a time easily lightened up an audience is
no longer effective - but that's not to say contemporary humor is a matter of
"It's more like separate-but-equal," he notes. "Women are getting more
militant and braver and far more outspoken. Humor is so subjective. You can
never get 100 per cent of your audience to like any joke. Everyone brings to
a joke their own agenda or background."
Just ask Ohio state senator Linda Furney.
"If it has tires or testicles, you're going to have trouble with it."
- Linda Furney, at the Democratic National Convention, July 13, 1992.
Youch, talk about a nation of bristly men with no sense of humor.
"Can't anybody take a joke?" the senator pleaded a few days after the quip
she passed around in New York made it into national circulation.
"It was a joke, a little payback for the hundreds of sexist jokes and
remarks women has put up with, not so much at the convention, but just over
The tires'n'testicles bit created a furore everywhere it was repeated - and
it was repeated just about everywhere.
Maybe the resulting controversy shouldn't have been so surprising, but the
senator says she never expected anything like it.
"Looking back on it, I think some of the surprise is that a few years ago,
no one would have paid attention to that kind of humor. So, even though in
many ways it was a negative reaction, the plus is that we've at least reached
the point where some people can be offended by that kind of humor.
"For years, they've said feminists don't have a sense of humor. We've
discovered that your sense of humor is all in your frame of reference," Furney
Does she wish now she had never repeated the infamous "T and T" quip?
"I don't think I really regret it. I guess the regret is that, given
everything I've done in politics for 12 years, this is the memorable moment."
Q: A pompous man asked a woman, "Why do you suppose it is that women so
utterly lack a sense of humor?"
A: "God did it on purpose," she replied, "so that we may love men instead of
laughing at them."