Funny Testosterone

Testosterone and humour are linked. Or so says Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK who asserts that men are naturally more comedic than women because of the male hormone.

TestosteroneThe Professor believes that humour emerges from aggression caused by the male hormone and thus accounts for there being more male comedians than female ones.

Female Comedians
This obviously prods the thorny question of why there are still so few female comedians when compared to men? That’s almost the same argument as why there are less women working in IT. Is it because both are male dominated and women get less enthused about working in a male dominated environment in which men are still the decider’s as to how things are run. Or is it because women are socialised differently and are discouraged in pursuing such career paths as IT and even being a comedian as somehow uncool or too one-sided a culture to compete in and unreceptive to their talents?

I’ve met a number of humourless men and effortlessly funny women but I didn’t stop to test their respective testosterone levels. I will agree that how the humour is wielded may differ across the genders.

Nature, Nuture And Brains
I always felt that making people laugh has more to do with the way men socialise with humour as a lubricant to the shorthand of male bonding (where’d I get that one?) and not having so much of a social hangup about looking and acting daft (including being child like or using childish behaviour). I also feel that men get more approval from other men for using humour (and maybe even from women in a way that isn’t reciprocated) even if they are using it to put themselves down (maybe that’s a British thing- approval through self deprecation).

It’s all a big fight between nature and nurture arguments again and the male and female brain.

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5 thoughts on “Funny Testosterone

  1. I just came here to wish you a happy Christmas but I couldn’t resist commenting on this piece since I know this guy and I have to say the linked piece and Sam’s experiment re the unicycling make me chuckle.

    My son unicycles around the city and it is invaraibly women who shout things at him!!

    But yes, I think I agree with your points – men don’t mind at all experimenting with humour as they grow up and looking like dickheads when it goes wrong. I see it all the time with my children (1 girl and 3 boys).

    But hey, Em we can be jolly funny when we choose can’t we?

    Anyway, I am disappearing from blogland for a few days to tend to the multitudes – so have a lovely Christmas and make sure you don’t try to do too much (you are still meant to be convalescing I am sure).


  2. I think there’s another aspect to men’s behaviour which is for some reason often overlooked. This was neatly encapsulated by Tigger the other evening as we were watching the second series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet on DVD. Viewing the antics of the self-styled “Magnificent Seven”, Tigger remarked “Men never grow up, do they?”

    In our society, women are traditionally brought up to accept responsibility and to be mothers. Maturity is forced upon them. Men escape this and retain childlike features throughout their lives. This is why, for example, there are so many male football fans and so few female ones; and why the average man’s idea of a good night out is getting paralytic with his mates down the pub and doing silly things, something which bores the average woman rigid.

    Humour goes hand in hand with play and play is a childish activity which women grow out of sooner than men. I am not denigrating childishness and play. They are good things and the longer we can keep them in our lives, the better.

    On the plus side, I think more and more women are learning the delights of remaining childish and playful. Expect to see more female comedians as the days roll by.

  3. Just read this on the BBC too and was appalled. Because aggressive men attempt to use humour this means that humour itself comes from testosterone!?

  4. RB-Thanks and seasons greetings to you and yours.I’ll try to take it easy.As I say I think I can agree that the genders use and approve or disapprove of humour differently (which you’ve noticed yourself) and with men humour is more tied to playfulness and male energy creativity (where do I get this stuff?).

    SilverTiger- I agree with your observations re socialised maturity. I like a lot of male energy sourced humour (for want of a better description) even if I don’t especially warm to some male social behaviour (but then not all men are the same) but then I’m not looking for a man as a life partner so maybe that colours my viewpoint.

    mrh – it’s an interesting argument which tries to explain the different use of humour by men and women by linking it to testosterone. But then I’ve met a lot of high testosterone men who really aren’t very funny so whilst it’s an interesting theory I tend to think there are other socialising factors at play.

  5. I just read this, and it shocked me how quickly Shuster linked “humor” (such as shouting mean and degrading comments to other men) to testosterone. I would argue that this isn’t humor at all. Rather, it is simply a projection of competition and dominance that men equate with masculinity, which is clearly socially constructed. He had no concrete data to prove his rash conclusion, nor to rule out other factors that may have contributed to his results.

    Masculinity is equated in our society with strength, competition, violence, and having control over both yourself and over others. The fact that these traits are valued and deemed “masculine” is clear when you think about which men are deemed the most successful. Almost all successful and respected men (CEOs, athletes, soldiers, etc) share the traits that allow them to appear “masculine.” A man on a unicycle clearly does not, which makes him a prime target for slander and verbal abuse from other men, who are meanwhile congratulating themselves for not straying from gender-appropriate behavior.

    It would be nice and easy to say that men are inherently more aggressive than women because of testosterone, but Shuster is ignoring the fact that humans are socialized to act in gender-appropriate ways from the time that little girls are given baby dolls and little boys are given action figures and toy cars to play with. Saying that men are “biologically” prone to aggression simply justifies male violence and encourages people to view this behavior as normal, rather than something that is socially constructed and changeable.

    Until men who act in violent and aggressive ways toward others are no longer met with social approval, things will never change. Saying that testosterone drives aggression may have some biological basis, but the fact that aggressive men are rewarded with success has to do entirely with the nature of our culture.

    Dig a little deeper, Mr. Shuster. Perhaps there are more male comedians because men are rewarded for being funny, while women are rewarded for staying in the kitchen and being quiet.

    Stuff(Em) Replied: You make some great points Tanya especially concerning how men and women are rewarded or discouraged differently concerning ‘gender-appropriate’ behaviour, which in this case the is the use of humour.

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