Adam Carolla, human Bert, has been all over the news the last couple days because he said in a New York Post interview that women aren't funny. I don't care. I don't care, I don't care, I do not care. He knew what he was doing when he said it. I don't doubt that he believes it, but he was also being deliberately provocative. The outrage that's since been lobbed at him for being a dumb misogynist asshole in the country's raggiest piece of damp toilet paper passing itself off as a newspaper has just all been so pointless.
No one is thinking less critically about gender issues because Adam Carolla shit-talked Joy Behar in the paper that brought you the headline "Ike 'beats' Tina to death." No one is more emboldened in his own misogyny because Adam Carolla trotted out some demonstrably false cliche that has inspired nothing but public shaming at least since Jerry Lewis said the same thing well over a decade ago. No one has been duly chastened by the huffy editorials the whole thing has inspired.
The "story" is nothing. It means nothing to anybody. It's the pseudo-journalistic equivalent of small talk that feeds the great majority of the news cycle now. I do not care. No one cares, not really anyway. But it did remind me (Cool buried lede, Ky-guy!) of something that has been bothering me for years.
In 2007, Christopher Hitchens wrote an essay for Vanity Fair called, "Why Women Aren't Funny." Same basic theory as Adam Carolla, plus Jerry Lewis' "women are better at making babies" twist, but slapped up with some dubious interpretation of academic research and a phone call to Nora Ephron so as to call it Journalism. But in Hitchens' huge takedown of women's senses of humor-slash-paean to the male sense of humor, he is never funny. Not once. And it's not for lack of trying.
Here is the first attempt at a joke in the piece:
Be your gender what it may, you will certainly have heard the following from a female friend who is enumerating the charms of a new (male) squeeze: "He's really quite cute, and he's kind to my friends, and he knows all kinds of stuff, and he's so funny ... " (If you yourself are a guy, and you know the man in question, you will often have said to yourself, "Funny? He wouldn't know a joke if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.")
Ugh. Gross. I can just see that fucker's weather balloon head bobbing as he hits the "punchline," one eyebrow cocked, his stupid Edward-Furlong-in-T2 hair flipping in time with the accent on béarnaise. I say this with no hyperbole intended: I honestly think Hitchens' sauce burn is the single least funny thing I've ever seen in my life. It doesn't get much better from there.
His next big joke:
All right-try it the other way (as the bishop said to the barmaid).
So...an unironic "that's what she said" joke, but applied to a sentence that barely qualifies for it and drained of even more life by using a synonym of "that's what she said" that no one has uttered aloud in a century.
He goes on like this—telling the reader outright that the pun [yuck] "self-defecation" is funny, quoting a New Yorker cartoon—for almost 3,000 words, not one of them funny (except maybe when he, Christopher Hitchens, the overstuffed sausage of a human being, imagines the average human male in 2007 telling his bros that his new girlfriend is "a real honey").
When Hitchens died last December, his best friend Christopher Buckley (godddd, imagine how unbearable they must have been to hang out with, all quoting "The Faerie Queene" to each other and dropping words like aperçu into casual conversation) eulogized him in The New Yorker. I actually liked the eulogy in spite of myself, only because it was for the most part a fine piece of writing, if a bit fussy. But then there's this part:
As for the wit ... one day we were talking about Stalin. I observed that Stalin, eventual murderer of twenty, thirty—forty?—million, had trained as a priest. Not skipping a beat, Christopher remarked, "Indeed, was he not among the more promising of the Tbilisi ordinands?"
I thought—as I did perhaps one thousand times over the course of our three-decade long tutorial—Wow.
A few days later, at a dinner, the subject of Stalin having come up, I ventured to my dinner partner, "Indeed, was he not among the more promising of the Tbilisi ordinands?" The lady to whom I had proferred this thieved aperçu [ed. note: see??] stopped chewing her salmon, repeated the line I had so casually tossed off, and said with frank admiration, "That's brilliant."
This has driven me crazy since I first read it six months ago. I desperately feel like I'm missing something. The definitive example in all the world of Hitchens' towering wit was when he was able to remember off-hand the capital of Georgia and a synonym for "priest in training"? And make a sarcastic remark using those factoids? And then the salmon-chewing lady two days later stopped chewing her salmon just to bask in its brilliance? I was sure for literally months that there was a pun or something in there that I was missing.
But I don't think so. I suspect that it was just an example of something that the earlier Vanity Fair essay made very clear: Christopher Hitchens was not funny. He was a pompous turd who substituted a large vocabulary and deep reserve of trivia for a sense of humor.
Which brings me back to the Adam Carolla thing. I don't care, still don't, about the "news" of it. But the desperate crush of near-identical tweets and Hitchens-style "comedic" essays it set off did make me realize something. Carolla is right that most women aren't funny -- but that's only because most people aren't funny.