Heard the one about how gender affects your sense of humour?

Click to follow

Comedians may joke that women do not have a sense of humour, but new research shows that females just find different things funny.

While men prefer gags with a punch line, women laugh at stories that relate to their everyday lives, according to a report from the global advertising agency JWT. Male humour is based on competition and impressing those around them, whereas women use jokes to achieve intimacy and to make people feel at ease, the report adds. The research was based on interviews with 64 pairs of female friends in eight countries - Britain, the US, France, India, China, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina - as well as discussions with anthropologists, sociologists and comedians.

Diana Coulson, director of strategic planning at JWT Paris, said: "The key thing that emerged was that women's main source of humour is from the everyday, the little issues, stuff they observe and that happens to them. They can find humour in a household chore, or something silly that somebody says to them at work. Men use humour in a much more competitive way. Men want to be funny to show off and to get people to admire them. It's all about scoring points, whereas with women humour is much more a way of creating an attachment, bonding and getting intimacy with people. They are instinctively enhancing their relationships."

British women emerged as the most "laddish" in their sense of humour. Ms Coulson said: "The level of equality women have has a direct influence in how outrageous they are prepared to be in their humour. In India and Thailand where there's still a very strong notion of femininity, laughing out loud in mixed company is not considered feminine. In the UK, women are much more on an equal footing and there is a unique 'ladette' humour. Girls won't have any issue with talking about sex and being quite vulgar if they think it's going to get a good laugh, and they don't expect to be judged harshly."

Each pair of girlfriends was shown a variety of adverts from around the world. The commercials they found most amusing were those based on situations that might occur in their everyday lives. The most popular UK commercials included an advert for the Yellow Pages directory, in which James Nesbitt plays a man who has made a mess of cutting his niece's hair. Women also like an advert for Sure deodorant, in which a girl develops an "emotional sweat" when she bumps into her ex-boyfriend while scooping up dog-dirt in the park. The report said that brands were failing to use jokes to appeal to women, in particular in commercials for beauty products, which it criticised for patronising women with pseudo-scientific references, while being devoid of humour. But Dr Mike Lowis, a chartered psychologist who has researched male and female attitudes to humour, said both sexes found real-life situations amusing. "We all like humour that's based on real experiences. My own research showed there were no significant gender differences. Being married and having to put up with one another's foibles, going to the dentist, the doctor or the hospital, men and women tend to find humour funny that relates to those experiences."

Lynne Parker, the producer of Funny Women, a platform for female comics, who took part in the research, agreed the findings were too black and white. She said: "In terms of what women find funny and what men find funny, I think the lines are probably a little more blurred than the report suggests."

Five advertisements women find funny

James Nesbitt plays the incompetent uncle who gives his niece a dreadful haircut and pretends to his sister that he is berating a hairdresser, when he is in fact begging her for help.

What they said: "It's just saying guys can be silly, but in a really affectionate way."

A conceited man asks his girlfriend to marry him before taking off in a plane. She uses the car to spell out the word "no" in the sand as he flies over.

What they said: "The girl is such a great role model. She's not going to put up with his behaviour."

Three girls on a night out have congregated in the ladies' loo and are giggling about the guy behind the bar when one of them puts in a pair of fake fangs.

What they said: "It acknowledges there is a group of women in the UK who like to go out and have a drink. It's the notion of going into the loos and having a good old giggle."

A woman is walking her dog when she sees her ex-boyfriend go past with his new girlfriend, while a voiceover says: "He's seen you naked."

What they said: "There are some well-observed insights into the relationship you have with a boyfriend and once it finishes how that changes."

... and the one they hated

A man is waiting in his cellar, waiting for a flood of the soft drink Tango to crash through the ceiling.

What they said: "It's just stupid and completely childish... but I bet my boyfriend would love it."