Why men don't fancy funny women

... because it scares the poor dears. Research shows men find female wits a turn-off. So how bothered are Catherine Tate and co?

Heard the one about the comedienne who tried to lure a man with her best gags? Well, they fell rather flat, because most men find funny women a turn-off.

Research to be published this week in a leading academic journal confirms what many female comics - and funny women - have long suspected: men are frightened by their brand of humour. While men might chuckle at the odd gag, when it comes to finding a long-term companion they do not want a partner who will fire a stream of witty repartee at them, according to the study carried out by academics at some of the world's top universities.

"Men see being funny as a male thing," explained Dr Rod Martin, who led the project. The findings are published in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behaviour this week.

Hundreds of men and women in their twenties were questioned. Asked if they found a sense of humour to be attractive in women, most men said yes. But when they were asked if they would want to be with a woman who cracked jokes herself, the answer was a resounding no.

"When forced to choose between humour production and humour appreciation in potential partners, women valued humour production, whereas men valued receptivity to their own humour," said Dr Martin.

More than half the men who took part in the survey revealed that a witty woman was not what they were looking for in a partner. Dr Martin said the findings suggested that men see themselves as the ones who should be delivering the lines and feel threatened by humorous women.

The revelations came as no shock to some of Britain's funniest females. Meera Syal, who co-wrote and starred in the BBC comedy show Goodness Gracious Me, said: "The idea that men are more interested in having an audience rather than sharing banter doesn't really surprise me.

"Women see men with a sense of humour as dangerous and sexy, while men see it as threatening. Basically, what it comes down to is that humour is a mark of intelligence. Many men don't really want to be the recipient of a cutting remark in public that will make them look small or stupid."

Ms Syal, who has also written novels and screenplays, added: "When we were touring with Goodness Gracious Me, we had a troupe of two men and two women, and there were always loads of girls at the stage door wanting the autographs of the men, but never any boys wanting ours.

"That said, I am with somebody who really, really likes the fact that I have a sense of humour. It depends on the bloke and if he wants an equal and the sexiness of banter, which is essentially a form of foreplay. I might have toned down my humour with men I fancied when I was younger, but not now."

Dr Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario, says the research may shed light on the failure of female stand-ups who struggle to impress some male audiences.

"One of the reasons why men don't like female comedians may be that humour is seen as a masculine thing," he said.

In the 25 years that the Perrier Award for new comedy has been contested at the Edinburgh Festival, only two women have won it. Laura Solon took the prize last year. "It is a difficult industry to work in and there are a lot more men than women," she told The Independent on Sunday yesterday. But her award-winning wit had not wrecked her personal life, she added.

The research project, which also involved academics from the University of Massachusetts and McMaster University, Ontario, showed that while men were not so interested in "humour-producing women" in long-term relationships, they showed a preference for such types when it came to short-term relationships and one-night stands.

Lucy Porter, of BBC1's The Stand Up Show and Five's The Comedy Store, said that the people who did chat her up probably did so because "they think that if you are outrageous on stage, then you are going to be really dirty in bed."

Most female comics admit that their wit is far less potent than that of males when it comes to seduction. Oriane Messina, of Radio 4's Bearded Ladies, said: "I can't say I've laughed a man into bed, whereas I know plenty of men who have laughed a woman into bed. I temper my humour for certain situations, which might include when I meet a man I find attractive. I think some men find funny women intimidating.

"I went speed dating last year, and was considering lying about what I do, but in the end I told the truth. If they are going to be put off, then they are not for me."

Bovvered? 'A joker must be a lesbian'

Catherine Tate made her name as a stand-up comic. She is now the star of BBC2's 'The Catherine Tate Show'

"I do recognise this type of man. They think that because you're being funny you are entering their domain. Men like this see women doing comedy as operating outside the bounds of what they should be doing. They are the kind of man who assumes that a woman who cracks a joke must be a lesbian. But certain people are like that. Some backward types are threatened by funny women. It's mad. After all, I wouldn't be threatened by a man who can cook."

Susan Murray: Star of the stand-up circuit


"My parents are from Glasgow, which means they are incredibly hard, but I was never smacked as a child. Well, maybe one or two grams just to get me to sleep at night"


"I'd like to meet one. But not a spousaphobe. And not one who scratches himself in public"

Ronni Ancona: Star of 'The Big Impression'


"I used the Cabbage Soup Diet, You can shift 8 or 9lb, but I wouldn't recommend it. You fart like a trooper. You lose more friends than weight"


"My breasts come up a lot. I wish they wouldn't, to be honest, because I'm terribly body-conscious"

Lucy Porter: Star of Five's 'Comedy Store'


"My parents had a typical Catholic wedding. My father was a repressed homosexual and my mother was sedated"


"They think that if you are outrageous on stage, then you are going to be really dirty in bed"

Jo Brand: Star of 'Through The Cakehole'


"How do you know if it's time to wash the dishes and clean your house? Look inside your pants. If you find a penis in there, it's not time"


"Never trust a man with testicles"

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home