The Boys & Girls Club of Comedy

I heard it often. Always from men. Always said like it was some kind of big compliment.

“You’re funny like a dude.”

“You tell jokes like a man.”

I got this question more than any other, usually from women, often asked in a nervous tone.

“Is there really a difference between men and women’s sense of humor?”

My answer was always the same, delivered without hesitation and with complete confidence.

NO.

There is no difference. I’ve seen a female comic crack up a male-dominated room (I’ve done it myself). I’ve seen men do the same among a female majority. Haven’t you ever laughed at a stoner joke even if you’re not a stoner? Humor is humor is humor. The divisions people create are to do with the people and not the comedy. If your punchline is good enough, anyone can tell a black joke, or a white joke, or a guy joke, or a chick joke. Good jokes are good jokes, no matter who is delivering them. What is real is the perception that women aren’t as funny as men. I think this is because, as Tina Fey pointed out in Bossypants, there are differences between men and women that lead to misunderstandings. Guys don’t get periods so they don’t always get period jokes. They see one bad female comic and condemn the entire species. Do we blame all male comics for Dane Cook? Or all Latino comics for Carlos Mencia? Or all rednecks for Jeff Foxworthy?

That said, my best bit was about the night my roommate had to be taken to the ER because she double-downed on her tampons then had sex and ended up a bloody mess. Pun fully intended. It was gross, it was graphic, it was blue as hell—it was hysterical. Anyone can relate to terrible roommate stories, the fact that this particular one involved tampons is beside the point. Guys actually found it funnier than women. The peek behind closed doors fascinated male audiences, I found. They loved to hear what women got up to once they left room. And women liked knowing they weren’t the only ones with an embarrassing story or two. Everyone wins.

Nowhere is this lack of difference better illustrated than with The Hangover Part II and Bridesmaids. Both are R-rated comedies. Both have been successful. The Hangover 2 just obliterated box office records while Bridesmaids is trucking toward a $100 million gross. Both featured gross-out jokes, sex jokes, and increasingly ludicrous situational humor. Yet Bridesmaids was funnier. Why? Because women are funnier? No, because the jokes were better.

If Bridesmaids had been called Groomsmen and featured all the same jokes and gags, it would still be funnier than The Hangover 2. I found The Hangover 2 severely lacking in good jokes. The only stuff that made me laugh was the Ed Helms stuff (note to self: Netflix Cedar Rapids), which was mostly due to his total commitment to the comedy, not that his material was actually better than anyone else’s. And I was straight-up disappointed in Zach Galifianakis, who is one of the best working comics around today but who was disengaged from the movie this time around. For all his slovenly ways, Galifianakis is an extremely sharp comic—he would know The Hangover 2 was less than and it seems like that was enough for him to treat the movie like a paid vacation to Thailand.

Based on the trailer, I expected The Hangover 2 to be like the first one, but also as funny as the first one. I didn’t expect director Todd Phillips (Old School) and crew to break new ground. I just thought they’d deliver like they did before. Well they didn’t. The Hangover 2 was lazy comedy from start to finish. When I say it was exactly like the first one, I mean it was EXACTLY like the first one. Only the location changed. The only positive gain from The Hangover 2 is that Bradley Cooper is now officially a Movie Star (score one for the guys who cry after sex).

Bridesmaids, meanwhile, was hysterical. Want to see a good comedy? Don’t let the pink dresses put you off. This one is funny. As a film it’s a bit uneven and the try hard nature is quite obvious (“no seriously, women are funny, too!” it practically screams), but as a comedy it functions beautifully. Remember, good comedies aren’t always the best movies. And I don’t think Bridesmaids has much of an advantage over The Hangover 2 because Bridesmaids is original. Because really, it isn’t. If you’ve seen The Hangover, or Airplane!, there are a lot of familiar beats. Bridesmaids doesn’t chart any new territory. It just has really, really good jokes.

I went into these two movies as objectively as possible, tried my damndest to leave any personal preferences out of it while I watched them so that I could come to as unbiased an opinion as possible. And I think that Bridesmaids is funnier than The Hangover 2. It’s not a male/female thing. It’s a good joke/bad joke thing. Give it a shot and tell me I’m wrong.

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7 thoughts on “The Boys & Girls Club of Comedy

  1. Kaylie

    I don’t think Bridesmaids was anything like The Hangover, and I think saying that Bridesmaids hasn’t tread any new ground is unfair. I don’t see what the “familiar beats” are between the two. Bridesmaids has a bit of “crude” humor and all of a sudden that makes it like The Hangover? Was the Hangover the first comedy to ever be crude? I don’t think so.

    In The Hangover, the guys wake up from a drunken night and have to figure out what happened while they were drunk. That’s it. That’s the entire extent of the movie.

    Bridesmaids has an actual storyline about a woman struggling with her feelings of inadequacy compared to her friends. I related to the characters and actually cared about them. They were going through situations and ordeals that a lot of *real* people go through. And the movie was hilarious because it actually had jokes. I would argue that there aren’t many jokes at all in the Hangover (and even less in The Hangover 2). It’s just that people like to laugh at drunken dumb-assery.

    Bridesmaids breaks new ground because previous female comedies (like the dreaded Bride Wars) don’t seem to know how women actually feel or behave, and just turn all women into the same exact marriage-obsessed character who will throw all of their friends under a bus to achieve that ultimate goal that their lives wouldn’t be worth living without. This movie proved not only that women could be funny, but that women are also *gasp* intelligent, *gasp* have different personalities, and *gasp* can actually care about their friends in the face of an impending wedding.

    I don’t see any story similarities to the Hangover at all, and saying that Bridesmaids is like The Hangover does the movie a great injustice, in my opinion. If you read comments on a lot of sites (like slashfilm, aintitcool, or film school rejects, etc), there were a LOT of men that simply were NOT willing to see this movie because they just KNOW that women can’t be funny. Or because they are repulsed by the idea of women being crude, when obviously women are supposed to be soft, delicate creatures. The fact that this movie is making a lot of money, and that some men actually ARE seeing it, is a BIG deal.

    Like it or not, this movie was important. Its success is important. Its success has meaning. Its success will change perceptions, give female comedians greater opportunities, and hopefully change which movies are green-lit in the future.

    “Doesn’t chart any new territory,” my ass.

    1. Whoa slow your roll.

      1) I agree with 99% of everything you said. The entire point of the article is that Bridesmaids is funnier than The Hangover 2 and everyone should see Bridesmaids instead of The Hangover 2. I also agree that there are a lot of men who believe women are less funny and are reluctant to see this movie–except the numbers keep ticking upward which means word of mouth is spreading and people are going to see it. This is going to end up a big comedy hit–it already IS a big comedy hit–so it’s not like Bridesmaids is fighting an uphill battle. It’s already won on that score. But I do agree men have been recalcitrant about it, thus the “don’t let the pink put you off” line.

      2) As to Hangover comparisons–everything about this movie invited it. The entire marketing plan was “The Hangover for women”. So it’s a natural comparison and given that The Hangover is now THE Vegas comedy, yes, there were some nods to it in Bridesmaids (the Megan character IS Alan, the end, no argument, it is the same archetype).

      3) Which leads to…all the comic references. I caught riffs on: Airplane!, The Hangover, Gilda Radner, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph’s stable of SNL characters, Father of the Bride, The Jerk, “Jane you ignorant slut”, Strange Brew, and a slew of stuff that reminded me strongly of various female stand-ups–probably people Wiig has come into contact with over the last decade and inspired various quirks in her characters. This was not about Bridesmaids’ place in the women-in-film cannon (which thanks to your comment I don’t have to write now), it was about women being just as funny as men in general, and Bridesmaids being funnier than The Hangover Part II in specific. AS A COMEDY, Bridesmaids did not chart any new territory. I would also take it one step further and say that as a story Bridesmaids didn’t do anything new. It’s success, however, is a game-changer in that it will encourage studio bosses to put out more female-oriented entertainment that isn’t completely idiotic.

      1. Kaylie

        I also agreed with 99% of your article. I appreciate it being written. It’s just the end that bothered me. It just ticks me off when people say “it’s the female hangover,” because their stories are nothing alike. That’s the only thing I take issue with.

        I CAN read, thank you very much for the obnoxious tweet. I was trying to make a point, not insult your intelligence. I like you a lot, which is why I follow you on Twitter and read this site and your articles on Lainey’s site in the first place.

        I just think all of the Hangover comparisons are ridiculous. Everyone has been doing it. And “The Hangover for women” was something some film critics started. The director, producer, and stars of the movie were adament that it is NOT the Hangover for men. The movie has heart.

        I think that, yes, Megan’s character is based on an archetype. They all are. I just think Alan’s character in the Hangover is also based on that archetype. So instead of saying “Megan is like Alan,” can’t we say “Megan and Alan are both based on the same archetype?” Do you get what I’m saying? I don’t think Bridesmaids based things off of The Hangover. I just think both The Hangover and Bridesmaids based their scripts on common comedic tricks, that as you mentioned, have been used forever.

        Sorry if I came off as hostile before. That’s just how I talk.

      2. I’m totally taking your line, “Sorry if I came off as hostile. That’s just how I talk.”

        That accounts for 98% of my human interactions. (See also: This comment exchange).

  2. Clementine

    Great article Sarah! I love how you address women’s issues in film while keeping it light – much like Tina Fey, ha! Thanks for talking about this stuff. A while ago I used some of your points from the article on Sucker Punch when explaining to a male friend why I would never EVER pay money to watch that shit. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get my butt to a theater to see Bridesmaids.

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