We’re informed the fair sex is also responsible for killing the joke:
Around the same time, said John Morreall, a religion professor and humor scholar at the College of William and Mary, the roles of men and women began to change, which had implications for the joke.
Telling old-style jokes, he said, was a masculine pursuit because it allowed men to communicate with one another without actually revealing anything about themselves. Historically women’s humor was based on personal experience, and conveyed a sense of the teller’s likes and dislikes, foibles and capacity for self-deprecation.
The golden age of joke telling corresponded with a time when men were especially loathe to reveal anything about their inner lives, Mr. Morreall said. But over time men let down their guard, and comics like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and later Jerry Seinfeld, embraced the personal, observational style.
“A very common quip was, ‘Women can’t tell jokes,’ ” Mr. Morreall said. “I found that women can’t remember jokes. That’s because they don’t give a damn. Their humor is observational humor about the people around that they care about. Women virtually never do that old-style stuff. Women’s-style humor was ahead of the curve,” he said. “In the last 30 years all humor has caught up with women’s humor.”
The mingling of the sexes in the workplace and in social situations wasn’t particularly good for the joke either, as jokes that played well in the locker room didn’t translate to the conference room or the co-ed dinner party. And in any event, scholars say, in a social situation wit plays better than old-style joke telling. Witty remarks push the conversation along and enliven it, encouraging others to contribute.
Not being a professional student of humor, I have no idea whether that’s so or not – although this is quoted from the New York Times, so obviously they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true – but I have noticed that all of the good oral storytellers I know are men, which is somewhat surprising since women tend to be more skilled verbally.
I do find the notion that women “don’t give a damn” about joketelling to be interesting, however. How many times have you been at a party while a man is telling a story about something vaguely amusing that happened to him and his wife keeps interjecting minor editorial corrections about how it wasn’t actually one person that no one at the party knows, but another person of whom no one has ever heard who was the guilty party, or the other car being red, not blue. It’s as if they’re completely unconscious of the very high probability that nobody cares about the accuracy of the historical account, the audience is just listening for amusement.
It’s just incredibly irritating, for the listener as well as the teller. Sometimes, I feel like asking the storyteller if he’ll just hold on a moment while I explain to the amateur revisionist historian that as far as I am is concerned, it matters not one iota if the events being described are 100 percent true or not, and that if she would kindly shut up and let the man tell his doggone story already, I’d very much appreciate it.
Still, I’m not much of a joke guy myself, so I can’t say that I see the death of the joke as being any great loss.