Peter Stringfellow, who knows literally nothing about being funny or sexy, told poor old Kirsten O’Brien that “Funny girls aren’t sexy” when she went to him for advice about whether she should, um, be funny or sexy. Now, normally (and unlike Kirsten) I don’t include Stringfellow on my list of people to query when looking for insights into the male psyche, but in this case he’s probably speaking for more idiots than just himself: when Esquire decided to run a “Women of Flight Of The Conchords” piece they brilliantly invited some cameo-girlfriends, but not Kristen Schaal, the “only pair of recurring tits” on the show. She’s the funny one, which gets her struck off the men’s mag beauty-shoot roster.

Kristen Schaal (photo by Murdo Macleod)

Even if I’m generous to Esquire and say that lovely Schaal just didn’t have the look they wanted, they still excluded her from being a woman of the show in which she’s a lead actor for being either the wrong sort of pretty, or the wrong sort of funny. Ouch. And – if you’ll follow me into my darkened den of close reading – even the way we talk about humour is gendered. If something makes you laugh hard, you’re hysterical, figuratively be-wombed and penetrated by the wit that’s working on you.

Given that sort of bullshit, it doesn’t seem especially controversial to say – as Jo Brand did – that women don’t get a fair crack at TV comedy. They don’t. The common guiding principle that funny and pretty are mutually exclusive, while TV exposure is dependent on pretty, puts a fairly substantial bar on funny women making it through. So it’s not necessary to go in for some weak-brained evolutionary psychology about how women are ‘differently funny’ because men are like aggressive hunters and shit while women are all nice and collaborative and conversational (taken down here). That goes for Kathy Lette on the Media Show as much as it does for contrarian little TV-reviewing pricks.


I think secretly men think women aren’t funny, and I presume it’s because they’re frightened of what it is we’re being funny about. I think they think we spend the entire time talking about the length of their member, which is not true – because we also talk about the width which after childbirth is much, much more important. But we women are starting to be annoyed by the fact that we aren’t ever invited onto these panel shows, and if we are, we’re over-run by the men in this testosterone fueled environment. We need our own quiz show. […] I do think there’s a difference between male and female humour. I think men tend to have black belts in kung-fu and they can fire off one-liners and gags. Women’s humour is much more confessional.

Lette’s brave new world of gender equality is women cracking gags about the laxness of their pelvic floor. You know, if Lette really wanted to speak up for witty ladies, she could stop pulling her idea of funny out of her vagina.