Moe from Mars, Grant from Venus

Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2000

oday's topic was suggested by a reader named Richard from El Paso, Texas, who wrote a letter asking: ``How do you obtain a sense of humor? I am more seriously inclined, and I understand that women really love a man with a sense of humor. . . My main concern is how to apply it in everyday conversation to impress women.''

The first thing you need to understand, Richard, is that men and women do not have the same definition of the term ``a man with a sense of humor.'' To men, it means ``a man who thinks a lot of stuff is funny.'' Whereas to women, it means ``a man who talks and looks kind of like Hugh Grant.''

This leads to a lot of disagreement between the genders about what is funny. For example, I belong to an organization called the Lawn Rangers of Arcola, Ill., whose members are dedicated to helping humanity by marching with lawnmowers in parades. The Lawn Rangers are an all-male organization, but sometimes women voluntarily choose to attend our annual meeting, which is held in one of Arcola's most prestigious driveways. The climactic highlight of the meeting occurs when one of our members gets up on a ladder and performs a routine wherein he . . . OK, let's just say that if you were considering a career in proctology, this would definitely change your mind. The women are revolted by this routine, whereas the men laugh so hard that some of them fall down. (They are not hurt, because they land on men who fell down earlier in the meeting.)

Another example: Recently my wife and I, along with maybe 15 other expectant couples, attended a hospital class on breastfeeding. (In modern America, having a baby requires more classroom instruction than becoming a dentist.) At one point, to illustrate an important issue, the breastfeeding instructor walked around the room holding up a cloth model of a breast - kind of like a Muppet - with a little string on the back that the instructor pulled to make the breast change shape. The women looked on with mature, intelligent, concerned expressions. But I made eye contact with a number of men as the Breast Muppet went around, and I can state with certainty that if not for the fact that we knew this was a Serious Matter Involving The Health Of The Baby, plus the fact that our wives would hit us, we would have laughed ourselves into a state of dehydration.

My point, Richard, is that women and men have different senses of humor. This was confirmed last year in a study done by two psychologists from Canada (HUMOR TIP: Canada is funny). This study, which I swear I am not making up, showed that simple, slapstick humor, such as the Three Stooges, appeals to the following two groups of people:

1. People with brain damage.

2. Men.

(At this point, the women readers are thinking, ``That's only one group!'')

And what kind of humor do women like? According to a news article about the Canadian study, women, because of their more-sophisticated brains, prefer humor that involves ``longer narratives, personal information and memories.'' The article does not come right out and use the term ``Hugh Grant,'' but it doesn't have to.

OK, Richard, so what does all this mean for you, out there in El Paso, trying to ``apply humor in everyday conversation to impress women?'' Here is the procedure I suggest:

First, get hold of a joke. The good news is, there are plenty of them on the Internet. The bad news is, all of them were invented by men, who control 99 percent of the world's joke supply. So you will have to modify the joke to make it impressive to women.

Let's say you have chosen the classic joke about the three guys who are captured by a primitive tribe, which offers them a choice between Death and Roo-Roo.

(At this point, the women readers are thinking: ``Huh?'' Whereas the men are thinking: ``The Roo-Roo joke! Good one!'')

So, Richard, when you're talking with a woman you wish to impress, look for an opening that will allow you to bring up the joke (``Your aunt died? I'm so sorry! Speaking of death, these three guys are captured ...''). But here's the key: Don't rush through the joke. You have to turn it into a longer narrative containing personal information and memories.

WRONG: So the first guy says, ``I'll take Roo-Roo!''

RIGHT: ``As a young boy, I'd hear my parents fighting, and I'd cry into my pillow for hours.''

Got it, Richard? It will also help if you get extensive plastic surgery to look like Hugh Grant. If you use this technique, you'll find that any woman you talk to will soon be gazing at you longingly, and reaching out for your hand. That's when you give her the ``joy buzzer.'' Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.



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