There is this weird idea among some people, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that women are not as funny as men. Christopher Hitchens put his foot in it in 2007 in an essay titled Why Women Aren’t Funny and though he got some well-deserved flak for what seemed like deliberate obtuseness, perhaps in order to buff up his self-image of being a contrarian provocateur, it did not seem to change his mind.
It does not seem to strike these people that professional comedy, like pretty much every profession, was largely the domain of men for a long time and so it should not be surprising that there were not many women comics until fairly recently. But now they are all over the place, writing and performing their own material.
The former head of Disney Michael Eisner now ventures into these waters and makes the claim that women who are both beautiful and funny are almost impossible to find.
That may well be true as an empirical matter though Eisner seemed to imply that there was more, some kind of innate negative correlation between looks and comedic talent. But what Eisner does not seem to realize is that the same argument applies to men too. Quick, think of a man who is both really handsome and also funny. Give up? I did. I cannot think of a single man who fits both descriptions. The reason is because of simple probability. By definition, people who are considered to really stand out on any quality are in the tail of the probability distribution for that quality. The odds of being really good looking are small and the odds of being very funny are also small. (If they were not small, we would consider these people to be ordinary.) So if those are independent traits, then the joint probability of being both very good looking and funny is tiny, irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman.
So why pick on women? It is because for women performers, and indeed women in general, looks are the driving characteristic. For a man, if you are funny (or indeed accomplished in any way), that is enough. Your looks are secondary. Does anyone care that Ben Stiller or Jerry Seinfeld or Louis CK are not exceptionally good looking? But for a woman, you have to be also physically attractive in a conventional sense. Furthermore, the idea of what is funny was defined by what men found funny and if women did not find the same things funny, that was taken as evidence that women did not have a sense of humor.
You would think that Eisner would be able to figure this out by himself before making such statements.