[interlude for attributes that are none of your business] … Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?

and, man, does she ever make 'em laugh." Now, why is this? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.

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All right—try it the other way (as the bishop said to the barmaid).

Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men.

These included the left prefrontal cortex, suggesting a greater emphasis on language and executive processing in women, and the nucleus accumbens … This has all the charm and address of the learned Professor Scully's attempt to define a smile, as cited by Richard Usborne in his treatise on P. Wodehouse: "the drawing back and slight lifting of the corners of the mouth, which partially uncover the teeth; the curving of the naso-labial furrows …

At the Stanford University School of Medicine (a place, as it happens, where I once underwent an absolutely hilarious procedure with a sigmoidoscope), the grim-faced researchers showed 10 men and 10 women a sample of 70 black-and-white cartoons and got them to rate the gags on a "funniness scale." To annex for a moment the fall-about language of the report as it was summarized in Biotech Week: The researchers found that men and women share much of the same humor-response system; both use to a similar degree the part of the brain responsible for semantic knowledge and juxtaposition and the part involved in language processing.

But they also found that some brain regions were activated more in women.

" (If you yourself are a guy, and you know the man in question, you will often have said to yourself, "Funny?He wouldn't know a joke if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.") However, there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: "She's a real honey, has a life of her own …Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life.If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. Indeed, we now have all the joy of a scientific study, which illuminates the difference.In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle.An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh.