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Singer/songwriter Ian Thomas on men, women and comedy

Singer/songwriter Ian Thomas on men, women and comedy

Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

Ian Thomas is a Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter. His latest CD, Little Dreams, will be released in March. He will be performing Feb. 2 at Hugh's Room in Toronto and March 24 at the Spectator Auditorium in Hamilton.

Are you a funny guy?

I guess. I was always the new kid in class. When my Dad was working on his masters and PhD, we ended up moving quite a bit. I think I was in five schools by the time I hit Grade 4. I was always the new kid in class, so I would go out of my way to be funny. I was entertaining myself, I suppose.

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You have a famous, professionally funny brother [Dave Thomas, formerly of SCTV ] Are you funnier than him?

I think he's funnier than me and he thinks I'm funnier than him. We both believe whatever creative talents we have are more of an affliction.

Are you funnier than your wife?

I would say … let me put it this way. Humour is stupidity. For the most part, men generate way more stupidity than women do. Quite often the humour we are generating is at our own expense. The other sex is probably laughing as much at us as with us.

A recent study by the University of California at San Diego found men only marginally funnier than women; statistically virtually equal. Would you agree that, nonetheless, society makes the assumption that men are funnier?

The really funny women that you meet seem to be more testosterone-driven. Maybe it is a hormonal thing.

Who is the funniest man, professional comedian, you know?

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Billy Connolly.

Who is the funniest women comedian?

Um … not hysterical, but I think [Ellen]DeGeneres is humorous.

You came up with the man right away. With the woman you needed a little time. What does that tell you?

There is something about women stand-ups. It is the same as [women]entering the political arena, where you have to adopt manly attributes in order to be successful. Women comedians, where they are trying to shock their way through, it is usually, sadly at their own expense. Ellen DeGeneres is one of the few women comedians out there who has a delightful funny bone.

One explanation for males and their use of humour is that men do it to attract women, whereas women needn't do it to attract men.

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Humour does play a major role in the mating issue, but it also speaks of our insecurities too. Maybe men are intimidated by a woman who is really humorous.

Humour has traditional male attributes; it is aggressive, attention-seeking and it can be competitive – "Hey, look at me, I'm the funniest guy in the room, not these other stiffs!" These attributes in a woman may not be as attractive to men.

There is a double standard there. We have to extrapolate this a little bit. We've got it hooked up to the wheels of commerce – stand-up comedians who are mass-marketing their humour. I know some women who are really, really funny. They are not doing it professionally, so they don't slip into the male role, but they can sure put me away.

Who is funnier, men or women?

Professionally speaking, men would hold the title. In regular day-to-day humour, I think women are just as funny.

Apparently half the jokes in circulation are dirty – for many of us, they are the funnier half. Women, in mixed company, may feel more constrained by society to not be smutty or foul-mouthed.

Okay, in that sense, in the social theatre there is role-playing going on. At a social function, a woman may be more dressed up and feeling more dignified and so it becomes a whole different game.

But a guy may be dressed up, too, and much more likely to crack a dirty joke.

You are saying guys might have less taste or tact – and I agree with that.

Less taste and less tact means funnier?

No. It just means less inhibited to go for funny. Situations where the female would show a little more grace.

In professions such as law or medicine, women are becoming represented at more than parity. Are women ever going to catch up or surpass men in humour?

That is something they perhaps don't want to do. When we see females going into politics, they end up being men. To play in that "good old boys" military-industrial complex, they became men. Are they going to become more manly and become better comedians? It's possible. Do they have to trade their femininity to become as strong a stand-up comic? That's possible, but who wants to do that?

Away from the commercial stand-up role, in the theatre of everyday life, does wanting to keep their femininity preclude women from being as funny as men?

I think they already are as funny as men. I do think that women can be pretty damn funny. On any given day, one gender has got to be funnier. Could be either.

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