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Female jokesters bomb in the boardroom, study shows

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So I says to the guy, I says …

Women bomb most of the jokes they make at the office, says a new report out of Aston University's School of Language & Social Sciences, otherwise known as comedy central.

When female senior professionals attempt humour, their jokes come off as "contrived, defensive or just mean," according to Judith Baxter, a linguistics expert at the British school.

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Prof. Baxter spent 18 months studying the speech patterns of employees at seven large companies. She scrutinized 14 meetings, half led by men and half by women. Poring over about 600,000 of the words they used, she found the genders have distinct comedic styles, and even more disparate success rates.

"Women would rather laugh at themselves on the whole than laugh at others because it is the safe option," Prof. Baxter told The Telegraph.

About 70 per cent of the women opted for self-deprecating humour. Much of it was all for naught: More than 80 per cent of the jokes were met with painful silence.

Meanwhile, 90 per cent of jokes made by men scored "immediate laughter." Consequently, men were three times more likely to kid around while leading a meeting. These men used humour to display their dominance, not unlike chest-beating gorillas.

"Their male subordinates will also use 'display' humour to impress a male boss, because it shows they are on the same wavelength. It is part of leadership 'tribe' behaviour which women find hard to join," Prof. Baxter explained.

John Morreall, a guy who holds seminars on funnies in the workplace, told the San Francisco Chronicle that as women "increase power in the business world, there's a clash between women's humour and men's humour." It doesn't help that women will laugh at men's jokes more often than at their fellow womankind's, he pointed out.

The findings are in line with well-understood gender disparities in dating: When men say they like a sense of humour in a woman, many of them mean they like it when she guffaws at his jokes, not outwits him with her own.

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The late Christopher Hitchens acknowledged this in his hotly debated Vanity Fair essay Why Women Aren't Funny: "Precisely because humour is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals."

Ultimately, Prof. Baxter recommended that women in senior positions try out a "light, teasing banter" to be deployed at "appropriate moments."

Doesn't sound funny at all.

Are the women in your office funny?

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