My friend and I once argued about the comedic talents of women. Though he is very much a fan of female comedians, he claimed that he knew few funny women in real life. I insisted that he was hanging out with some serious dullards because I knew plenty of funny women. I have hilarious female friends and come from a family that loves to joke. My aunt is one of the funniest people I know. She is highly skilled in making fun of everyone in a way that is still good-natured. (The most memorable zinger likened someone to the Ku Klux Klan.)
At first I was taken aback by my friend's claim that there was a dearth of comedic ladies in his life, but then he insisted it was because women are often not expected to be funny, which I can't really disagree with. And who can forget Christopher Hitchens' incendiary article, "Why Women Aren't Funny?," exploring all the reasons why he claimed we lack a funny bone? While I obviously disagree with most of his claims, I do agree with both Hitchens and my friend that our culture does not encourage women to be funny. Humor is often considered masculine and aggressive, and this is manifested in the disproportionate number of female comedians on TV (especially Latinas). To be funny lady, you must be persistent and not give a flying rat's butt about these absurd gender norms. You must not care that a joke about your mustache, for example, might make you unattractive to men.
To be Mexican, you must have a good sense of humor about yourself, because our people will not hesitate to tease your physical attributes or flaws. If you're fat, you can guarantee your family will call you "gordo." If you're fat and your best friend is skinny, the two of you together will be called "un diez," or 10. Here are some other nicknames I've heard over the years: "Mal hecho," "flaco," "prieta," "chato," "pelona," "chimuela," "chaparro," "narizona," "orejón," "nalgona," etc. (all of these make fun of physical characteristics in some way). I personally have been called a few of these things. And did I develop an eating disorder or a complex about my big nose or my "trompa"? No. I developed a sense of humor.
Also, because I was the only girl, I was (and continue to be) teased constantly by my brothers. The only way to survive is to attempt to surpass my brother's sharp and well-crafted wisecracks. It's still difficult. Recently, though, I had the opportunity to call one of them Bob Saget as a result of his corny word choice.
Perhaps another reason I know so many funny women is because I tend to gravitate towards women who are as brazen and inappropriate as I am, women who are confident enough to make jokes at their own expense. I don't care much for propriety, and my friends and I, for example, won't hesitate to make scatological jokes (to my boyfriend's chagrin) or cracks (hee hee) about male anatomy and other body parts. Ironic jokes about race are also popular. Almost nothing is off limits.
I know that I joke just to survive. If couldn't make fun of everything, I would rather just lie down and die. Laughing makes life bearable. That's why I joke about racism and my perpetual fear of being raped. What else can I do? There are so many other women who do the same. Mexican women in particular have made me laugh so hard I've cried and nearly (nervous laugh) peed myself. It's a shame the rest of the world rarely gets to witness their talent.
Follow Erika L. Sánchez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@OhHellsNah