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What You Think About the Adam Carolla Controversy Is Wrong

Posted: 06/22/2012 1:40 pm

Everyone is missing the point in the Adam Carolla controversy -- both the people hating him and those defending him. This isn't about whether or not women are funny; this is about how modern media creates fake controversy to manufacture rage and get eyeballs.

If you don't know about the Adam Carolla controversy by now, then maybe you have a life, but in short, people freaked out because he said that "women aren't funny."

At least, that's what I thought Adam Carolla said, based on what everyone else was saying about him and his comments.

But then I looked at his actual interview in the NY Post. He didn't say "women aren't funny." He didn't even come close to saying that. In fact, he said the opposite, "When it comes to comedy, of course there's Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin -- super-funny chicks." The closest thing he said resembling women aren't funny was this, "The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks."

OK, if you really want to have the sexism discussion, you can have it about that statement, but that is decidedly NOT the same thing as saying "women aren't funny," especially when contrasted with the first quote from the same interview.

So how did this happen? How did a media firestorm erupt, vilifying Adam Carolla over something he didn't even say? You can learn a very important lesson about modern media by breaking this down. Let's start with the relevant parts of the interview. Read the whole excerpt, it's very short:

Q: The lesson you learned from a sexual harassment seminar was "Don't hire chicks." Do you hate working with women?

A: No. But they make you hire a certain number of chicks, and they're always the least funny on the writing staff. The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks. If my daughter has a mediocre sense of humor, I'm just gonna tell her, "Be a staff writer for a sitcom. Because they'll have to hire you, they can't really fire you, and you don't have to produce that much. It'll be awesome."

Q: The "are women funny" debate has grown very contentious. You're not worried about reactions to this?

A: I don't care. When you're picking a basketball team, you'll take the brother over the guy with the yarmulke. Why? Because you're playing the odds. When it comes to comedy, of course there's Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin -- super-funny chicks. But if you're playing the odds? No. If Joy Behar or Sherri Shepherd was a dude, they'd be off TV. They're not funny enough for dudes. What if Roseanne Barr was a dude? Think we'd know who she was? Honestly.

Did you notice the shift in the interview that created this controversy? The first question is about sexual harassment in the workplace, and how Adam Carolla deals with it. He gives an answer related to that specific question, but immediately the interviewer shifts the next question to the "are women funny debate."

Wait -- what? I'm sorry, where is this "are women funny" debate going on? I have never heard anyone debate that position. Literally not one time. I have heard people debate "Are men or women funnier?" and I have heard people debate "Are the best comedians men or women?" but I have NEVER heard anyone debate whether or women are funny at all -- it's utterly preposterous, you'd look like an idiot debating that. There are so many funny women, now and in the past, as to be an undebatable point. Which is why Adam Carolla says it as an aside "of course there's... super funny chicks." It's so undebatable it doesn't even need to be mentioned, it can be assumed.

But, as media savvy as Adam Carolla is, he doesn't notice this subtle shifting of the frame. Instead of calling out the faulty assumption of this question -- that a debate about 'are women funny' exists -- he answers the question. By doing that, he implicitly accepts the existence of an "are women funny" debate, and now he has to take a side on it. And even though he EXPLICITLY says in his answer that there are "super funny chicks," because of the way the question is framed, he is forced to not just say women can be funny, but completely disavow the negative side of the "are women funny" debate, or it looks like he's on the wrong side of it. A debate that doesn't exist.

That's such a subtle maneuver, but it turned Adam Carolla into a media bogeyman, and it created a ton of meaningless controversy that moved millions of eyeballs to pages that media outlets could monetize.

Look, there could be a discussion over his statement that "dudes are funnier than chicks." That's at least a debatable point, though I think it's a stupid and ridiculous debate -- even if we could figure it out, who cares about the average humor level of the sexes? No one pays to see average people tell jokes. You pay to see the funniest people tell jokes, they're called comedians, and a bunch of those are women -- end of stupid debate.

The crazy thing about this is that I haven't seen any commentary pointing this out. Everyone missed it. People are falling all over themselves to yell from every blog and Tumblr and Twitter account that they, unlike Adam Carolla, "think women are super-funny."

Except that is precisely what Adam Carolla said.

 

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