Confession: I Have No Sense of Humor Whatsoever

I’m not making a joke; you know me, I take everything so seriously.

Galileo, by The Indigo Girls

The Cthulhu hat containing the demonic spirit that ate my sense of humor, leaving me entirely bereft.

I have a confession to make: my brother and his girlfriend gave me a Cthulhu hat, and once I placed it on my head, the latent spirit of the Old One within it awoke and ate my sense of humor. I have absolutely no sense of humor left now. While you might think that’s a problem for me, I can’t say I miss it. It certainly made things easier on my students, not having to put up with a professor’s lame jokes. All around, I’d say this is a net gain.

It does lead to some puzzlement from time to time, though. Last night, my science-writing friends passed around the link to a piece in Nature entitled “Womanspace”, written by Ed Rybicki. In my humorless state, I found myself wondering what it was all about; the author claims being tongue-in-cheek (odd expression, that), so perhaps I’m just missing the point. See, without a sense of humor, I just can’t see what’s funny about dragging out a bunch of extremely shopworn stereotypes about incompetent and impractical (yet strangely brilliant and clever) men, and magical women with access to arcane knowledge about how to buy mysterious stuff like underwear. Cliches flow about male Hunters and female Gatherers. It’s in Nature, though, so it has to be true.

I’ve heard tell that women are from Venus and men are from Mars, though the last I checked Mars’ atmosphere is rather thin, Venus’ is rather thick, and neither have the right balance of chemistry to allow human breathing. Perhaps that’s another thing a sense of humor is needed to understand. Perhaps even more oddly in light of How Very Different men and women are, it’s surprising how many women and men wrote vehement comments and responses on their own blogs decrying the idea that All Women are like this, and All Men are like that. However, after Rybicki’s piece, the announcement of a new journal from the Nature Publishing Group made perfect sense to me, so I totally can’t understand why my friends think it’s funny.

So I am mystified as I usually am when someone writes a supposedly satirical piece repeating old misogynist tropes, then castigate the people who Aren’t Smart Enough to get that it’s All a Joke. These writers aren’t really sexist and stupid, it’s just that all my friends, like me, lack a sense of humor. I guess it’s a common affliction. Perhaps we should be glad that a respected and venerable publication like Nature has deemed it important to run this profound commentary on gender relations, to enlighten us all.

However, I have a response ready-made for the writer and the editors who chose to run the piece:

Yes, he does.

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14 Responses to “Confession: I Have No Sense of Humor Whatsoever”


  1. 1 Nick Ashbaugh November 17, 2011 at 16:18

    I read the piece and I must say that I wasn’t particularly offended by the observations of the author. (Maybe I read too cursorially). I think that gender and behavioral tendencies are probably not completely orthogonal. Certainly, gender must account for some differences in how we go about doing things like shopping. I know my wife and I are on completely different wavelengths when it comes to shopping. Maybe that’s due to differences in upbringing or something environmental. Who kwnows. But it would be absurd to completely dismiss gender (and ultimately, genes)as a factor in explaining behavioral variation among humans. Right? Wrong? What do you think? What got me was that it was just not funny. I’m confident you still have your sense of humor intact. It just needs the right stimulus!

    • 2 Matthew R. Francis November 17, 2011 at 16:41

      It’s dumb, facile, and based on gender-relation jokes that would have felt stale in a men’s magazine in 1956.There is nothing profound to be discovered in it on any level. Yes, there is room to talk about nature/nurture and their interaction, and others are very good at doing it. This piece doesn’t even try. It assumes scientists are men (and that all its readers are men), and that his particular relationship with his wife is typical. To quote a joke, it’s his wife I feel sorry for (when an actor complained that his part was too small).

      • 3 Karen Spiegelman (@spiegelmama) November 17, 2011 at 16:57

        Word, Matthew. The most offensive part is how he assumes his audience is made up of men who are just as stupid as he pretends to be. I’m offended by his pretending to be so incompetent that he doesn’t know how to find underwear. Bah!

        For the record, I’m a woman, and I hate shopping. Even online shopping. (I do know how to find things, though.) It’s good to examine your prejudices every once in a while instead of, when someone points them out to you, hide behind the premise of it all being a joke.

  2. 4 @HopeJahren November 19, 2011 at 22:04

    Galileospendulum, as a #womanspace critic, I am deeply wounded by the thought that anyone could intimate that I have no sense of humor. Dude, anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE TO PARTY!!! In particular, a good RETIREMENT PARTY can leave everyone at the University feeling very very liberated. There are some retirement parties to which I have looked/am looking forward so much I CAN HARDLY STAND IT!! Those parties can’t come SOON ENOUGH!! I am bringing pie.

  3. 5 BellaDotka January 23, 2012 at 20:05

    Cool looking hat…:))

  4. 6 Loren Riley June 3, 2013 at 02:14

    Man, Galileo was rougher around the edges than I ever imagined.

  5. 7 Ed Rybicki (@edrybicki) August 10, 2013 at 06:56

    “It assumes scientists are men (and that all its readers are men), and that his particular relationship with his wife is typical”. You didn’t read it very well. It assumes nothing of the sort. And it’s not his wife. Ah, well…


  1. 1 #womanspace. You Trollin’, Nature? | Neurotic Physiology Trackback on November 17, 2011 at 17:44
  2. 2 Womanspace: Responses to Rybicki’s display of male privilege on NPG « The Contemplative Mammoth Trackback on November 17, 2011 at 18:40
  3. 3 Pratspace « Short and Spiky Trackback on November 19, 2011 at 15:41
  4. 4 2011: A Year of Oscillation « Galileo's Pendulum Trackback on December 30, 2011 at 10:11
  5. 5 Humanity is My Beat « Galileo's Pendulum Trackback on February 3, 2012 at 16:06
  6. 6 Pratspace » Disjointed Ramblings Trackback on March 15, 2012 at 16:12
  7. 7 Cracking jokes about Uranus makes you look like an… | Galileo's Pendulum Trackback on June 2, 2013 at 10:31
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