Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists discovered three gender interactions that are primarily responsible for defining the male sense of humor. As you read them, please keep in mind that what currently passes for “civilized behavior” is a very recent (and imperfectly mastered) development in the 200,000-year history of the human race.
She loves me. She loves me not.
First: In the deadly serious competition to mate with the most desirable females, men are biologically programmed to fight to the death. Nowadays, however, we are much too civilized to acknowledge such an uncomfortable fact. Nonetheless, the sport of “ultimate fighting” is a modern day example of the compulsion men have always had to seriously harm one another.
Second: Women make the mating decisions, and they strongly prefer funny men. That’s because a good sense of humor is a reliable sign of higher intelligence and creativity; which would be tremendously beneficial to their children.
Third: Men have learned to employ their sense of humor to successfully compete with rival males for female attention. This is a lot safer than having a fight to the death every time they visit the local singles bar.
Intimidation is the civilized choice.
Although they might not be aware of the true reason for the testosterone-fueled urge to permanently eliminate other men, every man is acutely aware of the fact that other men experience (and might act upon) this same powerful impulse.
Therefore, even if they are endowed with physical size and strength, men learn to use a combination of insults and personal put-downs to continually demonstrate that they are tougher and more fearsome than other men.
As a result, men maintain a certain degree of emotional distance from others, and generally avoid displays of sensitivity, because of a fear that such behavior would be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the men they may one day have to fight.
The exchange of insensitive personal put-downs, which are invariably humorous, actually has a very practical purpose: it allows men to avoid engaging in physical combat with each other. Since this is a relatively friendly way to avoid potentially life-threatening confrontations with one another, humorous personal put-downs have evolved into an important part of male bonding.
Grandstanding for girls.
This brings us to an equally important use of the male sense of humor: insulting personal put-downs are used to belittle and embarrass male rivals, in an effort to show women that the men who are lampooned by these humorous barbs would make inferior mates!
Men are always trying to achieve a position of physical, economic, or intellectual supremacy over rival males, because they instinctively understand that these are the surest ways to attract female attention. And as we have just seen, men love to show off their intellectual prowess by using their sense of humor to ridicule male competitors.
Unlike women, who employ a constant stream of words to bond with each other, men always use the fewest possible words to communicate with each other (and every other living thing). Sarcastic one-liners seem to be their preferred form of communication.
They’re playing our song.
A combination of biology and evolution has hard-wired men to behave as if they are tougher and better endowed with physical and mental resources than other males. Quite fittingly, they prefer a style of humor that isn’t afraid to occasionally poke a little fun at an inviting target, or make (what women would consider) an insensitive observation or two … or ten.
This, of course, is the very definition of funny top ten lists. Throw in the fact that funny top ten lists are a series of brief one-liners, and men are in humor heaven!