Here's a chunk:
Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further. Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.
Like nearly all writing about humour, it is regrettably unfunny. Hitchens enlivens the article with a little, and quotes some jokes but, of course, dissection is never amusing, unless you have the scatological sense of humour of the average medical student.
Is the thesis right? Quite possibly. But I have some trouble with it as I grew up with some very funny women. One of my sisters is such a good mimic that one would occasionally swear that she'd been abducted by aliens and substituted by a shape-changer. It was a source both of vast amusement and of great terror to walk with her down a suburban street. One would would never know when one would be accompanied by a drooling idiot, or someone with an extreme, dragging limp, a man with a dewdrop or a veiled (sleeve) and respectable Hindu lady.
Perhaps, no, probably, women are not so good at the joke, the one- or several liner. But the interplay of humour and seriousness in a conversation is perhaps better practised by them than by men. Much of my childhood was spent in the company only of older women. It was a time that I remember as full of humour. Maybe women joke very differently without the presence of men?
I was going to make a list of funny women, but I realised it would be never-ending. Let me accept instead, that in terms of motivation, Mr Hitchens may be half right.
Now I want to quote some of my favourites:
Linda Smith on Erith (where she was born): "it isn't twinned with anywhere but it does have a suicide pact with Dagenham". She also described the privatised rail service as a `series of scenes from Doctor Zhivago, with parents desperately passing their children on to crowded trains in the hope the odd one might make it.'
Joyce Grenfell: she originated the only catchphrase I have ever found funny, because it was only ever deployed realistically (as a fraught nursery teacher, whilst in the midst of doing something else): `George, don't do that!'
Dorthy Parker: "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised";
"Brevity is the soul of lingerie" and finally,
"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."