Many people - including one in four women - say that men are simply more funny than women. But is this cause or effect?

The head of TV output at the BBC recently said that the corporation will not tolerate any more all-male comedy panel shows. The call came after panel shows such as QI and Mock the Week were singled out for “rarely having women represented”, and comedians such as Victoria Wood and Jo Brand criticised their format, saying “they rely on men topping each other, which is not a very female thing”.

New YouGov research finds that men and women are seen as equally funny by most people (56%), but one in three people think that men are funnier across the board. Only 5% say the same of women.

The difference is most pronounced when it comes to stand-up comedy, of which famous comedian Lee Mack, who wrote a thesis on the subject, recently said: “women can’t do stand-up because they’re not show-offs”. Even 45% of women say men are more funny here (more than the 42% who say they are equally so), and overall 50% say men are more funny compared to 39% who say they are on a level footing.

Women's favourite comedians

Many blame the belief that men are funnier on the TV establishment: women comedians are rarely even on TV, so of course people won't appreciate their comic presence.

An analysis of ratings from over 75,000 members of YouGov's Opigram system reveals the comedians that are particularly favoured by women. Of the top 10 comedians amongst women, in spite of the apparent drought of female comedians, four in ten are female. Additionally, three of the four – Sarah Millican, Miranda Hart and Jo Brand – are primarily stand-up comedians; Lee Mack appears to be wrong.

The top four are all male, however, but whether this is cause or effect we can't be sure.

The survey also asks whether people think it is a good idea or a bad idea for broadcasters to have a rule that all TV comedy panel shows have at least one female participant. 43% think the idea, similar to the one suggested by the BBC, is good, while 34% say it is a bad idea.

See the full poll results

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