"You're actually pretty funny for a girl. Although most guys don't really care about that." It was a backhanded compliment, delivered by the kind of dribbling misogynist who masturbates over the annual sexy arse calendars you get free at service station garages. But it struck a chord. Funny is supposed to be your dating calling call, the human equivalent of sticking your bottom in the air and allowing potential mates to grind their nose into your rectum.
Despite my supposed USP, bacteria-neutralising yoghurt drinks have a longer shelf life than most of my relationships. That's not to say I'm unpopular with men. If I ever wanted a Tinder knight in rusty armour to turn up at my flat with a condom and a three pound bottle of wine from Tesco, I'd be spoilt for choice. Leery drunks at the bar rarely miss an opportunity to grope me, and, save for an unfortunate incident where a Brazilian man offered to lick my feet at the table, most of my real life dates have been successful. We go for dinner like fully-functioning adults and I try not to fall over. They tell me that I make them laugh. That say they like me. They tell me that I'm interesting, independent or 'unique'. (Which roughly translated means 'I'd rather take a bath in regurgitated cat sick than go out with you'.) However successful the dates, the follow up is much the same. They disappear in a cloud of smoke. They're busy for the foreseeable forever. They'd rather be dating a woman who can pout without looking like a recently escaped zoo animal and goes running even when she's not chasing an ice-cream truck. Or we just agree that it's not going to work out because we don't have enough in common or his wife isn't going to like me.
For decades surveys have told us there are few traits more attractive to women than a good sense of humour. Any man can laugh a woman into bed, no matter how geeky he is, or how many model train sets he's collected under his bed. Alas, the same can't be said for women. Despite the growing success of female comedians, writers and actresses, studies show that men tend to value humour receptivity more than humour production. So that guy who's looking for a woman with a great sense of humour? He doesn't really want a girl who can crank out witty one-liners and make fun of him in front of his mates. He wants to be with someone who's up for a good time and laughs at his jokes.
I'm still friends with lots of the men I've dated. (You can't be cross with someone just because things didn't work out and besides, Voodoo dolls don't work.) Though most of these ex-flings/boyfriends/undefined romantic attachments said they found me funny, it wasn't the stuff their romantic dreams were made of. According to one ex, funny is just an optional extra in the relationship package deal. And for some men, it's actually a turn off.
Comedy is self-deprecating, sometimes crude and more often than not, a bit mean. Female comedians tend to be loud and uncompromising, happy to sacrifice sexy for laughs, and at times, bordering on the ridiculous. Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones was heralded as one of the most successful female comedy characters of all time, but I've yet to find a man who found this 30-something singleton and her enormous knickers the pinnacle of bonkability. Then there was Kristen Wiig's 'Bridesmaids', a movie where her character spent more time intoxicated on a plane than wooing the leading man with Bambi-eyed lash flutters. She's since been lauded as a comedic genius, but Wiig rarely attracts the same 'hotness' label as fellow actresses.
Female stand ups like Sara Pascoe and Sarah Millican are notorious for poking fun at women's struggles. Bodily functions. The pressures of dating. What your fanny might look like in the mirror. They don't shy away from topics men don't want to think about, they're not afraid to be weird and they never apologise for their intelligence.
Some funny women use humour as a shield, particularly on the dating scene, where a girl needs as much armour as she can physically amass to get through with minimal battle scars. But while men value credentials like sweetness and vulnerability, these can be difficult to see through a wall of self-deprecation.
Thankfully there are plenty of men who appreciate funny women. There are some who can't live without them. But in my experience, humour isn't the instant aphrodisiac it is for women. And making a man laugh doesn't result in minibreaks to the Maldives where you stay in a little house on floaty sticks, feed each other indistinguishable fruit and take instagrammable snaps of yourselves gazing into turquoise abyss. Sure men like women with a bit of wit, who laugh at themselves when they stumble down a flight of stairs and flash their pants to 30 strangers. They like to date them. They might even like to poke their widgy in them for while, should the opportunity present itself. Just don't expect your sense of humour to be the main attraction.