Can Men and Women Be Funny Together?

The Hangover 2 may be the big opener this weekend, but A.O. Scott has a fine essay appreciating its female box-office rival, Bridesmaids, in Sunday’s New York Times. “This is only formally a comedy of marriage,” Scott writes. “Its real subject, the engine that drives both the humor and the pathos, is female friendship, which is shown to be far more volatile, treacherous and demanding than mere heterosexual love.” This leads him to a provocative conclusion: “What Bridesmaids may reveal about modern screen comedy is not that women can be funny, but rather that men and women can’t be funny at the same time, or direct their humor at one another. If you think back to the romantic comedies of earlier eras, you see a clash of contending, evenly matched forces, whether embodied by Hudson and Day or Hepburn and Grant. The stuff of comedy was the battle of the sexes, and while it was rarely a fair fight—everyone agreed it was a man’s world—it was often thrilling to watch, because the matrimonial stakes seemed so high.”