"Comedy is so unfeminine," says comedian Judy Gold. "It's so powerful. I mean if you think about it, it's you and a microphone and a bunch of people listening to you."
Gold thinks society is still not accustomed to women having that power. "For a woman, it's like, 'That's interesting, keep it to yourself, shut up,'" she says.
"People think it's an anomaly to be funny and female," says Lauren Antler, a program manager with the Jewish Women's Archive.Sense of humor is defined differently for men and women, says Gina Barreca, a professor of English literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut.
"If you say to a man, 'I know a woman who has a great sense of humor and you've got to meet her,' they think she weighs 300 pounds and has an eye in the middle of her forehead," Barreca says. "If you say to a woman, 'This guy has a great sense of humor; you have to meet him,' she immediately thinks he's cute and will be a great lover and fun to be around. People think the girls who are desirable don't speak, so the syllogism is don't speak to be desirable.
Men are uncomfortable with women having the power associated with humor. "When you're the one cracking the joke, you're in control of the conversation," she says. "Men are the ones supposed to be in control."
Rather than being in charge, society gives girls the message that they need to be quiet and well-behaved, says Andi Zeisler, a co-founder and editor at Bitch, a magazine about feminism and pop culture.
"A lot of people are threatened by funny women," she says. "Women are just not socialized to use comedy as power. We're socialized to play nice. It seems weird that comedy should be so subversive in these times, but it still really is."