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Thursday, March 9, 2017 12:14 am

Born jesterday

Amy Alkon
I’m a 27-year-old guy and I’m not very funny. I know women like a guy with a sense of humor, so I was interested in these “Flirt Cards” with funny messages that I saw on Kickstarter. You write your number on the back and give the card to a woman you’d like to meet. Good idea or bad for breaking the ice? – Single Dude

Using a pre-printed card to hit on the ladies makes a powerful statement: “I’m looking for a kind woman to nurse me back to masculinity.”

Asking a woman out isn’t just a way to get a date; it’s a form of display. Consider that women look for men to show courage. (The courage to unwrap a pack of cards doesn’t count.) And mutely handing a woman some other guy’s humor on a card is actually worse than using no humor at all – save for extenuating circumstances, like if it were the Middle Ages and you’d had your tongue cut out for unseemly behavior with the earl’s livestock (again).

Consider evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller’s “mating mind” hypothesis – the notion that “our minds evolved not just as survival machines, but as courtship machines.” Miller explains that the mind acts as a “fitness indicator” – a sort of advertising agency for a person’s genetic quality (among other things). Humor is a reliable (hard-to-fake) sign of genetic quality – reflecting high intelligence, creative problem-solving ability, and a lack of mutations that would handicap brain function.

But it isn’t just any old humor that women find attractive. Any guy can memorize a joke. Accordingly, in a study of the pickup lines men use on women, psychologists Christopher Bale and Rory Morrison “distinguish wit (spontaneous jokes that fit the context exactly, are genuinely funny, and require intelligence) from mere humor (the pre-planned jokes and one-liners which … do not demonstrate intelligence).”

Anthropologist Gil Greengross, who studies humor and laughter from an evolutionary perspective, suggests that even a guy who’s lame at humor should at least take a run at being funny: “The risk of not even trying to make women laugh may result in losing a mating opportunity.” I disagree – though only in part. If you’re unfunny, trying to force the funny is like bragging, “Hey! I’m low in social intelligence!”

However, you shouldn’t let being unfunny stop you from hitting on a woman. What you can do is be spontaneously and courageously genuine. Just put yourself out there and say hello to her and acknowledge and even laugh at any awkwardness on your part. This isn’t to say you should give up entirely on using pre-printed notes. Save them for special occasions – those when your message to a woman is something like “Stay calm and put all the money in the bag.”

© 2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show:


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