DownloadTo all you aspiring Mrs. Maisels out there: bad news. Don’t try to be funny. Certainly not in the workplace. Because if you tell jokes or deploy humor in a business setting, you will lose credibility, jeopardize your career and fall flat on your face.

That sums up the study from researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Colorado Boulder who analyzed reactions to the use of humor by male and female leaders. More than 200 participants watched videos of a manager making a sales pitch in which a male or female manager either used humor or played it straight.

The upshot: Funny men got a boost, while funny women got shafted.

Everyone loves humor, so why the difference? You guessed it: It all has to do with gender stereotypes. The study says that when men deploy humor, it enhances their aura of rationality and logic. But when women do so, they’re perceived as disruptive, reinforcing the notion that women are less dedicated to work.

It does seem harder for women to pull off comedy, but here’s what’s frustrating: “Even when women successfully express humor, they experience a reduction in status perceptions, performance evaluations, and assessments of leadership capability,” according to the study.

That means even if a woman is fabulously funny and making the work environment more enjoyable, not only will she not be rewarded, she’ll be regarded as a wack job.

The only safe way for a woman to conduct herself at work, it seems, is to play it straight and serious. Except you know what will happen next. She’ll be called a humorless bitch.

Once again, women just can’t win.

But I can’t accept that women have to be sourpusses at work. That can’t be healthy for anyone. So I asked Jonathan Evans, one of the study’s authors, whether women can use a different form of humor, like a wry remark, without paying a penalty.

To my relief, Evans thought women employing dry humor might be more palatable, although he stresses this is anecdotal. “It is possible that more casual, impromptu humor in conversation is evaluated differently than the formal, prepared presentation format used for our study,” he explains. “We thought that dry humor is more easily incorporated into casual conversation than a presentation.”

Another possible exception to the rule that women can’t be funny: Older women with a track record of accomplishments. Evans says that this group’s use of humor might be more acceptable because these women have established themselves and are thus perceived as “more agentic,” or full of agency.

Frankly, I’m not sure these exceptions are making me feel better. Basically, it means women are allowed the privilege of being funny only if they’re not too direct or if they’ve proven themselves. To me, the better course is for women not to give a damn. While it might be true that funny women don’t get the respect that funny men do, so what? Do we need to add another “don’t” to our list?

I wonder if this kind of information is helping women. Or is it just making women more self-conscious than we already are?

“That’s a reaction I’ve heard from some people when I’ve told them about these results,” says Evans. “The most I can say is that our data suggests the existence of this undesired dynamic in this particular circumstance. “

Maybe so. But I’m not amused.

vchen@alm.com.

Twitter: @lawcareerist.