A few years ago a friend of mine asked me, “If you were required to do or say something funny on short notice, what would you do?” He was being inducted into a club that required a clear sense of humor. As part of their ritual for joining that club, they had ordered him to “be funny now!” I’m not sure what the club was called, but I think it was a very exclusive club, like the Turtle Club.
I’ve thought about that question over the years several times, and the reason I have is simply because sometimes one might actually need to do or say something funny on short notice. This happens regularly if you are married. I am not suggesting here that one should use humor to cover up or dismiss real problems. Those need to be addressed in an honest and sober way. But sometimes, I have found, your spouse simply needs to laugh, and you do, too, and laughing together can be a real balm for the soul and for a couple’s relationship, particularly for people who have been married a long time.
I say this because I think that laughter is just about the only thing that a couple can share throughout married life. Passion will come and go, and I suppose, when one is quite old the sexual kind pretty much just goes—though not according to AARP, so maybe this is just a rumor. The fruit of that passion, that is children and their rearing, well that can be quite a life-long project, but even so children will eventually leave the nest. If they don’t you can, I suppose in an act of desperation, actually sue them to leave.
But humor, well, it is the product, I believe, of a healthy relationship. And even though it is something that one can find overused, as a way to deflect from a sober conversation, it is nonetheless vital. It’s more than just spice—it’s an actual ingredient in the recipe of life, though like spice, it’s a tasty ingredient.
So, when my friend asked me what I would do to be funny on short notice, I just answered him by barking like a dog, though not to a tune. And he burst out laughing, for he had done that very thing the evening before when he was joining the Turtle Club (or whatever club that was). And sometimes, just barking like a dog is funny, though in this clip, the man’s wife seems less than amused.
I close with the top ten ways to be funny that are guaranteed* to make your spouse laugh:
- Wear your underwear on your head to breakfast and pretend that nothing is going on.
- Tell your spouse that your neighbor is a spy and act like you really mean it and you’re going to call the FBI; ask him or her to Google the phone number for the FBI while you watch the neighbor out the window.
- Pretend you like something you’ve never liked before, like golf or crochet or boiled, slimy okra.
- Temporarily rename your dog and insist that that has always been the dog’s name.
- Insist that Christmas is “just around the corner” even if it’s springtime.
- Pretend to have developed a new allergy to something common that almost no one is allergic to (e.g. tea)—this only works if you’re not already a highly allergic person.
- Act like you’ve completely forgotten about old T.V. shows like Columbo or Hawaii Five-O and the you basically don’t remember the 1970s. This only works if you actually could possibly remember the 1970s.
- Insist that Bill Clinton is still the president of the United States and that, in any case, he never had any affair(s).
- Act like you want to go skydiving “right now” and say you’re calling in sick to work to do so; of course, insistently invite your spouse to come with you.
- Bark like a dog.
*Guaranteed in a figurative sense; not actually guaranteed.