Friday, August 25, 2006

Karma Comedian

Back in the days before The Boy, The Husband and I would do the occasional show together. Theatre is something we both love, and it's what brought us together. In fact, a running joke in our household stems from one of these rehearsals. I was standing backstage watching The Husband perform the Dentist song from Little Shop of Horrors, and one of the chorus people came up to me and said, "You are so lucky to have him. You must laugh all day long!"

My first thought was: "Yes, I am. Yes, I do!"

My second thought was: "You're nuts! Nobody laughs all day long." (I didn't marry a clown, after all. I hope.)

My third - and more typically selfish - thought was: "Hey, isn't he lucky to have me, too? Aren't I funny??"

One of my many Theories is that every good marriage functions like a good comedic team. The only problem with this arrangement is that someone has to play The Straight Man. The Straight Man is defined by Wikipedia as "reasonable and serious", and the other partner is defined as "funny, unintelligent, or simply unorthodox". In our household, The Husband is the funny one, and I play the Straight Man (well, Straight Woman, technically). I am Laurel to his Hardy, Abbott to his Costello, and, yes, even Skipper to his Gilligan.

Anyone who knows anything about playing for comedy, knows that the Straight Man is the harder role. They take the pokes in the eye, the pies in the face, and every other disaster that comes along, with a calm demeanour, and sarcastic comment or two. They also usually get paid more, because it's tough to find a good comedian who is willing to be referred to as "that Other one" for the rest of their lives. And it does take a good (dare I say great?) comedian to play the Straight Man. Just because you're the Straight Man does not mean that you are not funny.

Still, it never ceases to amaze me that when I go out with friends - sans The Husband - that I am the "funny one". It's a good feeling. A natural high. It's addictive. So it begs the question - why I am willing to be the Straight Man when it comes to my spouse? I'm willing to be the Straight Man because I choose to be the Straight Man. Because it's funny. Because it works. Because I believe The Husband would do the same for me were our roles reversed. I concede that The Husband is, quite simply, better at being "the funny one" than I am. More memorable. More interesting. And I am better at being the comic foil.

I guess my greatest aspiration with regards to this situation is to achieve the kind of relationship that George Burns and Gracie Allen had. In the beginning, Burns played the funny role and Gracie the comic foil, until they noticed that the audience was laughing more at Gracie, so they switched roles. And both credited each other for their success, to the end. Because they knew that while good comedians abound, good comedic teams are truly rare. And they go down in history.

Say goodnight, Gracie.

1 comment:

bubandpie said...

This is a great theory. My husband loves playing the Straight Man - not to me, necessarily, but to other friends. He's very understated with a very dry sense of humour, so it works well. I'm definitely not a clown, but I think I prefer the other role - I like to be the one telling the funny story.