I sat in the audience laughing along as Wayne Federman, one of the comedians on the Comedy for Koby tour, retold his Israel experience of frolicking and splashing in the hotel pool while the life-guarding staff drained the water with him still in it. The lifeguard responded nonchalantly that of course they drain the pool at 5:00 PM. To which he had to admit defeat and resign himself to splashing in the wee remnants of puddle water at the bottom of the pool.
Only in Israel, right?
The Comedy for Koby evening had started off with Avi Liberman as MC, a perfect mix of quirky tourist humor and just the right amount of chutzpah. Dennis Regan got away with poking fun at airlines, youth, and Israeli taxi drivers. Ralph Harris followed with a few jokes about what it’s like to be in Israel for the first time and some good anecdotes about being a man…in a relationship.
Mostly it was good clean fun considering that they were told to keep it family rated when doing the show in Gush Etzion where most of the crowd attending was religious. Besides the intended censoring of sexual innuendo I realized that there was something else that was unintentionally missing from their act. You see in most cases, the classic victims of jokes are not Jews, Pollocks, Newfies (any Canadians in the crowd?) OJ Simpson or the Pope. Nor is it the chicken that did or did not cross the road. For better or for worse, some of the greatest punch lines in history are those that come at the expense of a person’s wife.
It would serve a professional comedian well, to get a wife or at least pretend to have one, since wife jokes can keep him busy enough to do a three year run in Vegas. All one has to do is Google ‘wife jokes’ and you will see what I mean. One comedian relied so heavily on his ability to make fun of his wife, that during his divorce he invested time and energy in fighting for the right to continue making fun of her even though she was no longer legally even his wife. This was no laughing matter since I can only imagine the divorce proceedings went something like, “Sir, you get the living room couch, the time-sharing in Florida and the right to make fun of your ex-wife.”
Most people would like to hope that they can at least poke fun at their partner in reasonable doses. In all honesty, without a bit of humor in any relationship you most likely will just end up crying like a baby in the aisles of Home Depot while your girlfriend picks out paint colors. Right Ralph?
The thing is, if you are a truly skilled comedian and a loving husband there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have a little fun at your spouse’s expense in a tactful enough way that can work without having to sleep all night on the couch. Henny Youngman, one of my all-time favorite comedians would use his wife for some of his best material.
“My wife said to me, ‘For our anniversary, I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before. I said, “Try the kitchen.”
“Last night my wife said the weather outside was fit for neither beast nor man, so we both stayed home.”
When in actual fact, Henny Youngman and his wife Sadie were married for over 60 years until she died in 1987 after a prolonged illness where he had built her an ICU in their home so she could remain comfortable and out of the hospital while being close to him.
Just as society has moved farther and farther away from the default husband and wife family model, so too has comedy. Does art imitate life or does life imitate comedy? Do we have enough material and self-confidence to do a complete show making fun of ourselves and not our partners, or have we just evolved from one genre of scapegoats to another as we now explore the uncharted territory of girlfriends, lovers, and exes.
Even a comedian like Jackie Mason who can be offensive to women at times can still get the men in the audience to laugh at his wife jokes even when the point of the joke was that a husband never laughs until he looks at his wife first and asks, “Was it funny?”
And so as I watched the Comedy for Koby show as one of the only ones in the crowd who was there without a partner to laugh at, I mean with, I felt relieved to see that it is definitely possible for these fabulous comedians to make us laugh all on their own. Wives not included.
Comedy for Koby brings Hollywood’s brightest comedians to Israel to tour for Israeli audiences with all proceeds going to benefit the Koby Mandel Foundation.
More information can be found on their website here