Spouse and I first encountered Stephen Colbert long before there was a Repor(t) or a Colbert Nation. For only one season during 1995-1996, Comedy Central aired a show called Exit 57. The show’s theme song was a version of If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake, and the opening sequence had the entire cast squeezed into the back of a vintage cab, driven by a questionable cab driver. They, naturally, exit the unnamed highway at milepost 57. This is where we fell in love with Stephen, as well as Amy Sedaris, and acquired many of our funny-just-to-us one-liners. The sketches followed the usual lines of parent-child relationships, community theater, craft sales, and the seamy underbelly that is grocery store break rooms.
Whatever it is that draws people to each other, be it pheromones, divine intervention, or the chance encounter of fate, Spouse and I were. Our mutual attraction was permanently set by our shared sense of humor. I loved Monty Python’s Flying Circus, having discovered it during early high school. Spouse, I learned, had reels of 8mm film that he shot of the show while watching it on television as a young teen. He had LPs and cassettes that the Python’s released after their series ended in the UK. He also had many LPs by Elton John, The Beatles, and Emerson Lake & Palmer. I didn’t care so much about those, but having things we could laugh at together, things that sparked our quirky intelligence, things that struck our wit regardless of what common thought might be, these were priceless.
Now, I would never suggest that our sense of humor is the only reason we have been happily together for 27+ years. We often find ourselves on the same pages ideologically, spiritually, musically, politically, etc., but still have heated debates over social issues, or, say, parenting, often not agreeing on a variety of things. I get mad when the dog he wanted digs up my garden, when his unremoved shoes track mud through the house, and when the garage is, again, littered with sawdust and bits of wood. (He could list things about me but this is my blog.) I think the main reason we’ve had a good relationship is that we practice a combination of talking about things that feel problematic and letting go of those same things. For me, I try to reposition myself to see the bigger picture: yes, there are dirty footprints through the kitchen, but HE made those footprints and I am so grateful that we’re together; yes, I’m cleaning up the garage again, but HE is making really cool plant supports for my garden or the needed airplane showcase shelves for Junior’s room or the forms to pour the cement face of the fireplace. Not at all content to be a doormat, I remind Spouse that it makes life easier when he takes off his shoes, I ask if he can figure out a way to keep Puppy out of the garden, or I give him a Did-you-notice-I-cleaned-up quiz, all of which, when delivered in a kind way, he responds to with sincere apology, problem-solving, or praise. No one is a mind-reader. We each have to speak our concern or praise, out loud, so we can compromise or celebrate together.
Humor does, however, make all of this much easier. A well-timed one-liner, delivered with sensitivity and a straight face morphing into a smile, can take an unpleasant, heated exchange and turn it into a platform for a reasonable conversation. It’s the tiny bit of light that reminds me that this thing I’m so worked up over, this enormous issue that must be dealt with in a dramatic fashion, is just a flicker, one moment during the whole of my life. I pause, breathe, laugh, and become human again. I need to say that we don’t believe in negative humor. Belittling someone is not funny. Jokes about physical appearance, personality, ethnicity, economic status, or anything else someone has little control over are destructive. We don’t put each other down, we aren’t rude to each other, we never laugh at one another’s expense. Yikes! This is shared humor, delivered by people who trust and love each other.
Most of our catch phrases come from The Simpson’s, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Monty Python in all of its incarnations, The State, and, of course, Exit 57. As a surprise gift, Spouse, my personal latte-delivered-to-me-while-still-in-bed barista, rummaged around eBay and found me a mug that looked like an ear of corn. His purpose in doing this was that, yes he loved me, but moreover, so he could reenact a Stephen Colbert Exit 57 Pilgrim sketch, saying as he handed me my coffee, “Here, have some corn.”