Down to its core, laughing is an elixir for all that ails in the most vibrant relationships. (And I dare you to resist slapping your spouse.)
On his HBO show Real Time, Bill Maher criticized the passage of Prop 8 in California as the agony, if not the irony, of bigotry. “Even in liberal California,” he said, “we voted to outlaw gay marriage. … But I have to stand with the gays on this. Gay people, I think, have every right to insist that they will not be happy until they’re allowed to be miserable.”
That’s become a semi-familiar laugh line in American pop culture—even Family Guy joined in on the joke—but can the search for marriage equality have its funny moments? Are we really seeking rights to relationship tedium? And, more broadly, how should humor play itself out as an arc in our daily lives?
Laughing with and at ourselves is still, amidst all struggles, critical to our well-being. With unemployment high, frustration mounting over the Gulf disaster and ongoing political divisions, among other major bummers, joking is both an escape and healer.
“Humor is awakening,” says Brenda Knosher, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice with her longtime partner, Julie Boyer. “It awakens us to the situation or the moment we’re in—it pops us out and into a more awake state. Very often in a couple, the presence of humor—especially intimate humor, only the type they would get—awakens that memory, that knowing, of how together they are.”
If laughter brings us closer, then comedians create the snarky, “kum bay ya” moments we treasure. Steve Hofstetter is one such funnyman, creating a unique, renaissance-man niche as author, radio-show host, sports columnist and veteran of the college comedy circuit. In addition to being an interview subject for my book, “EIQ: Everyman’s Guide to Developing Emotional Fortitude,” Hofstetter has appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and spoke exclusively to EW about same-sex marriage, cracking jokes and his upcoming nuptials to Sara, a Broadway executive in New York.
“We laugh together constantly,” he says, adding that she frequently attends his shows. “We’re incredibly silly—and that’s what keeps us happy. I see couples sometimes that are so serious—and I don’t understand how they deal with the boredom.
“The idea that gay people can’t get married is ridiculous,” he adds. “If marriage were sacred, Elvis priests and reality dating shows would be against the law, too. I once saw two guys making out on the street like they were in 8th grade and had just discovered what making out was. That wouldn’t happen if they were married. Homophobic people should realize that the way to get gay people to stop making out in public is to let them get married.”
Steve’s contribution to my book and to the marriage-equality conversation cannot be understated—with laughter, of course, at the core.
“I’ve always believed that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere,” he says. “People who think that prejudice against gays can’t affect them should remember that the Nazis persecuted homosexuals before they moved on to Jews, Gypsies, the handicapped and brunettes.”
Laughter has always been a crucial part of my life—which is why I was curious about how the elixir of LOL plays out in our lives. I see humor everywhere, in all people, and in all things. I have a sailor mouth and have been known to drop the f-bomb in inappropriate places. Everyone in my life knows I suffer from the self-proclaimed “Violent Affection Syndrome,” which affects those of us who feel the urge to slap someone because they are so cute—it even spawned a successful blog feature called “The Daily Slap,” led by my pal Rob O’Connor. My friends all know I dole out lasting nicknames: the aforementioned Rob is now “Reenage,” Michele is “Snush,” Matt is “Thigh,” Patrick is “Wagon,” Chris is “Crusty,” and so on. And my squeeze, “TL,” knows that I want LOL-ing to be part of our daily routine, and it is—I even slapped him in my kitchen on our first date. It’s just a thing, I can’t help it. (I didn’t leave a mark.)
“In a couple, it’s nearly impossible if your partner is smiling for you not to smile back,” Knosher says. “Laughter joins you. It’s the words, the content of the humor, the facial expressions, and it’s the warmth and tenderness and the happiness and joy—all of that’s about connecting you to each other.”
And there are millions of ways in which to bond over the funny stuff—so get out there and get laughing. Jump on the Web and punch up some of the archives of Saturday Night Live, a personal fave, which consistently (and for more than 30 years now) pumps out comedic gems. When Tina Fey was still co-hosting “Weekend Update,” you might have heard her weigh in on the whole gay marriage discussion.
“A Senate committee on Thursday approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, apparently forgetting that our forefathers wore wigs and satin Capri pants.”
Will Pollock is a freelance journalist and artist based in Midtown Atlanta. He is working on his first book on emotional intelligence for men and blogs frequently about this and other pop-culture nonsense at willpollock.com. He encourages you to watch the book’s progress on Facebook and follow him on Twitter, as he urges men to mine their emotional intellect.