Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Good Joke, Ruined

Somebody told me once that golf is a good walk, ruined. Well that's what I intend to do today to the humor of Jeff Foxworthy by putting a few of his jokes under the microscope. I was watching a Foxworthy TV special when it occurred to me just how much of his material is based on marriage and relationships. This is true of many comedians; I just happened to be watching Jeff when the thought struck me. So I started wondering why. What is it about our attempts to get along with each other that the whole world seems to find so endlessly entertaining, in fact downright hilarious?

I put on my detective hat and came up with the following clues. See if you can spot a pattern. Foxworthy's topics include:
  • Trying to figure out which answer your wife is looking for when she asks you a loaded question, like whether you would re-marry if she died: "You ever have that dream where you're taking a test you haven't studied for?"
  • Understanding what will and will not anger your spouse, and how women are so much better at this than men: "How often do you see a man stomp out of the room crying, and a woman going, 'What? What'd I say?' "
  • Attempting to make peace with your wife after you fail to master that last skill: "You like jewelry don't you? I'll buy you a lot of jewelry."
  • Maintaining a healthy sex life once you have children, especially when the young ones wake up at night and wander quietly into your bedroom: "There are few surprises in life to match looking your wife directly in the eye ... and feeling somebody tickle the bottom of your feet. That is what you call a show stopper right there."

Did you notice? These are exactly the same types of relationship issues that show up as Dismaying Stories. How can we deal with various circumstances that stress our relationship? How can we get along better?

I paid attention to the audience reaction to some of Foxworthy's relationship stories. Finger pointing and sheepish expressions were common. People clearly related to these situations from personal experience. The collective reaction seemed to be: "I can feel the pain of those people Jeff is talking about because I have been there, done that and I am soooo glad it's not me ... at least not this time."

Here is the message you can take from this; you are not alone. If your relationship is less than perfect, if you and your partner need to work through issues from time to time, that doesn't make you unusual or somehow inferior to others. It means you are normal. You are dealing with the same types of issues the rest of us have been struggling with since Eve asked Adam which bunch of fig leaves suited her figure the best.

So keep dropping by, faithful reader, and together we will chip away at the mystery that is the human relationship, one Dismaying Story at a time.


P.S. I made a discovery about myself while working on this article. Apparently while I'm typing I say the words silently to myself. As I composed this story I realized the voice in my head was speaking in Foxworthy's southern accent. For some reason that made the whole experience more enjoyable. And you can draw whatever conclusions you'd like from my admission that I sometimes hear a voice in my head. Keep smiling!


  1. Jeff is our family's favorite comedian. I also think that a vital ingredient for any relationship is humor. Some of the situations Jeff describes would result in blow up arguments in some homes. In ours, it often results in blow up laughter. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves. I think many people take themselves too seriously. We aren't making reality shows, we're living reality. Great post!

  2. I have often tried to not like Jeff Foxworthy, but came to the conclusion that he will just have to be one of those guilty pleasures in life that I am too embarassed to share with Britney Spears and The Sound of Music.

  3. Vicki: Thanks. I agree -- laughter can truly strengthen a relationship. When was the last time you heard someone say, "I hate it that my partner laughs so much." Doesn't happen.

    Julie: Oh there are so many. Froot Loops. The Music Man. Quiche. I could go on and on. I'm glad you weren't too embarrassed to share here. Thanks.

  4. What is a perfect marriage? In my opinion there is no perfect marriage as there are no perfect individuals.

    Laughter is important as well as not taking things so darn seriously. My husband makes me laugh all the time as I do the same to him.

    Marriage and relationships are not easy, that is for sure. The one reason why I don't agree with marriage counseling is because I truly believe that "people" need individual counseling first.

    A lot of our issues, baggage, fears, our past, low self-esteem, amongst other things are brought into a marriage.

    I think if we all get individual counseling (if needed) then relationships would take a major turn for the better.

  5. Hi Beachwriter,
    Everyone has to make their own choices as to the types of interventions they feel comfortable with. I'm glad to hear that laughter works so well for you! Thanks for your input.

  6. I think Jeff says many of the things we are thinking, we just don't want his family over for dinner.

    I think relationships are based on humor. Will you please check out my blog and see if my wedding expectations are normal?

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