“Take My Spouse — PLEASE”, Dani Klein Modisett’s second book (the first was “Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read in a Parenting Magazine”), is a unique view of two of civilization’s oldest institutions – comedy and marriage.
The author happens to be both a comedian and married, and so she speaks with a certain authority in each arena. Klein Modisett is also an actress of more than twenty years on stage and in television. She enjoys friendship with lots of comedians and is a former decade’s long teacher of stand-up comedy at UCLA.
Early on in her marriage Klein Modisett realized that the rules and skills she learned in becoming a successful stand-up comic are the same rules and skills that sustain happy, healthy and thriving marriages. That is what her book is about – following the rules of comedy to make better marriages.
I loved the book, but before I say anything more a disclaimer is appropriate.
The author is a congregant and friend. She interviewed me and included our conversation in the final chapter “Get Help to Get Better” (pages 233-237). However, even if I had nothing to do with the book or the author, I would recommend “Take My Spouse — PLEASE” because it is a wise and funny guide for both comics on stage and spouses who want stronger, happier and healthier marriages.
After officiating at more than 600 weddings in my 36 years as a congregational rabbi, celebrating hundreds of milestone wedding anniversaries, counseling many couples suffering marital distress, and being married myself for 33 years, I believe that Dani’s insights about what makes a good marriage are spot-on correct. I assume she is also right about what makes for good stand-up comedy, but I have no professional expertise to judge except to say that I enjoy good comedy writing and comedians who know what they are doing.
Dani writes as she is – smart, edgy, funny, honest, warmhearted, self-deprecating, and self-revelatory. The best part of the book is when she herself is reflecting about comedy and marriage, connecting dots and sharing insights. Though the many couples she interviewed support well the points she makes and their stories draw the reader in, Dani is the star of this volume. Her insights, crisp writing, willingness to self-disclose, to lay bare her vulnerabilities, and to discuss candidly her own marriage with her husband Tod make for an engaging and compelling read.
Tod, by the way, deserves a huge shout-out for his generosity and courage in giving his wife permission to write about him and their marriage.
Dani discusses the many rules and skills that comedians need to be successful on stage and spouses need to thrive in their marriages. Here are but a few of them:
• “Show up,” be present, listen, and respond
• Be daring and go for the element of surprise – Doing the unexpected keeps everyone interested
• Laugh it up – laughter diffuses tension, draws everyone close and can be an aphrodisiac
• Be tough, persevere and “don’t let one or two bad experiences take you out”
• Accept constructive criticism, be self-critical and strive to do it better next time
• “Sex is to marriage what jokes are to an audience; without it, the natives get restless”
• Having an extra-marital affair is a very-very-very bad idea! (I don’t know if there is an equivalent no-no-no in comedy [Note to self: Ask Dani about this when I see her next])
• “Pay attention to your physical appearance – how you look matters”
• Stay clear of incessant complainers, toxic and overly critical and negative individuals and couples – especially befriend and hang with those who share your positive and hopeful outlook
• “Timing is everything – Pick your moments and watch what you say and do”
• Relax – nothing works when you are tense
• Be honest, but don’t be unkind – Restraint is a virtue (in other words: keep your mouth shut before you say things you will forever regret!)
• Get help if you are in trouble – and don’t give up
• “Be patient – everything worthwhile takes time”
Dani Klein Modisett has written an important, entertaining and very serious book that can help comedians become better at their craft and couples sustain happier, healthier and thriving marriages – and I recommend it heartily.