Can the rules of comedy save your marriage?


Laughter— it makes you feel good, puts you in a better mood and can even boost your health. In fact some studies suggest a good chuckle can lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. But could laughter help a marriage in trouble?

Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of, recently sat down with Dani Klein Modisett, a comedian and author of “Take My Spouse Please,” to discuss how following the rules of comedy can keep marriages happy and thriving.

Modisett’s comedy-meets-marriage counseling idea came to her while she was reminiscing through a course book for a stand-up comedy class she had taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1999.

“When you’re a comedian people always say to you, ‘That’s the hardest thing in the world to do.’ But I personally was having a hard time in my marriage and thought, ‘No actually, I think maybe marriage is harder than stand-up,’” Modisett told “And I thought, ‘Well why don’t I look at that syllabus of that hardest thing that I taught and see if there’s anything applicable.’”

The comedic pro quickly discovered that every topic in her syllabus was relevant to marriage.

“Showing up, listening, the importance of timing, letting go of a bad night, surrounding yourself with other positive people, the element of surprise– it turns out, [it’s all] really important for staying in a happy, long-term marriage,” she said.

Showing up isn’t as simple as it sounds, Modisett noted. In her book she describes it as, “the low-fanfare task of just being there for each other.”

“If there’s an event that your spouse has to go to and you really don’t feel like it, you go, you show up. You show up for each other,” she said.

Throughout the book, Modisett shares personal stories from famous comedians, comedy writers and long-term spouses. One such couple, Joanne and Ralph Humphrey, explained how showing up can be as easy as holding your tongue when facing an in-law at a family event.

“I did this for my husband,” Joanne told Modisett in the book. “And he totally understood why I would never do this again and he probably loved me even more for just sitting there and not flipping the table over. I didn’t, because this was something he asked me to do for him. It wasn’t about me.”

Listening sounds like an obvious recommendation, but it’s not just about what you’re hearing, it’s about really taking in everything like a comedian takes in an audience, Modisett said.

“[It’s important] just to be there, but if I’m on my phone and I’m distracted, and kind of swatting you away, that’s not being there, and that’s not listening,” she said. “It can be as simple as like– put your phone down. Talk and listen, take each other in.”

For many couples, one of the most difficult rules to follow is to have sex regularly.

“I say that sex is to a marriage what jokes are to an audience, without it everybody gets restless,” she said.

Modisett further explains that married people also like new material, just like long-term comedy fans get excited about fresh jokes. One way to shake things up is to laugh together.

“If you ever read through personals ads, or any of the eHarmony [ads], it’s all, ‘I want a man who makes me laugh’ and the reason is because you figure if a man can move you to laughter, you start to think as a woman, ‘Hmm, I wonder how else he can move me?’ It’s sexy. It’s a turn on,” Modisett said.

Another benefit of bringing more humor into your marriage is how it can help diffuse fights and arguments.

“The most important thing I learned is that you don’t have to say the first thing that you think in a marriage,” Modisett said. “Lou Schneider, who’s a comedy writer I interviewed for the book said, ‘You know you’ll never regret what you didn’t say, but you might regret what you said.’ So in your marriage, be able to just have a pause and ask yourself, ‘Do I really need to say this? And do I need to say it right now?’”

For more information on Modisett and her book visit