Stand up comedy: a barometer for your dating relationship

Steve Byrne laying down CC
Steve Byrne on his Comedy Central special

A couple of weeks ago, my wife & I had our date night at the San Jose Improv to see one of my favorite stand up comedians, Steve Byrne.  When we were waiting in line outside the comedy club, we reminisced about all the other comedians we’ve seen through the years: Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Frank Caliendo, Bill Engvall, Dat Phan, Hal Sparks, & Josh Blue are among our favorites.

Dat Phan & me.jpg
Dat Phan at Cobb’s Comedy Club

When I attended college at UC Davis, I frequented the Punch Line in Sacramento.  A buddy of mine had a friend who worked there, so we got free tickets.  Seeing live stand-up is an awesome experience, the energy much more vibrant than what comes through a taped show.

After graduation and moving back home, I frequented many Bay Area comedy clubs, especially Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco.  Sometimes I could go with friends.  But often, I took dates here, especially if I was interested in pursuing an exclusive relationship.  While I love to laugh and have a good time at comedy clubs, I used these dates as a barometer for my rapport with these women.  Let me explain:

In all my discussion with men and women on their ideal partners, a huge majority of them will state “sense of humor” as a top priority.  No one has ever told me they want a mate that “is so dull, that they will bore me to death!”  But wanting to be with someone with a good sense of humor is akin desiring a significant other who “is good at breathing.”

What most people really mean is that they want someone with a similar sense of humor.  If I find something funny, I would like my partner to find it funny, too.  Of course, no two people will be in sync 100% of the time, but the closer the better IMHO.  Two people in my life really accentuate this point:

  1. Bill was my roommate for 1 year at school.  We lived in the same dorm freshman year and then shared an apartment our sophomore year.  He is incredibly bright and enjoys intellectual debates.  His sense of humor is extremely dry and witty; so dry that most people didn’t think Bill is that funny (mostly because his jokes were over their heads).  I like Bill’s jokes, but often have to pause for a second before I figure out the punchlines.
  2. On the other hand, my buddy Brant has a completely different notion of what he considers amusing.  Dinner out with Brant may involve him balancing all of the spoons at the table on his nose, or playing the Penis Game in earshot of strangers.  Brant has also been known to dance very seductively at weddings (including taking off his shirt and tie) in the middle of the dance floor, for all to see (all while sober, too).  You either thought Brant is the funniest guy in the room, or are horrified by the crassness of the situation (maybe even both).

Both men are very smart and very accomplished in their respective professions.  But Bill and Brant have really different senses of humor, and they married women who have similar tastes.

Humor compatibility is a really underrated attribute for passion, more important that we realize.  As the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine,” and finding someone who really gets you can be just as hard as finding love.  But it can be difficult to gauge humor compatibility in the moment, which brings us to the live comedy show.

Inside a comedy club (especially the smaller, more intimate venues), the vibe from the comedian and the crowd brings out all the emotions.  If the headliner is killing the room, everyone is laughing and rolling on the floor.  If the performer is bombing, you will feel the awkward tension in the air (and maybe a few boos).  If you’re laughing so hard tears are rolling down your face while your date has his arms crossed and looking bored at his smartphone, that might be a warning sign.  If both of you are having a great time (or even a terrible time together), that show will be a wonderful memory you can recall for years to come.

Even before the comedian got on stage, I would check for another layer of compatibility.  We would often get to a show ahead of time to try to get a good seat.  With bad eyes from all this reading and writing and computer use, along with bad ears from too many music concerts in my youth, I prefer to sit in the front of places (lecture halls, sporting events, court hearings, etc).  Most of the smaller comedy clubs are general admission, and if you near the front of the line, the host will ask you if you want to sit in the front row.  While I prefer the front, I would always defer to my date:

  1. If she declined the front row and we were seated farther from the stage, I would wonder if she was too self-conscious and didn’t want to get targeted by any of the comics.  (Obviously dating couples in the front row are often picked on.  It’s super low-hanging fruit.)
  2. If she agreed to the closer seats, then I would be ecstatic, realizing that she was confident enough in be able to laugh at herself and me.  And we were usually picked out of the crowd, as I often laugh really loud at shows for the talent to notice and my dates were almost never Asian (even today, mixed-race couples get a bunch of looks, but that’s another post for another time).
    • For the record, the woman who would eventually become my wife chose to sit close.  We got picked on then, and we still laugh at ourselves, both at home and at comedy clubs.

Humor compatibility should not be the only barometer for a potential long term relationship, but it is an important one.  While a couple doesn’t need to be 100% similar in this quality, I’m from the school of thought that they more features a couple shares, the fit will be easier.  This goes along with political leanings, spiritual beliefs, and future child-raising notions.  Couples that agree on most things will have fewer obstacles to overcome in the long run.  And the couples that laugh together the most will have the most fun relationships, at home and out at the clubs.

Steve Byrne and me
Steve Byrne after the show

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