Becoming a husband is not like figuring out how to ride a bicycle. At least not according to comedian Stuart Taylor, who brings his one-man show, The Learner Husband, to the National Arts Festival this month and the Baxter Theatre in the first week of next month.
He first performed the show, which is directed by Heinrich Reisenhofer, three years ago. This time around, it has been given a spin to launch Taylor’s book, Learner Husband: A Handy Guide For Avoiding Collisions With Your Wife. So, no, it’s not like riding a bicycle: once you learn you never forget. In his guide, Taylor says husbands everywhere should wear, with pride, that big red “L” that you find stuck on to the back of a car driven by a learner driver.
“‘L’ doesn’t mean ‘losers’ or ‘lazy’ or ‘lousy’,” reads the end of chapter two, “it means we are learning, that we are loyal and loving and lekker.” That sentence may sound motivational, but don’t be alarmed, this guide is, as Taylor says, “more of a giggle than something in the self-help space.”
Taylor, whom you may remember as a part of the hit travel series, Going Nowhere Slowly, has worked with Reisenhofer on a number of productions.
Before Technicoloured, a show exploring his identity as a new dad, Taylor “went and watched this comedian who was just gushing about his kids and I thought: ‘this is f***ing boring’. Then I went to see Barry Hilton and he was talking about how his kid is an idiot and that was f***ing funny! So I thought, ‘let me work with Heinrich’, a guy who has no kids because no one hates kids more than people who don’t have kids, so he will ensure there is no gushing factor in my show.”
After Technicoloured, Reisenhofer exclaimed to Taylor: “You’ve already written about being a father, but you still haven’t worked through your issues as a husband, so let’s work on that show!” And, after some goading from the late Fiona Coyne (who is acknowledged in the book), Taylor took Learner Husband and turned it into a book.
The show and book explore what newlywed husbands often do wrong, what they can do to try and stay on the right side of the wives, the probable causes of why their wives are the way they are and some make-believe solutions (like Man Tears, an organic onion-based solution that helps men to cry) that husbands can use to win hearts or arguments. The comedian who has been married for eight years and is a father of a two toddlers says his wife was “very influential in writing the book.”
But was she always okay with her husband making some of their personal experiences punchlines on stage and now, in a book?
“My wife has always been very supportive of me,” says Taylor, “so she took it in her stride.” He says his wife, an industrial psychologist, helped him come up with a fun quiz, that appears in the book, that assesses your strengths and weaknesses as a husband. It’s clear that Taylor’s guide is meant as a show of solidarity with husbands, but he says this light read will be enjoyable for everyone.
“We were never under the illusion that men will buy books,” he laughs. “Women will read it because they’re not sure what I’m trying to tell their man and men will get it for a buddy who is about to be married.”