Without context the line doesn’t seem all that funny (I’d hope not, at least) but when you say “take my wife” as though you’re about to use her as an illustration for an example, and then you throw in “please” the gag works.
And now I’ve just explained a joke, which is the easiest way to ruin the humor of it.
I just watched it again. I’m dying over here.
In all seriousness, Youngman and his wife were happily married and she always got a kick out of his gags. The famous one-liner happened by accident as the two of them were to be seated at a restaurant. The waiter asked if they were ready to be seated and Youngman motioned for the waiter to lead his wife ahead of him. Without thinking he said “take my wife” and then paused for a moment before politely adding “please.” The waiter laughed because he assumed Youngman was cracking a joke, and the legend was born.
There’s really no way to segue this into a spiritual discussion so let’s just move ahead.
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
Jesus tells us that our lives must be secondary to our service to God. Though we have a God-given instinct to survive, our Christian commitment means we yield that instinct and willingly pick up our instrument of death (cross) and follow Him.
If our attitude is “My life is too important to…” then Jesus says we’ve already wasted our life. If our desire is to save it (to spare it and keep it going in this life) at any cost then we will end up losing everything. But if our thought is to give our life to Him, then not only will we find meaning in this life, but an eternal life with Him afterward.
We should not be clinging to our lives. We should be saying to Him “take my life…please!”