By Jim Slotek
I happened to see two versions of the same show by Russell Peters at different venues a while back. In the first he had a bit about the superiority of the internationally-preferred “butt wash” variety of toilet over toilet paper.
The second show, which was recorded for Netflix, didn’t include the bit. I spoke with him after and he shrugged and said, “it wasn’t going over.”
I was there, and beg to differ. There were guilty laughs. My suspicion is that Netflix got squeamish, but the important thing is that Peters went there.
As it happens, a lot of comedians go there (no pun intended), as evidenced in Poop Talk, a documentary that (a) posits as ridiculous the squeamishness society attaches to a universal biological function, and (b) comedians, by nature, revel in that squeamishness.
All of which makes Poop Talk, from Aaron N. Feldman (John Doe: Diary of a Serial Killer) sound a lot more academic than it is. True enough, he has people with some cred, like Dr. Drew Pinsky and Canadian epidemiologist David Waltner-Toews, who wrote a book with the punny name The Origin Of Feces. All together, they add a minute, maybe two, of seriousness and evolutionary perspective to the proceedings.
The rest is something more related to The Aristocrats, the Paul Provenza doc in which various comedians had a go at “the filthiest joke ever written.” This one simply offers an array of comedians, most interviewed at L.A.’s Improv (the logo looms large throughout), some famous some less so, giving their favourite poop anecdotes - pretty much all of them, ostensibly from real life.
Nick Swardson (Terry on Reno 911, various Adam Sandler movies) talks about an experience in which he didn’t quite make it to the toilet and decided to blame the trail of mess on his roommate’s dog (why the dog would be headed for the bathroom represents a logical flaw in his alibi).
Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) practically lays out whole neuroses with his stories about believing, as a child, that excrement was simply excess food, and if you ate just the right amount, you would never need to defacate. He also recalls his father warning him, “that if you swallow gum, your shit becomes a yo-yo.”
Bobby Lee (Mad TV) talks about his childhood in Korea, and the ages-old outhouse at his grandmother’s house, and his fanciful notion that he was, “contributing to generations of shit – my great-great-grandfather’s shit is somewhere down there.”
There are people who own their movements proudly (like Nicole Byer, who claims to have eaten a burger while using an airline toilet) and others, like Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, who offers up elaborate means by which he avoids using public toilets (he doesn’t even use the one in his private trailer on the show).
And Rob Corddry who owns and demonstrates the most high-tech, tricked-out toilet of anyone on offer, gives the weirdest personal anecdote. It involves Catholic summer camp and side-by-side hole-in-the-board outhouses, where he and the priest (a non-relative named Father Bob Corddry) talked about life and spirituality while eliminating worldly things.
This is some off-beat stuff, not especially imaginatively presented - just 78 minutes of funny people talking shit. You should know from the description whether it falls into your comedy comfort zone. I will guiltily admit a lot of it fell into mine.
Poop Talk. Directed by Aaron N. Feldman. Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Eric Stonestreet, Rob Corddry and others. Opens Friday, February 16 at the Carlton Cinema and on VOD/Digital.