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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

best grossouts for people who don’t like grossouts

Used to be, movies that invited us to titter about poopy and pee-pee and nosepicking were aimed at the demographic that finds that kind of thing hilarious: nursery school attendees. But a decade ago, the Farrelly Brothers, blots on the face of humanity, decided that adults were really just rugrats in disguise, and they brought toilet humor out of the toddler ghetto and into the R-rated “comedy.” And so the first seal of the seven that holds back the Apocalypse was broken.

I have been known to rail vociferously against the endless barrage of “humor” employing buckets of shit, gallons of sperm, explosive defecation, public boners, personal mortification, and all the other juvenilia that the Farrellys and their imitators have deployed in their attempts to demonstrate that the general public remains adolescent, at best, long into supposed adulthood. But my complaints are always that the grossouts serve no purpose: not as plot, not as metaphor, not as anything other than an attempt to make the audience go “Ewwwww!” But I’ve also always contended that all of these things — buckets of shit, kicks to the groin, and so on — could be utilized in comedic ways that made them more than merely a cheap laugh.

And so, in (dis)honor of the Farrellys’ new flick, The Heartbreak Kid, opening tomorrow, here are some examples of the grossout that works:
Best Fart Joke: Shaun of the Dead, which uses a running gag about flatulence as an expression of the affection of two male friends. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Poop Joke: Caddyshack’s doody in the pool, which Bill Murray finds delicious, sending up the very attitudes toilet humor usually merely indulges. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Urine Joke: Strange Brew, in which the hoser brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie use the bodily fluid to put out a building fire. [buy at Amazon]

Best Fat Joke/Best Vomit Joke: Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, with his rapacious overeating and resultant vomiting, a satire on gluttony. [buy at Amazon]

Best Bodily Mutilation Played for Laughs/Best Dismembered Limb Joke: Ash’s demon-possessed hand, which he chainsaws off in Evil Dead II only to have to the detached thing attack him. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Public Humiliation: Napoleon’s dance in Napoleon Dynamite, because he’s not humiliated in a situation when the rest of us would be. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Joke Concerning the Male Groin: Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap, and the revealing of his foil-wrapped cucumber at airport security. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Sperm Joke: Chucky, a plastic doll, who is nevertheless able to produce the fluid in Seed of Chucky. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Vulgar Old Person: The lady in Airplane! who speaks fluent jive (though she really should be much older to entirely meet the requirements of this trope). [buy at Amazon]

Best Gay Joke: Val Kilmer’s Gay Perry the private eye in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, perhaps the first comedic portrayal of a gay character in a Hollywood movie that doesn’t indulge in stereotypes. [my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Booger Joke: I haven’t seen a good one yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

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  • MBI

    “Fifty bucks says the Smalls kid picks his nose.”
    “You’re on. Don’t do it, Smalls!
    “Come on, kid! You know you want to! Yes! Ha ha!”
    “Damn! Okay… Wait. Fifty bucks says he eats it.”

  • How about Andy Kaufman’s placement of faux snot in his nostrils in *Man on the Moon*?

    I love *Strange Brew*, but the gold standard of urine jokes for me is still John Belushi spraying Stephen Furst and Tom Hulce in the beginning of *Animal House*.

    And I know you’d be mentioning *The Meaning of Life* twice, but how can *Seed of ChuckY* compare with the immortal “Every Sperm is Sacred” number? (Which admittedly, doesn’t involve any actual sperm.)

  • MaryAnn

    That’s why I didn’t mention the sperm song: no actual fluid.

  • Is it weird that I actually hate the vomiting guy in Meaning of Life? I guess it’s vaguely funny in concept (thought I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say it’s satire- what’s to satirize about people eating a lot?), and in the fact that it keeps topping itself, but I just can’t stand to watch it. It’s the one and only Python joke that I fast forward through every time.

  • MaryAnn

    What’s to satirize about gluttony? Have we gotten so used to gluttony as an ordinary thing that it’s no longer appropriate to satirize it?

  • MBI

    Here’s my personal favorite vomit joke. It’s from the last season of 30 Rock, where uptight Cosbyite writer Toofer can’t figure out a way to write for mugging lowbrow black comedian Tracy, until they realize they can integrate their opposing viewpoints in a race relations piece. Then we cut to the show, where Tracy is dressed up as Star Jones:

    Tracy: Welcome to the Star Jones Gastric Bypass Cooking Show! Mmmmm, delicious! But I can only eat small portions — BLAAUGHGHGH (vomits everywhere).
    Toofer (offstage): Liz, what happened to the race relations sketch I wrote with Tracy?
    Liz: We ran out of time and could only do one, and Tracy chose this one.
    Tracy: BLAUGHAHH! BLAUGHGHHGGH! BLAUHHGHGH (continues to vomit everywhere)
    Toofer: Ha ha ha ha! Tracy’s right, this was funnier.

  • The Creosote scene also sends up inappropriate public behavior, and the way it can be justified by having a lot of money. John Cleese’s waiter goes out of his way to cater to Mr. Creosote even though the remainder of the restaurant is fleeing in horror. Why? Because Creosote is going to be spending more there than the lot of them combined. Hence, projectile vomiting is okay… for him.

  • Jurgan

    “What’s to satirize about gluttony? Have we gotten so used to gluttony as an ordinary thing that it’s no longer appropriate to satirize it?”

    My point was more that it’s so obviously a bad thing that satirize it is almost pointless. I’m not sure there’s really much insight in showing that people who overeat are disgusting. But maybe I’m wrong, or maybe it was different in the 80’s.

    “The Creosote scene also sends up inappropriate public behavior, and the way it can be justified by having a lot of money. John Cleese’s waiter goes out of his way to cater to Mr. Creosote even though the remainder of the restaurant is fleeing in horror. Why? Because Creosote is going to be spending more there than the lot of them combined. Hence, projectile vomiting is okay… for him.”

    Now that kind of makes sense. You may have something there.

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