I’ve maintained for a very long time that Dumb & Dumber may be the perfect comedy. Aside from the fact that it’s so densely packed with jokes and gags, it covers so much ground. Part buddy road trip, part dating comedy, the second half has just about every mishap that can happen in trying to date someone that can be packed into the final act. The chief scene among them is the mini horror scene of Harry (Jeff Daniels) being tricked into drinking laxative by Lloyd, and absolutely destroying his date’s bathroom, only to find out that the toilet doesn’t flush after the fact.
For some reason, my parents let me see this movie when I was a wee lad, and it’s a favorite. I’ve often wondered: is there some statute in the Geneva conventions that dictates we can’t assassinate a person while they’re in the can? It’s possibly the most universal, yet vulnerable position we find ourselves in daily (or multiple times a day, if you’re getting enough fiber).
It’s also rarely used in comedy because it’s viewed as sophomoric (heck, check out Dave Chappelle’s Diarrhea song as an example), but the reality is that like so many things, it has a lot of potential for showing vulnerability versus trust and intimacy when used properly.
It’s not a subject for polite conversation, and even while writing this I’m wondering if I’ll actually have the guts to click “publish,” but guess what? My schtick here is talking about the things that give me anxiety, and poopin’ is one of those things- and I’m not alone.
Aziz Ansari has a bit (A Night Out With Kanye West) about Kanye stepping away from the table they were at and when he returns feels the need to assure the group “Just so you know, I was on an important phone call, I wasn’t takin’ a shit.” See? Even Kanye West for all his infamous bravado has the same hang up.
I’m writing about this because I had a phone conversation with my uncle a couple weeks ago and brought up this curiosity. Of all the “relationship milestones” I’ve never managed to hit, chief among them is going to the bathroom for that in the same domicile as my S.O.
There’s the time I lived in a studio and did a bafflingly desperate contortion of lies to try to get her to leave the studio ahead of me for dinner so I could get a few minutes to use the bathroom:
“You go ahead to the restaurant, I need to take Cordy out.”
“Oh, I can come with you to walk Cordy,”
“Well, I need to send a couple work emails, how about you take Cordy out and I’ll come meet you?”
“I can wait,”
-all that before I finally burst out confessing the need for privacy in the tiny studio space.
The Big Sick is one of the few movies other than Dumb & Dumber I can think of to tackle this effectively. There’s a hilarious scene where Emily is desperately trying to come up with an excuse to leave and go to the diner down the street for coffee alone, before she finally screams at Kumail that she needs to shit. It’s such an uncommonly addressed intimacy to admit that to someone else openly- I only admit it to my absolute closest friends, and I’ve never felt so close to an S.O. as to do anything but hold it for however long I spend around them, even overnight stays.
It may be that I have requirements for my comfort level in this (among several other things) thanks to the ol’ anxiety demon. One time on the way back from Vegas, my friends were all thrown into a fit of worry when I disappeared from the fast food place we’d stopped at for lunch because I had to run from one place, to another, to another to find an “acceptable” bathroom that was relatively clean and had a secure enough lock at the fifth restaurant I raced into.
I live in quiet awe and confusion of how people cross these gulfs of intimacy, and wonder what it must be like to get to the other side of that, or how one even makes that leap- one example of that being that “bathroom intimacy.”
As I’ve noted above, comedians that make fun of it effectively aren’t just doing so because poo is dirty- it’s because the act is simultaneously human and quotidian, but so damned vulnerable and personal. We all do it, but we’re all terrified of how we look (and smell, and sound) doing it. We’re afraid of repulsing someone who we want to love us, but at a certain point, we have to accept that it’s part of “the package” they’re taking and that we’re taking too.
So, do you want to know what anxiety is? There’s your metaphor for the day, folks. Happy sailing.