I have a theory about vulgar humor. (FYI – I have a theory about everything, just something you should probably know about me.) There is this magic line where on one side it’s side-splittingly funny and on the other side, it’s jaw-droppingly bad.
If a film can come right up to the line but not cross it, then that film is often very funny. Who doesn’t love a good fart joke?
But when that line is crossed with impunity, your funny bone ceases to be tickled and you just sit there incredulous that someone wrote this, thought it was a good idea and then filmed it.
Examples of what I mean:
The Good – Dumb & Dumber
The Bad – Any of those parodies like Superhero Movie, Epic Movie (or any other lame generic title)
The Ugly – Beerfest (a dirty little secret love of mine, not for the faint of heart)
Why, you may ask, am I writing about potty humor? Well over the weekend I took in a little film you might have heard of, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas in 3D. I am a fan of the “trilogy” and I wanted to see what silly things they would do with the 3D. For me, it did not disappoint. However, if you’re not a fan of the other two, this film will not convert you so you needn’t bother (you’re not the target audience).
Honestly, sometimes I have the tastes of a 13-year-old boy. Beavis and Butthead have recently returned to MTV and I cannot get enough of the Great Cornholio. I love dick jokes and scatological craziness most of the time. But there is a limit and I’ve discovered what it is.
Gross out jokes can only work if they meet one of two standards – they either have to involve something that is relatable or imaginable. Take the scene in Dumb & Dumber where Lloyd put a powerful laxative into Harry’s drink before his date with Mary. While in Mary’s home, Lloyd’s bowels immediately need to be evacuated so he excuses himself to the restroom. He barely makes it to the toilet and sits down before they explode. Ahhh… just watch the scene. It’s funnier than my description.
We’ve all experienced diarrhea, either through illness or poor diet. We know how embarrassing it is. That’s where the humor comes from and that’s why we laugh. We can relate.
Now take the entire film, Freddy Got Fingered. I never saw the film because I’ve never found Tom Green amusing and this image alone has me crying out, why dear God, why?!?
No relateability and no imagineability (did I just coin a new word?). I don’t have any idea why he’s doing this and I sure as hell don’t care.
But don’t get me wrong. Anything can be funny in the right context. Normally I don’t think getting pissed on is funny but when Chandler had to piss on Monica in an episode of Friends because she was stung by a jellyfish, that’s hysterical. I have been stung by a jellyfish and if I had known at the time that pissing on me would’ve taken that pain away, I would gladly have cried, “Let the golden showers flow”. All I had was a lousy shaker of meat tenderizer.
But Harold & Kumar do something that is really dangerous and get away with it – they dance on the line, tipping back and forth between reality and absurdity. I have been high but I have never been so high that I thought I was riding a unicorn. Still, that’s funny. And they made NPH a huge star! That’s props in my book any day.
I gravitate towards what makes me laugh and then I wonder why I found it so funny, especially if I’m the only one in the room laughing. I’m not too cool for slapstick and I’m not too sophisticated for this:
Life’s too short to forget to find the funny in everything. Misery may love company but Joy is never alone.