New docu-comedy 'Poop Talk' asks why number two is taboo
We talk to the Sklar brothers about their movie "Poop Talk", in which Kumail Nanjiani and a load of other comedians discuss our relationship with digestion.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
You might want to sit down for this: we're going to talk about poop.
"Poop Talk" is a new docu-comedy in which assorted comedians drop their their pants, metaphorically speaking, to share their bathroom-related hang-ups and stories. With the help of scientists explaining the importance of digestion to your health, comics including Kumail Nanjiani, Eric Stonestreet, Rob Corddry and Aisha Tyler are honest, open and funny in the name of opening up the conversation about the one thing everybody does but few talk about -- even when it could save your life.
The film is produced by twin brother comedians Randy and Jason Sklar, who have a special on Netflix and have appeared in numerous films and TV shows including "Better Call Saul". With "Poop Talk" making a splash on video-on-demand and in selected theatres starting Friday, I caught up with the brothers on the throne -- sorry, phone -- from Los Angeles.
CNET: What was your reaction when you first heard the idea of a film about poop? Randy Sklar: Our friend Aaron Feldman, who we've known since we were kids, approached us two years ago and said, "I have this idea for a documentary. If you're interested, it's basically the history of poop". And we were like, "No thanks"!
He said, very smartly, "Why don't you think about it over the weekend and come back on Monday and let me know what's the movie you would make if you were doing this?" So we went back and forth and said, "OK, what if we make this and it's, for lack of a better term, a shitty movie? Or what if it gets really popular and then that's what we're known for?" But then we came back to Aaron and said we'd do it if we could make an honest movie, a thoughtful movie about this thing that everybody does. It wasn't our goal to make a movie that was deeply gross and scatalogical.
When making a film about poop, who was the first person you thought of? Randy Sklar: Steve Agee. Although he was someone we thought would be so open about it and he wasn't. But Pete Holmes we knew would be great, because Pete has a very evolved view of the world and he gave us so much about the comedian standing up there as alpha man and woman with all the power in front of the pack with the microphone -- and what do we do? Tell everybody our vulnerabilities. We're weak-strong. We show them how we can't hold an erection, or tell the poop story.
Comedians are like amateur anthropologists. We study human behavior and then we say, here's something that's kinda weird about what we do. The stand up will self-sacrifice him or herself for the good of the crowd, for the good of society, for the good of people.
What's the biggest thing you learned? Randy Sklar: These are friends of ours, people we've known for 10, 15 years, but we learned so much about them because we never talked about this in a green room backstage at the Comedy Store. I would be talking to a friend in this documentary, and they would say, "You know, if I have a particularly good bowel movement, I'll invite my fiance to come over and look at it." And at that point, I'm like, "Wow, you have that open a relationship with your fiance?"
So is it almost like the pooping side of it is symbolic of opening up as people? Randy Sklar: Absolutely. I think the best stories in there are about people. Brad Williams, who's a dwarf comedian, tells a story about pooping, but the story itself has nothing to do with that. It's actually more about everything he's ever gone through in his life as a little person.
Is this the last taboo? Jason Sklar: It's so weird that it still is a taboo. I guarantee you there will be people who will not watch the film because they think it will be some horrible scatological smearing of shit across the screen. I cannot believe we're in 2018 and it's a taboo -- people talk about everything else.
Randy Sklar: In this modern age of the Tinder profile and Facebook photos of yourself where you try and curate the best image of yourself, I think we're moving away from who we are as real people. You're never more real or vulnerable than when you're pooping.
Jason Sklar: When you're doing this thing everybody does, every single person, rich or poor, everyone in Europe and everyone in America, in Africa, everywhere, we all do it. This is one of the unifying factors, across the globe, across all races, across all ages.
The film mentions digestive issues like IBS and Crohn's. Should be more open to talk about digestive problems? Randy Sklar: A friend of ours, his wife has Crohn's, and her attitude is "Thank you for making this movie". People do need to talk more about it so there's less stigma. Maybe people would get screened for colon cancer. Our father passed away from colon cancer in 2009. That's not the reason we made the movie -- I didn't even make that connection.
Jason Sklar: You can tell a lot about yourself if you look at [your stool]. It's not a bad thing to look at your poop and be like, what's going on here? Am I drinking enough water? If you know a few basic things or something seems drastically wrong, don't have shame about it, call your doctor and say, "What is happening to me right now?" And then you're into a bigger discussion that may or may not save your life. And if you're not pooping then there's something horribly wrong with your body. This is natural, this has to happen. You don't want to hold it in.
Were you surprised how your relationship with poop changed when you became a parent? Jason Sklar: My daughter is 4 so I still have a young child. Once you get into that age, if you're a parent, you just peddle in poop. You live with it all the time so the stigma gets demystified. You learn how to breathe out of your mouth. When you see a tiny child produce so much poop and you're like this is the most adorable creature on the earth, I love this kid more than anything, more than myself, but they also just made that.
One last question. Toilet paper: fold or bundle? Jason Sklar: I fold it. I try to be as economical as possible. I'm trying to take care of the Earth. But I will say this: I don't know how much longer I'm gonna hold out before I get that Japanese toilet seat bidet attachment. I don't know why America resists the bidet. It almost feels like a conspiracy. Randy and I were like, is the toilet lobby that strong in American politics? Did they shut it down like the electric car back in the 1980's? What's going on?
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