We begin with comedian Steve Agee sharing the one wish he would say if a genie appeared to him. He would tell said genie that he never wants to poop again. The documentary Poop Talk is one of the talking head kind. The film lets the best and brightest of LA’s newer generation of stand-up comics about a certain subject. It also anticipates the aversion that some audiences will have against both the movie’s form and content. Some of the heads, like Agee, have the same aversion and vows never to watch the documentary that he’s in. However, the movie’s surprisingly insightful about it’s subject.
Aaron N. Feldman’s film covers the many sub-themes under the main one. It has no other choice but to do just that. It does need to grab the small audience in its equally short yet sweet running time. One of these sub-themes is the divide between those who are neurotically squeamish about the subject. Then there are those who aren’t, and those who straddle these opposite opinions. There are also the comedians who have talked about how they’ve switched their opinions from one camp to another. The documentary is surprisingly good at catching a diverse set of opinions within its sample size of two dozen comedians.
One of the movie’s talking heads is Academy Award nominee Kumail Nanjani. He shares his neurosis about the subject, that he would eat less so he doesn’t have to poop. This might sound like a reach, but the anecdote reminded me of Freud’s chapter in anal eroticism. That some of his patients would go to a further extent to avoid defecation. Taboos that existed during Freud’s era still exist today. However, psychoanalysts no longer have the onus of pointing out societies’ hypocrisies. Nobody listens to those guys anyway, if they even exist in this day and age. That’s a job for the comedians.
Feldman and his subjects also hint at the contradictions within discussing the subject matter. There’s another specific stigma about the subject matter. Broaching it might make them look like the stereotype of the bad comedian. The kind who relies on bodily humour to make frat boy crowds laugh. However, another part of their job is to mine every subject matter and make it seem new. To make its audience rethink their own bodies as they behave in its most private process. The film’s heads are game to do just that. They retell their poop bits to the camera and surprisingly makes their audience think.
There are many subjects that Feldman lets his talking heads flesh out. One of them is the through line between the private/public divide and how both genders experience poop. One example is Nicole Byer’s, a cast member of MTV show Girl Code. She discusses having to clean poop out of the girls she used to babysit and thinks about those bodies. The documentary then cuts to Nikki Glaser talking about one positive effect of pooping herself. Poop, as the movie makes us realize, can inadvertently divide people depending on who they are. Yet we should remember that it’s a universal, funny thing we humans do.
- Release Date: 2/16/2018