Let’s cut to the chase: poop is not a hot topic. Although it should be. Everybody does it; just like the book says.
Randy and Jason Sklar are trying to help make poop the trending topic they know it can be. Through the power of their funny friends and the direction of Aaron Feldman, they manage to make light of a dark subject. Poop Talk is a documentary that wants to start a conversation concerning the titular subject. Using jokes, personal anecdotes from fellow comedians, animations and more, the film covers every single emotion towards poop.
Some people hate it (Steve Agee is particularly uncomfortable during his talking heads). Others love it (Nicole Byer is in her comedic element whenever she’s on screen). I had a chance to talk with the Sklars on Valentine’s Day and what they lacked in candy more than made up for in poop knowledge.
I just watched the movie this morning and I gotta say – I know you guys were just [executive producers] but that was some sensational work you and the crew did to pull off such a coherent documentary about poop.
Randy: Thank you! Our buddy Aaron Feldman who directed the movie is a great director. And the editors did a great job putting it together. We reached out to all of those people; pretty much everyone who wasn’t a science person (you know, minus Dr. Drew) was someone we knew. We reached out to everybody and thankfully all of our people pretty much said yes. When we sat down, it was Jason and I who were sitting down and conducting the interviews. It was a lot of our back and forth with them. You heard a little bit of us off camera and, of course, we were on camera being interviewed. We really did try and pull out the best stuff that we felt like would make the movie we wanted to make. We were happy with the results.
I liked the idea of the very personal stories – especially like Nikki Glaser and the other people - told. How was it during the interview process of pulling out those stories?
Randy: We sat down with them ahead of time and said “Alright guys. Trust us. You’re in our hands. We’ll make sure you look good or funny. Even if you don’t look good, you’re going to be hilarious.” And “Let’s just have a conversation about this. The deeper you get, the better it will be. Be honest. If there’s anything you don’t want us to do, of course we will not do it. If you say take this out, we’ll take it out. We are completely in your hands as far as this goes. Trust us that we’ll lead you down a good path.” And pretty much everybody did.
Andrea Rosen was one of the ones that was really open. And Nicole Byer. Even Jamie Lee. A lot of the women spoke more on the poop and a lot of the guys were against it. Where do you guys fall on the men vs women debate about [poop] being disgusting?
Jason: I will say that comedians mess with your sample group because they’re pretty open people in general. According to Dr. Drew, men and women do have different responses to it. Men find it funnier than women in general. Certainly, female comedians understand that it’s funny and they are breaking through a taboo talking about it. Andrea’s story about her brother and coaching him through the pooping is hilarious. Everything Nicole Byer was saying about eating a hamburger on the toilet – I mean that’s so funny. I think that women…this goes to a larger issue that we’ve talked about.
A by product of the digital age or at least having, like, an avatar represent you on Facebook or Tinder or Twitter or however you’re digitally representing yourself. Usually we represent ourselves with the very best photo of ourselves with the very best filter on it from the highest selfie angle. We just want to show people the corner of ourselves where we look our absolute best. We all know that we’re animals; we’re beasts. That’s who we are. The reality is the one thing that binds us together is that we all squat down and poop. That’s how we get rid of our waste. That’s one of the most human things we can do. I doubt anyone’s putting that on their Tinder profile. That’s not going to be their Tinder profile pic. Because we want to almost pretend like that doesn’t happen. But, when you’re at your most “ugliest” and “most vulnerable” is when you’re really connected to human beings.
Randy: I think comedians get that. And I think that’s where they realize “Here’s a chance to be funny about this thing that everybody does that I just had a terrible experience doing.”
Pete Holmes said that comedians are in this high status position. They’re supposed to be these confidant philosophers of our age. But then you’re admitting weakness by talking about poop and you’re putting yourself on this middle level with the rest of society.
Jason: It’s great! He calls it “weak-strong.” You show your weakness and therefore you are strong. People say to themselves “Oh my God! Look at this guy! He’s talking about the time that he pooped his pants?! That’s- I don’t know if I could ever do that! Look at how brave he is!” I think when you reveal stuff about yourself that is personal yet people can relate to…This is really the most universal subject we’ve ever tackled in any of the stuff we’ve done. It’s actually cool how much people relate to it on every level.
I don’t know if you felt this way when you watched the movie but I think every attitude about poop is represented. Steve Agee is visibly uncomfortable. He’s like “I’ll never watch this movie. I don’t want to even talk about it again. It’s the most uncomfortable fifteen minutes of filming I’ve ever done!” And then you get people like Jonah Ray who’s like “I could talk about poop all day long. It’s number two because it’s the second best thing you can do with your body.”
I was fine with the entire movie until we got to Brent Weinbach showing the pictures of poop.
Jason: That was the very end. We were like “Maybe it’s in the credits.” It is what it is. We really did not want to show anything throughout. That was not our goal.
I think that’d be someone’s number one fear is you guys showing actual depictions of poo instead of those cartoons and anything else you guys showed.
Jason: The cartoons and animation is actually quite cute. Take a look at The Emoji Movie and all that stuff. That has made it somewhat cute. In the press we’ve been doing for this [movie], there are full on poop toys. Little poop action figures.
Randy: Little games.
Jason: -Games and stuff that kids are buying! People are buying these. I think the overall stigma as far as that goes has been lowered a little bit. It wasn’t our goal to gross people out with this movie but to actually try and connect people.
How do you guys feel about telling a good poop joke? Aisha [Tyler] says that in order to do that you have to be surgical and a little bit self-effacing. But you guys say you tiptoe around it in order to not get involved in the “scatological shit” of it all.
Jason: The truth of the matter is, in order to tell a good poop joke, you have to be an artist. Or – I would argue – you’d have to be a fartist.
Randy: A fartist!
Jason: A true fartist. To me, if it’s really gross, it’s not going to register the way you want it to register. A story like Brad Williams – I don’t want to give it away; I want people to watch it in the movie – tells a story about himself pooping in the bathroom as a dwarf comedian. It is such an unbelievable story about himself and his experience as a little person more so than the poop; the poop was the way in. To us, that is absolutely the right way to tell a poop joke. Have it being more about feeling uncomfortable because that’s something people can relate to.
Randy: What are all the things that come along with it? Those are the things that people relate to the most. If you stay away from tactile references to poop and shit, I think you end up coming up with a better joke that more people like.
What is the worst place that you have walked into or suffered through just to poop in public?
Jason: When we went to Turkey (we traveled through Turkey in college. We were studying in Israel and went on a 14 day trip through Turkey), there was a bus stop on the way from Istanbul down to a place called Pamukkale.
Randy: For 12 hours.
Jason: They’re like “This is a rest stop where there are poo holes on the ground.” The thing for your feet and then you squat down and poo in a hole. It was one of these places where we rolled up to it at three in the morning-
Randy: Everything was dark.
Jason: Everything was dark, everything was shuttered. The second we got there, it was like a Turkish disco. Garage doors went up. There was food. They were selling this, they were selling that. And the bathrooms opened up for people to use them. I went into the bathroom, kind of like [the one] Pete Holmes went to-
Randy: In Africa.
Jason: I went into the bathroom and was like “Are there people decaying in these holes? What is happening here?”
Randy: It was the smell of death.
Where do you guys land on poop accessories? Adam Carolla says he likes three ply; [Paul] Scheer says he likes wet wipes; a lot of people like bidets.
Randy: I can’t believe the bidet! As we made this movie, I was shocked that more people don’t have bidets. Carolla, Corddry ad Pete Holmes talked about that fancy – not even that fancy; truth be told, I think it’s, like, maybe $80 – toilet seat applicator that you put on top of your toilet. Pete showed it. There’s a remote control. It’s a bidet. It heats the seat, it puts warm water in your stream and goes up your butt. Truthfully, that to me rather than an extra seat in your bathroom that requires extra pipes and plumbing, that seat thing could catch on. I feel like maybe this movie starts that conversation.
The truth of the matter is when our friend [Vijal Patel] in the movie said “What if you had a piece of poop on your arm? Would you just go get a piece of paper, wipe it off and call it a day? No! You’d get soap and you’d get water and you’d scrub your arm until you had no more hair left on your arm.” Think about that on the other side and suddenly a bidet makes a hell of a lot of sense.
Jason, you said it’s good to talk about poop. We’re in a society that doesn’t want to talk about poop. They’ll talk about anything else but poop. Why do you think that it’s important for us to grow as a people and talk about the thing that everyone does?
Jason: Number one: I think it would connect us. It would help people lower their anxiety about having to do it or doing it in public. And, again, I think it will also have people more open to looking at their own poop and see what it says about their diet or their health and whatnot. The worse case scenario is something’s terribly wrong with your pooping process. Instead of having shame around that process, maybe you’d be more apt to call a doctor and be like “Um…I don’t know if this is right.” And then you’d be getting into a conversation where you’re getting screened for colon cancer or for something that might be wrong in your digestive system.
Because you were more open about talking about it, open about examining it, maybe you get screened early than you would have had you had shame around it. Maybe you save your life. I think that’s obviously the best case scenario of what this movie and what talking about it can do. I think just in general, it’s like a connector; it connects all of us. And it’s just fun. It can be hilarious as evidenced by this movie.