1 i have
2 a flush of guilt
3 baptisms in blood
and deadly sin
5 freudian jokes
for the john
6 exploring interiors
7 the naked truth
8 dirty bits
and naughty bits
"The drains go we know not
where, and we have those fears of being dragged down inside.''
| freudian jokes
for the john
kids, of course
(before they're toilet trained and taught to fear and loathe what goes on in the
bathroom), just love getting naked and peeing and pooping and farting. It feels good and
it's funny. It's no wonder, then, that our culture is rife with bathroom humor that
appeals to the pre-seven-year-old (before the so-called "age of reason") -- as
well as the naughty post-pubescent -- in all of us. We're all a bit squeamish and
embarrassed by our plumbing -- not only the pipes in our houses and apartments but
particularly the messy, fleshy, leaky ducts of our own bodies. Farts, incontinence,
enemas, catheters, colostomies, prostate operations, masturbation, menstruation, douches
-- like many taboos, they're usually dealt with either as horror stories or comedy (or
both): "plumbing problems," "bathroom humor,'' "jokes for the john.''
As Freud might put it, plumbing, like jokes (and movies), offer a direct pipeline to the
the laughter leavens (or intensifies) the horror, shame, embarrasment, and vulnerability we feel
about sexual or excremental "bathroom behavior'' -- whether it's the ill-timed fart
attacks in innumerable movies, from the bean-eating campfire cowboys in Blazing
Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) or the flatulent Great Dane in "10'' (Blake
Edwards, 1979); the Jaws-like turd in the swimming pool in Caddyshack
(Harold Ramis, 1980); Phoebe Cates discovering Judge Reinhold beating off on the toilet in
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982); or Jeremy Davies just trying
to get some private tension-relieving time in Spanking the Monkey; the sounds of
Leslie Nielsen relieving himself at length, amplified by a pubic -- er, public -- address
system in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (David Zucker, 1988);
Peter Sellars' disastrous toilet encounters at a chic Hollywood affair in The Party
(Blake Edwards, 1968); the joy of therapeutic enemas -- organic Roto-Rooter, in Steve
Martin's L.A. Story (1991); teenage eating disorder jokes in the high school
girls' room in Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1989) ("Bulimia is so
'87!"); the very title of the British porcine/plumbing comedy A Private Function
(Malcolm Mowbray, 1985); or an annoyed Geena Davis flushing the toilet to scald her
showering ex-lover John Goetz in David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986)... And
although countless movies have shown people getting their heads flushed in the john as a
form of punishment or humiliation, sometimes it's played for laughs -- as in The Worst
Toilet in Scotland (showing just how low a junkie will sink) in Danny Boyle's Trainspotting
(1996); or Mike Myers fighting off a nasty restroom assassin in Jay Roach's Austin
Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997); or the Nihilists (Flea and Peter
Stormare) "warning" The Dude (Jeff Bridges), before pissing on his rug, in the
Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998).
one of the earliest (and funniest) songs I remember learning in grade school went like this:
Alice, where art thou going?blub. blub. blub.
this humorous ditty, with its evocation of another Alice going down the rabbit hole, humorously hints
at a childhood terror that's nearly universal -- in places with indoor plumbing, that is:
The terror of getting sucked down the drain, or flushed down the toilet, or, at least, of
drowning in either of these fixtures even if we don't disappear into the plumber's abyss.
In a dream, The Conversation's Harry Caul confesses a boyhood memory of nearly
drowning in his bathwater to the woman he's been spying on. And the Los Angeles Times
quoted a young woman who said that, after seeing Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975),
she "used to have screaming nightmares that a shark would come out of the drain of my
bathtub and eat me.'' Sharks, as the movie points out, are basically just digestive tracts
with teeth and fins -- living, swimming digestive pipes. In this woman's dream, the shark
just becomes an extension of the drain.
Upstairs to take a bath.
Alice, with legs like toothpicks
And a neck like a giraffe (raf-raf-raf-raf-raf-raf-raf)
Alice got in the bathtub
Alice pulled out the plug
Alice, where art thou going?
Flesh as plumbing: Does it embarrass you?
Laughing at the worst