BY JAMES DOOLITTLE As the wife can attest, the only thing this here Wook likes more than the 19 weeks of sex tied into the latest R. Kelly release (that’s right, one track per week) is a good, healthy, hearty dump. Alright, alright, maybe I’d place “The Wire” and a slice of “quattro formaggio” from Joe’s Pizza at the two and three positions, but we’re at least placing fourth in regards to the morning expulsion.
And don’t kid yourself — you do too. Nothing says goodbye to that crappy day that was yesterday than, well, crap, which is why my colon got a sudden twitch when news that Dave Praeger was bringing his “Tao of Poo” sideshow to the Fleischer Art Memorial tomorrow night. Billed as “an evening of history, cultural analysis, and the kind of cringe-inducing bathroom stories that everyone seems to have,” the event’s main focus is, of course, Praeger’s book, Poop Culture, which comic Paul Provenza of The Aristocrats fame described as “a heavily researched analysis of something that rarely receives serious consideration…[exploring] how the ideology of waste disposal affects us today in our psychology, sociology, art, economics, the environment, and more.”
Whew. Who knew Provenza was capable of such platitudes?! Phawker’s all over this one like shit on a shingle. (Sorry, we had to.)
PHAWKER: In the title of your book, “Poop Culture: How America is Shaped by its Grossest National Product”, you seem to allude to the fact that the fine art of defecation is nothing more than big business as usual. Am I on to something or simply flushing your thesis down the toilet?
PRAEGER: I think you’re misinterpreting the title. If anything, as you’ll read in chapter 8, this is one of the few areas of life that big business hasn’t fully annexed and assimilated. Where is the toilet paper brand targeted towards cool dudes who get laid? Where is the toilet paper brand targeted towards teenagers? Where is the Jeep of toilet paper brands — that is, the toilet paper so rugged that it can handle a MAN SIZED LOAD?
These brands don’t exist. Toilet paper isn’t advertised with a direct appeal to its functional benefits. Nor is it advertised with a narrowly-targeted image campaign. Instead, it is advertised with vague platitudes of “softness” and “strength” — fluffy clouds and teddy bears and cutesy babies that just hint at what they product is actually for.
My point is this: marketers are afraid to associate themselves with poop. Even the marketers who exist wholly to wipe poop off your butt. So enjoy this semi-freedom from corporate America, bathroom-goer: Because if my book
succeeds in finding revenue in this subject, then you can bet the advertisers will follow.
PHAWKER: ‘The history of the toilet as an ideological apparatus’ is a great album title waiting in the wings, but as a talking point, is it easily summarized?
PRAEGER: I sure hope so — because this is my hook! Two sentences: The flush toilet was invented not for sanitary reasons, as conventional wisdom holds, but rather as a tool to help rich Victorians distance themselves from the upwardly-mobile masses during the Industrial Revolution. From that basis, Poop Culture explores how the ideology of waste disposal affects us today in our psychology, sociology, art, economics, the environment, and more.
PHAWKER: Damn, you’re good. But just how open have you found people to be in regards to having an discourse about poop? Is comedy key in this regard?
PRAEGER: Some people immediately recognize the intellectual depth of the subject. But for most, laughter is necessary to dismiss the threat of the taboo. That’s why the book opens with a foreword by a comedian [Provenza]. And that’s why the first sentence of the book, after my introduction, is “With enviable ease, poop slid out of the mechanical anus and onto the conveyor belt below.” Once you’re laughing, you realize the book isn’t a metaphysical threat, and you accept and embrace the violation of the taboo.
PHAWKER: With all the recent hubbub about curbing smoking in pop culture, from television to movies to The Dive on Passyunk, do you think this is the kind of opening that toileteering needs to get more visualization of people doing what they do-do?
PRAEGER: The way I see it, there’s nowhere else for the culture to go. The recent explosion of media means that every subject is being covered to its most granular level. The only things that are left are esoterica and taboo. Esoterica is being rapidly addressed, from books about the history of the paper clip to blogs about individual city blocks; no subject is too minute for coverage. And taboos are being busted left and right — the kind of pictures I hid under my mattress as a teen are now ads for American Apparel. Poop is the last taboo, but it, too, may soon be wholly mainstream.
Not to say that my book advocates that. Taboos surrounding poop exist for a purpose: because society has a instinctive interest in maintaining distance between our waste and our selves. Our intrinsic fecal aversion is backed up
by science — society is endangered when its waste is not properly managed. The taboos surrounding poop reflect this very critical need to not shit where we eat.
What my book hopes to determine is what portion of the taboo is based on our survival instinct, and what portion is instilled upon us by the porcelain ideological apparatus that resides in all our homes, its four walls and black omphalus silently screaming at us that those things to which it bears witness are evil, and disgusting, and inhuman, and wrong, and should never be seen, heard, or spoken of, even on the Internet.
PHAWKER: I believe I’ve recently seen the future, and with a spotlight, it can shine for miles. What do you think of Dr. William Colon?
PRAEGER: If I don’t make it on Oprah, I hope this guy does instead.
THE TAO OF POO
A Night of Poop Humor and Poop Culture
June 2, 7:30 PM | $5
The Fleisher Art Memorial
719 Catharine Street, Philadelphia