Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fart Jokes

I stumbled across The Nutty Professor this week -- the one with Eddie Murphy as a morbidly obese professor who through a labratory mistake turns into a sleek lounge-lizard, a remake of the Jerry Lewis gig.  The center of this daisy though is The Klumps, who would earn top billing in the sequel a couple years later (the one with Janet Jackson in it).  The Klumps make their debut at the dinner table, and it is a tour-deforce, each member of the clan given specific personalities, voices, the works by Murphy the Master Mocker.  But Murphy's performances in this scene, as Papa and Mama Klump, Grandma Klump and Big Bad Brother Klump (with Nephew Klump played by a child actor), are the only soul in an otherwise clunky, soulless movie.  It's kind of like Murphy riffing on The Carol Burnett Show's Family skit, with Burnett as Eunice, and Vickie Lawrence as Mama.  The pleasure of seeing families burlesqued like this is that while the humor is broad and crude it makes you also realize how life is just like that:  broad and crude and stupid and more often than not funny. 

The funniest part of the Klump's dinnertime episode comes from farting.

Papa Klump farts, the Nephew Klump farts, and I think even Grandma Klumps goes at it.  It's a chorus of farts only rivaled by the campfire farting in Blazing Saddles

Which brings me to this show we're going to present next year at Thunder-Sky, Inc. It's about farting.  Why?  Because David Jarred and Kenton Brett, two smart and smart-alecky artists, presented the idea to us:  an art exhibit called "The (f)Art Show."  Just like that.  Okay.  Let's do it. 

Farting seems to be both a metaphor and a condition that brings forth laughter and a universal response.  Plus farting and scatology in general are major motifs throughout literature and art -- beyond movies and TV even.  Take for example selected scenes from Aristophanes' The Clouds, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Miller's Tale, Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, James Joyce's Ulysses, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, and so on.  Or take a look at this:

This is a sculptural work by Chinese artist Chen Wenling, his take on the global financial crisis from 2009.  It was this photo, I think, that might have stirred David and Kenton into action.  Anyway, this is a fart joke on a grand scale, using gas as a way to satirize gas-bags.  The glory of it is its total clarity.  Nothing ambiguous about a fart. 

Or as Dante puts it in his famous Divine Comedy (the last line of Inferno Chapter XXI): "Ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta."  Translated:  “And he used his ass as a trumpet.”