Cut the Cheese, Please!

While holding his nose, Daniel Neman dares not call that which offends by its proper name. Instead, he dubs it a “flatulence joke.”

And he is not amused. After counting 100 movies with — say it together — fart jokes since 1989, Neman writes disapprovingly in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“Do you know how a joke is never funny the second time you hear it? Imagine that sensation extended into triple digits.”

Oh, but he’s not just sick of fart jokes. He finds them symptomatic of a larger ill in cinema. And at whose feet does he lay the blame for this plague of noisy gas expulsion? Those institutions of higher learning at which students study the great fart auteurs, sometimes doing frame-by-frame analyses of classic stink-bomb sequences:

“The biggest problem facing movies today (other than perhaps an over-reliance on special effects) is this endemic lack of originality. If you see a lot of movies, very little of what you see is new. It is not just the jokes that are so predictable, because they have all been done before. It is that the situations are familiar, too.

“Why is this happening? The answer is simple enough for two words: film schools.”

This argument is really fucking stupid. Has the study of literature blocked writers from creating something new? Does going to engineering school mean that one can no longer innovate? That’s Neman’s claim: that studying film stifles creativity. Methinks we should fart in his general direction.

In spreading the scent of Neman’s article, Cinematical hedges its bets, asking in a headline: “Are Farts Still Funny?”

The fart joke has a grand literary tradition, from Geoffrey Chaucer (“He might well have the first smell of farts three”) to snobby, suicidal New England storyteller Spalding Gray (“magenta balls of gas”).

What Neman and Cinematical fail to understand is that nothing is by its nature funny. And there’s nothing that can’t be made funny with the proper context and timing.

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