'Poop Talk': Film Review

An amusing if not too enlightening chance to get things out in the open.
2/16/2018

Aaron Feldman interviews a slew of stand-up comedians about (we're just guessing here) the current administration.

Everybody does it; most of us would prefer not to discuss it with others. But comedians aren't like the rest of us, and they open up about defecation for Aaron N. Feldman's Poop Talk, a diverting if unimaginatively named little doc. Not exactly a "the world needed this!" product to match Taro Gomi's kids' book Everyone Poops, and certainly not a film with tremendous theatrical appeal, but it will get some laughs on streaming outlets, though some of this material would play best in a nightclub, where a whiff of shock would amplify a crowd's response.

In its early scenes, the pic makes space for an epidemiologist and a talk-show MD, who talk about ways human evolution might answer the question, "How did poop become a problem?" Obvious points are made about the health risks posed by getting too comfortable around feces, and how developing feelings of disgust toward the stuff helped our ancestors stay alive. But science and anthropology aren't really the film's main interest, and Feldman is soon giving nearly all his time to people who make us laugh for a living, not all of whom are used to doing so with scatological material.

Some admit they're talking about this subject publicly for the first time. These would be, mostly, the interviewees who say they can't bear to use public toilets — Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet, evidently a big sports fan, recites a long list of the stadiums he's sure he never pooped in — or who simply try to keep their defecation habits a secret. Plenty of people discuss that dilemma, examined in a Seinfeld episode that isn't mentioned here, of needing to relieve oneself in the home of a person you've just started dating.

One's comfort with acknowledging the realities of digestion usually grows as a relationship does. But sometimes, the discomfort is all one's own. Kumail Nanjiani explains that, as a child, he thought bowel movements were just removing excess food from the body, and that he could stop them altogether if he only ate exactly what his body required. It didn't work. Others, like the Sklar brothers, recall going off to summer camps or college dorms and trying desperately not to use shared facilities.

This would be an opportune point for some doctor to explain the risks of attempting not to answer nature's call, but instead we get funnier, and more gross, jokes and anecdotes. Public accidents, for instance; or, in the case of Nicole Schreiber, a gruesome and humiliating plumbing mishap that might ultimately be blamed on the infamous digestive effects of matzo. Plenty of these stories have been part of stand-up routines, but one plays like a very satisfying bit of history: Kira Soltanovich, who emigrated from Ukraine as a young child, remembers locals gathering around her departing train to throw garbage at Jews. Stuck with children who weren't yet toilet trained and no diaper supplies on hand, Soltanovich's mother gave those anti-Semites a parting gift to remember.

Other cultures' toilet technology and cleaning customs are covered, though not with the thoroughness one might expect in a film like this — anybody who goes out of his way to watch a movie about excrement is probably willing to stop laughing for five minutes now and then to actually learn something. One is loath to admit it, but Poop Talk might in fact open the door to a second, less laugh-hungry film on this universal subject.

Production company-Distributor: Comedy Dynamics
Director-screenwriter: Aaron N. Feldman
Producers: Sarah Craig, Samantha Edelson, Aaron N. Feldman, Griffin Gmelich
Executive producers: Randy Sklar, Jason Sklar, Jordan Rubin, Brian Volk-Weiss, Party of 7 Entertainment
Director of photography-Editor: Brian Marzan
Composer: Alex Shenkman

68 minutes