In September, the original comedy production and licensing juggernaut Comedy Dynamics announced that it had acquired something involving stand-up comics that wasn’t actually stand-up comedy. From the minds of filmmaker Aaron Feldman and executive producers (and twin brothers) Randy and Jason Sklar, the documentary Poop Talk was — in the words of company CEO Brian Volk-Weiss — “going to be an instant comedy classic film like The Aristocrats before it.” Of course, whether or not it becomes as popular as The Aristocrats and other similar comedy documentaries before it remains to be seen.
Judging by the screener I watched and the subsequent conversation I had with the Sklar brothers, however, there’s a good chance Poop Talk will float around for a while after its debut in select theaters and on VOD last Friday. After all, it’s an entire movie about poop that features conversations with scientists and philosophers, as well as comedians like Kumail Nanjiani, Nicole Byer, Adam Carolla, Rob Corddry, Nikki Glaser, Pete Holmes, Jonah Ray, and Eric Stonestreet. As Randy Sklar frames it, “We found that some really interesting stuff came out of it… No pun intended.”
I’ve talked to the Lucas brothers, so this won’t be my first time interviewing twins.
Randy Sklar: I love those guys.
Jason Sklar: Those guys are awesome.
You two are friends with Aaron Feldman, the filmmaker. Did he approach you about making Poop Talk, or did you take the idea to him?
Randy: He came to us. Aaron’s someone we’ve known for years. Great filmmaker, really smart guy. He sat us down and I remember we were having coffee in Silverlake and he said, “I have this idea for a documentary. I would love for you guys to help me with it, but I understand if you don’t want to do it. Please still be friends with me. It’s about poop.” And we were like, “Uh, yeah, I don’t know if we want to do it.” He asked us to think about it over the weekend. It was a Friday that we met him. I’ll never forget. He said, “Think about it and tell me the types of movies you would make using this subject matter. Is there a version of this that you would do?” So we did. That was a great way to put it to us.
We thought about it over the weekend. It’s the most universal act that a person can do, other than being born or dying. Everybody poops. Everybody. You can be celibate. Not everybody has sex, but everybody poops. Then we started wondering why this was a difficult thing for people to talk about, ourselves included. What is the thing that makes it difficult? So then it suddenly became a documentary about how people deal with a difficult subject, and that’s fascinating and interesting to us. We decided to collect our funniest friends who were willing to do it, mostly comedians, and get their perspectives. We figured they would have great stories to tell, mixed in with really great philosophy about the act itself, because as comedians we’re kind of like modern-day anthropologists.
Jason: Unlicensed anthropologists.
Randy: Yes, unlicensed anthropologists. Anthropologists who never went to graduate school. But I think we have a unique perspective because we’re always thinking about the human condition. We wondered, “What stuff would come out of that?” And we found that some really interesting stuff came out of it. [laughs] Is that too much of a pun? No pun intended.
Jason: When we pushed for it.
Randy: When we pushed hard enough.
When I first heard about Poop Talk, many of the press materials billed it as a comedy documentary like The Aristocrats. I thought of it as a lost episode of CNN’s The History of Comedy series. In other words, interviews with comedians doing bits concerning a particular subject. After watching it, I felt this both was and wasn’t the case. The comedians and non-comics interviewed don’t really do bits. They actually talk about poop.
Jason: I think it took a little pressure off of the interviews when we told them, “Look, we’re just going to have a discussion. If you have a funny story and you want to go off on that, we’ll let you go there. But we’re also going to get to your attitude about poop and why you think people behave a certain way. We’d love to hear your take on it.” And because Randy and I were running the interviews — we actually interviewed almost everybody — we were able to pretty quickly understand what sort of tone each person was going to take.
For instance, Rob Corddry, who’s one of the funniest people we know, was very open about doing it. He honestly wanted to share personal stories from his past, and his attitudes about using his own toilet. His own pooping practices. He became very real and honest and we thought that was as fascinating as if he was doing a bit about it. What we learned from making the whole film was there will be plenty of funny moments, but if we can make this thing compelling, and if we can make it socially relevant, then this may become a much deeper film that can connect to more people. Not just comedy fans.
Corddry’s story about pooping with the priest was great. And you’re right — it was very personal and it seems odd, but it was undeniably intriguing.
Jason: It sounded so odd. I was like, “This could take a turn towards something horrible and it could reveal some kind of traumatic experience. Is this turning into Spotlight 2?” And yet, it actually became this incredibly philosophical discussion of pooping. Which makes complete sense because never are you more thoughtful about your life and other things than when you’re pooping. It gives you time to think.
It also made me giggle because Corddry once interrupted a phone interview to politely tell me that he was about to flush the toilet.
Randy: He’s so open about those things. He was the perfect person to have and he was refreshingly open about it all. So was everybody else. I mean, every story that we heard from friends we never really broached this subject with — they were all great. Like Bobby Lee’s story about going back to Korea and pooping in the hole in the backyard where his grandparents pooped. He realized there were generations of poop down there, and that he was pooping on top of it all. To me, that told a family story. It connected Bobby to his past.
Jason: In that moment we also got to understand Bobby’s family heritage, as well as the fact he visits his family often in Korea. We began to understand where he came from, as well as wonder why we had never asked him about his family before. I’ve known Bobby for 10 years. He’s a really good friend of ours.
Randy: I’d say almost 20 years.
Jason: Every time we see him at the Comedy Store, I give him a big hug. We always joke around with him and talk to him. But I’ve never asked him about his family, and suddenly there we were talking about it, all thanks to poop. We were talking about the way he feels about his grandparents in Korea because of poop.