How to Write Humor: Scatological Jokes
Scatology: "interest in or treatment of obscene matters especially in literature” - Merriam Webster
So, basically, your common fart joke.
I can hear it now: “Oooo she’s a GIRL ‘course she don’t like poop and farts.”
Right, yeah. That’s it. That’s why. You got me! Has to do with the ovaries, I think.
Let me get on up on my milk box. No, not milk box. Soap box. I was thinking about Harvey Milk whom I always imagine on a soapbox because he was a great speaker. I’m getting off track here.
Scatological humor is not wrong. It is not inherently bad. Its main device is shock, though, and at a certain age the shock of the word “peepee” just kinda falls flat.
Since humor = surprise (oh damn I just gave it away. I was supposed to wait on that revelation), as long as you’re surprising your audience, you’ve got something good going on.
So let’s talk about how to do scat WELL. Nothing I’ve seen has so elegantly brought embarrassing bodily functions into the holy realm of good humor as Bob’s Burgers. Let’s break out the latex gloves (unless you’re allergic in which case let’s break out IN latex gloves) and dig through the steaming pile of wonderful that is a Bob’s Burgers scat joke.
Students, today we’ll be dissecting the "Sacred Cow.” This is episode #3 of Bob’s Burgers and it has a long-running joke involving cow feces. Tina discovers that Moolissa, the bovine picture above, has been leaving her messages every night in the form of emoticon-shaped feces.
The humor really comes from how seriously Tina takes these messages and how ridiculous the idea is. Remember contrast? The more your tone contrasts with the scat, the funnier your joke becomes. Tina is earnestly concerned about Moolissa’s opinion of her and this makes up an entire subplot for the episode.
The poop isn’t funny (okay, alright the poop’s a LITTLE funny), the way the characters react to it is. This is the case for 99% of Bob’s Burger’s jokes. They’re character based, meaning that the character’s handling of the situation and reaction to the situation is where the real humor lies.
Tina is on the dry-side as a character, she speaks in a measured tone, she typically under-reacts (side note: When Tina over-reacts to something it creates humor because it’s surprising), and she takes things like emoticon shaped poops seriously where most people would get a bit of a chuckle out of the strangeness and move along.
The obsession is funny. The unusual reaction is funny. It’s just a good long-form joke that starts with poop and ends with great character work.
Like scat humor? That’s cool. That’s cool. You know what DOESN’T have scat humor in it but is really great anyway? My book. "The Audacity." Sign up to get it here!