What’s so funny about poo?
I have a five-year-old daughter, and she laughs about poo. A lot. It’s the most hilarious topic in the world at the moment. Any reference to poo, wee, farts or burps is always met with raucous laughter.
And it’s not just her. When she’s with her little friends, they like nothing more than to joke about poo and wee. Their hysterical bouts of giggling are interrupted only by their attempts to string together as many infant taboo words they’ve managed to learn so far – don’t know what I’ll do when they discover real swear words.
All this got me thinking. Why do children find poo so funny? What is it about farts that always makes them chuckle? Why does letting rip a stinker leave them in guffaws? What is it about wee that is so goddamn funny to kids? But it’s not just them, is it? It’s us as well. I’ll be the first to hold up my hand and say toilet humour makes me laugh.
But why? It’s just everyday bodily functions after all. There’s nothing innately funny about that, is there?
I think one of the reasons I laugh so much at toilet humour can be attributed to one person: Rik Mayall; he’s the man responsible for the majority of my teenage laughter. He made snot, bogies, bottom burps, earwax, farts and any other undesirable bodily fluid into a source of hilarity. And without a doubt, I’ve taken a little part of Rik’s magic and tried to incorporate it into my own parenting.
Lying there on the changing mat, they aren’t going to understand clever wordplay or political satire, but they will laugh if you pull a face while changing their stinky nappy. It’s the first chance we get to make them laugh, and what stronger behavior reinforcer is there than that? We all want to make people laugh and for a dad to make his kids laugh is the greatest prize there is.
From there on, the amusement and the laughter, just like the farts and the poos, just keep on getting bigger.
Now, for example, when I walk into the bathroom and find my daughter on the toilet, I immediately grasp at my throat pretending the smell is so bad I can’t breathe before collapsing on to the floor and dying.
On another occasion when she told me she was hungry, I offered in a totally serious deadpan way to make her a snot and bogie sandwich with a nice glass of wee on the side, this offer was met with a disgusted “no”, followed pretty quickly by a hysterical outburst of delighted laughter.
At the age of five, we now have other shared avenues of humour, but poo is still the favourite because it’s the one she can use to make me laugh as well. Toilet humour is as effective as it is simple and it’s become a two-way comedy street for us now. It’s not just me performing like a farty, burpy clown anymore, it’s both of us trying to outdo each other in the disgusting stakes and being able to make each other laugh.
The only slight issue is when we’re out in public, her lack of public and private filters means that wherever we are, be it at home on the sofa or out to dinner, stinky trumps and booming burps are always a thing of wonder and a great opportunity for a laugh.
So now what? We just go through life together forever laughing at fart and wee jokes? One day, my daughter will inevitably grow up and stop finding, farts, wees and poos as funny as she does today. Then what will happen to me? Luckily, I’ll have a son to carry on the tradition with, and hopefully, at least one of them will look back and remember me as the most childish and vulgar man they’ve ever known.
Thank you, Rik Mayall. 1958 to 2014