Richard Armitage and Aristophanes: A comparative study of scatological humor

Doesn’t that sound all intellectual and analytical?  Weeeellll, yes and no.  Since Richard Armitage has been flexing his scatological humor muscles lately, I thought I might jump on the bandwagon.

If “toilet” humor is not your thing, you may want to exit now…I’m goin’ in!

I’ve had draft sitting in my computer for over a year comparing some of the jokes Richard Armitage has made with the comedy stylings of the sole extant example of Greek Old Comedy – Aristophanes.  I’ll chalk it up to my aversion to delving into literary analysis, but then this happened last week:

Note the #nobathroomprivacyinerebor "bwhahahaha!!

Note the #nobathroomprivacyinerebor

It reminded me distinctly of a scene from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where the crew is commenting on Godzilla vs the Sea Monster.  I think it’s Croww who says something along the lines of Godzilla spending some time on the “thunderbucket” and then a warning about not disturbing Godzilla when he’s sitting on the “throne.”

godzilla thunderbucket

“One of you guys wanna get me a magazine? I’m gonna be here a while.” ….Godzilla Source

I remember watching this and laughing myself silly – I am highly susceptible to toilet humor it seems.  In fact, my husband has long complained that it seems to be a genetic trait in my family since the topic comes up with freakish regularity, even at the dinner table!  As luck would have it, just such an event happened last night.  My sister played the latest Poopourri ad on her phone which sent my children into convulsive laughter, me snickering and even had my mother chortling.

Judging by the aforementioned tweet, his jokes on Australian radio about lighting farts and a certain quip along the lines of, “we’ll just have a crap and go then.” during post production for The Hobbit...(not to mention a certain affinity to naughty double entendre, a related comic vein) Richard Armitage is well versed in the timeless traditions of scatological humor.  Indeed, this tendency to toilet humor puts him in the august company of the classical Greeks who loved a good fart joke!

For all of the pathos and heavy drama of tragedy, the ancient Greeks were highly entertained by comedy that was intensely topical both politically and socially, but also unrepentantly “earthy.”   The moment the actors hit the stage, costumed with padded back ends and giant, waggling phalluses, the audience knew it was in for a ribald romp, and the dialogue rarely let them down.  Aristophanes’ lampoon against Socrates and the Athenian tradition of sophism, The Clouds, is replete with scatological jokes…here Socrates explains how Zeus’ thunderbolt isn’t the *actual* cause of thunder:

Aristophanes, The Clouds l501ff

Aristophanes, The Clouds

And on and on and on.  The comedies of Aristophanes are all that remains of the genre, but it is highly doubtful that his was the only predilection towards toilet humor in the Old Comedy corpus.  It was a an award winning shtick that the audience loved.

Apparently, it’s a type of humor that never gets old!

Here’s one my son told me when he was seven:

Question:  How do you spell icup?

Answer:  I. C. U. P.  

(cue uproarious child laughter – every time!)

14 comments on “Richard Armitage and Aristophanes: A comparative study of scatological humor

  1. linnetmoss says:

    Hilarity ensues! I think it’s great that RA has a good sense of humor. PS Love the Godzilla story!

    • obscura says:

      I haven’t seen that in like 20 years, but I came back to me in an instant…let me tell you, I *hated* watching that clip again 😉

      I’m not sure what it says about me, but I find his potty humor stylings very humanizing.

  2. guylty says:

    Oh yes yes yes. Finally toilet humour is given the status it deserves. We are in with the Greek Greats. There’s worse company to be had. And I didn’t even blink twice when I misread “naughty double entendre” as “noble double entendre”. Noble indeed – because that is “thinking around the corner” and “deciphering subtext”. It does need a certain skill – and knowledge of the world 😀
    I am more and more intrigued to read some of the Classics myself now…

  3. jholland says:

    Your family sounds a lot like mine, I blush to admit! But how enlightening… as I was driving the kids home yesterday and we entered a 10 minute long flatulence sound-off competition just because I love to hear the kids giggle, I had no idea we were merely re-enacting the Ancient Greek classics. I feel so much better, now! =)

  4. katie70 says:

    After all it was Thomas Crapper that came up with the modern toliet, no really I am not kidding. Mr. Crapper was also English.

  5. Servetus says:

    I attended the sessions of the Scatological Rhetoric Society at my conference of choice for years. They had nothing to do with my own research but they were funny as heck. Please keep pointing these parallels out!

  6. Hariclea says:

    Brilliant, so human and down to earth! The Greeks really knew their.. ‘shit’ 😉 that’s what made their society work, they thought about the high stuff and enjoyed the low stuff with no false modesty 🙂 works for RA too 🙂

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