Trigger warning: puke.
Now that that’s out of the way…
So I had the flu, or food poisoning, or some horrible stomach-voiding illness yesterday. That violent, cold-sweat, full-body, seizure-puke kind of illness. That “I don’t know how I’m screaming while I puke, but I am” kind of illness. The kind where you wake up at three in the morning and have about four seconds to make the six-second-long run to the bathroom. By the end of it I was literally coughing up blood, and I’m pretty sure I broke a rib. I should have probably gone to a hospital, but I figured, hey, this could be funny.
Bodily voiding has always been a source of comedy. Whether it’s puke, poop, pee, or, you know…
So why do we find these sorts of things funny? I think it really boils down to a simple fact: these are things we all do, and things we all generally do in private. When it’s brought to light publicly, we recognize it, and there’s a certain recognition of this thing as personal. When we laugh, then, because we recognize the behavior and the action as something we’ve done. It’s also a nervous recognition of our own private moments being made public, even vicariously. The subject is simply a surrogate for our own experiences. But when we laugh in a group, it’s really an echo chamber of people all asserting, “I do that too!” So next time you’re in the audience of a movie or a play where this sort of joke happens, make note of everyone who laughs the hardest. You now know a little bit more about how their body works. It’s science.
So, in honor of my recent courtship with my toilet, here are some of my favorite pukey gross-out scenes, in no particular order.
(And no, I’m not talking about Stand By Me, because whenever you hear “puke” and “movie” together, people tend to go straight to the pie-eating scene. That’s not to discount it — it’s basically The Godfather of vomit scenes — but I was looking for some other ones for this post. But by all means, if you haven’t seen it, give it a view.)
Notable Mention: Dumb & Dumber
OK, no puke. Sure. But let’s just get right down to it: uncontrollable diarrhea is funny. I mean, when it’s not happening to you. And for those of you who’ve had food poisoning, you know it’s not a one-way street, if you catch my meaning. And that wasn’t very subtle, so I’m sure you do. But what this clip really nails is the combination of cartoony and believable. The sound effects are dead-on (I imagine most of the film’s effects budget went toward designing this scene), and Jeff Daniel’s reactions are ridiculously exaggerated. Basically it’s our superego saying, “Here’s something you’ve probably experienced at some time or another, and here’s how you probably looked while you were doing it. You should be ashamed of yourself.” It’s like looking into a funhouse mirror of yourself having explosive diarrhea. And haven’t you always wanted to do that?
Also, CNN accidentally aired it during a broadcast. Because accidental poop jokes are even better than anticipated poop jokes.
And now, on to the puking.
1. I Love You Man
There’s not a lot to this scene except one big puke. No real build-up, nothing except to further the rift between Rudd and Favreau’s characters.
It’s the fact that it comes out of nowhere, and Rudd’s genuinely pathetic reaction (“I’m sorry”) that make this not only a funny moment, but an actually believable one. I remember watching it the first time and thinking, OK, he’s gonna get drunk and make a fool out of himself. I didn’t expect him to instantly projectile vomit, but that’s the funny thing about puking. It sometimes sneaks up on you like that.
It’s also a pretty impressive technical marvel, and will likely put you off of Progresso Hearty Tomato Soup for a while.
2. Pitch Perfect
I’ll admit, I was really, really opposed to this movie at first. Just on principle. All I knew of it was that that there was that cup song that my campers taught me how to do last summer. Other than that, it seemed like a “Glee” cash-in, and I couldn’t handle that. And then my friend made me watch it, and oh, how wrong I was. It’s kind of great.
It also has not one, but two amazing puke scenes:
These scenes both caught me off-guard. And seeing as the first one is basically the opening of the movie, I knew I was in for an unexpectedly entertaining ride.
3. Team America: World Police
Often, a gross-out comedy will have one particular moment that is clearly the pièce de résistance of their toilet-humor arsenal (as I would suggest is the case with the above scene from Dumb & Dumber). But with Stone and Parker, such moments are often just one of many high points (or low points, depending on how you look at it) of their boundary-pushing comedies. Take this scene from their underrated Team America: World Police:
What really sells this scene is the merging of gratuitous vomiting with the majestic scoring of a Michael Bay film. You know the kind of music — the moment where the hero realizes he’s meant for something greater, the camera zooms in, he overcomes his struggle, etc… but here, it’s just… more puke. And more puke. And as it starts sputtering they really have fun with the fact that this is clearly a puppet with some machinery rigged up to it to make it puke, and it’s running low, and it’s got air bubbles in the hose. And on top of that, it’s perfectly timed. You know it’s coming, but they give you just enough time between pukes to think, “maybe that’s it.” It’s easily the most gravitas-laden vomit scene in any film, ever.
This scene also just barely inched out the graphic uncut puppet sex scene, but seeing as this post was inspired by puke, I went with puke.
This was a toss-up between the toilet scene and the breakfast scene, but the former won out for me. Here you go:
OK, so there’s no actual puking, but he comes so close. And the scene is disgusting enough to take us there with him. And: again with the music. Maybe I have a thing for toilet humor set to unconventional music, but the use of Carmen‘s “Habanera” to end the “realism” of this scene and send it headlong into the surreal is an inspired choice. It’s a pretty standard go-to comic song for those scenes that need a little “button” on them (Up does it nicely and it’s a much needed break after its touching opening). Trainspotting is a great example of finding humor in the dingiest and darkest corners of both society/culture/existence, but also of the psyche. And this scene manages to do all of that at once–it’s a dark, twisted place physically and mentally, but there is humor in it, both in reality and in its surrealism.
Of course, right? I had food poisoning, they had food poisoning. Why not? Annie trying to maintain her composure and eating the almond is maybe one of my favorite understated moments from Kristen Wiig, who tends to oversell her jokes a bit for my taste. But here they make her the calm, cool, counterpoint to the other bridesmaids, and the combination works perfectly. And, oh god, can I feel her pain when she eats that almond.
6. Super Troopers
He’s really puking. Like, for real. Enough said.
7. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
This is it. The puke scene to end all puke scenes. Sure, you may argue that that title goes to Stand By Me, but you’d be wrong. It’s this one.
Monty Python were experts at merging the uniquely British penchant for manners and decorum with the grotesque and surreal. Look at the way Eric Idle adjusts the bucket at 0:29. It’s in those tiny details. And this is the polar opposite of something like Bridesmaids, where everyone is responding as you would imagine they would react in such a situation. Here, there’s acknowledgment of disgust, but at the same time, a parody of the wonderfully British refusal to ruffle feathers. Also, there’s the beautifully-crafted line, “It’s just that we have to go. I’m having rather a heavy period.”
And just in case you didn’t feel like you got your fill of puke, here’s a couple more for you to savor: