First, let me say that I’m impressed with this reviewer (and not just because they liked the book, though that always helps.) I’m impressed because the review (Warning: contains spoilers) is clever, and it’s fun, and it has a plunger-worthy supply of toilet puns which, as you know, automatically adds several hundred bonus points. And I love that it’s from Kirkus, who has built a great name for themselves over the past 85 years, and what they say means something.
But mostly, I’m impressed because they got into the spirit of the story and conveyed it to readers, and that made my day.
Also, the review gives me the opportunity to talk about something near and dear to my heart–bathroom humor. I’ve noticed that several reviews of the book have made passing references to the toilet-themed comedy (or commode-y, if you prefer) in The Unflushables, and that’s a fair statement. It’s a tale about plumbers and plumbing and sewer monsters, so a certain amount of john-foolery was inevitable. But in all honesty, there probably would have been a certain amount anyway.
I like bathroom humor. It’s a grand American tradition, and when it’s handled well, the results are classic. Take this masterful sketch from The Carol Burnett Show.
See? That’s what I mean by when it’s handled well. Carol’s gag isn’t crude, or vulgar, or off-putting in any way. It’s just funny, like nearly everything that show ever did. And it’s about toilet paper, which exponentially heightens the snort factor. There’s a reason we snicker at TP stuck to a shoe, and it’s the same reason that fake doggie doo is a joke shop standard.
Bathroom stuff is comedy gold.
So when you see the phrase “toilet humor” associated with The Unflushables, remember that’s exactly what it is–jokes about toilets, and plungers, and the forbidden underworld known as the sewer. What it isn’t is the stuff you find on bathroom walls.
Look, I know the gross and disgusting can get laughs, and some of it I find hilarious, but it’s just not my style. Oh, I’ll walk the line, maybe even stick the occasional toe across, but rarely will I go any farther. I have a simple test when it comes to bathroom gags–if you were eating while reading the book, would it make you wish you weren’t? If so, it’s probably not going in. And it’s a pretty easy rule to follow, since I rarely write without a sandwich in reach.
So knowing what you know now, if you’d like to check out the delightfully phrased Kirkus review (spoilers and all, you’ve been warned), you can find it here.