October 30, 2009

Commenters keep cuing that they want a post about Larry David urinating on a picture of Jesus.

You know, we watched that episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" last week and laughed a lot. I've watched every episode of Larry David's brilliant sit-com. I love it. I think I would accept anything from Larry David. Some people who are attacking him over last week's episode obviously don't know the show and don't understand David's comic character. He gets into trouble over one thing after another — offending all sorts of people for all sorts of things. It's not aimed at Christians in particular. It's everyone. Including David himself. Larry David is Larry David's biggest target.

Too bad there's not a clip available to show the Piss Christ business. It's established early on in the episode that David is taking some sort of medication that makes his urine flow excessively forceful. There's a splashing problem. In a later scene, he needs to go to the bathroom and there's a picture of Jesus hanging next to the toilet. Jesus's eyes look to the side and down, and that seems like a setup for a joke about the way men don't look at each other's equipment when they are next to each other at the urinals.

(Digression: I know this about men not from personal observation but from David Foster Wallace, from "Big Red Son": "A strange and traumatic experience which [I] will not even try to describe consists of standing at a men's room urinal between professional woodmen Alex Sanders and Dave Hardman. Suffice it to say that the urge to look over/down at the penises is powerful and the motives behind this urge so complex as to cause anuresis (which in turn ups* the trauma). Be informed that male porn stars create around themselves the exact same opaque affective privacy-bubble that all men at urinals everywhere create.")

But Larry does not give Jesus a dirty look or flip the Jesus picture around. We don't hear him bitching later about how he didn't try to get a look at Jesus's genitals. (I hope I'm not offending anyone by referring to that aspect of the incarnation.) What happens is that Larry's forceful urine propels a single droplet onto Jesus's face, right under the eye, and later, the women of the household jump to the conclusion that the painting has miraculously shed a tear. Larry never "urinates on" the painting directly or intentionally. It's an accidental splash, and he's horrified at it, but unwilling to confess to it, at least not immediately, even to stop the women from making a big public show out of their their miracle painting.

This was all wonderful satire. The nonreligious man is trying not to offend, but his body makes a mistake, and he's too cowardly to confess. The religious women are too gullible, grasping after a miracle and the fame it seems to offer them.  I say: Bravo, Larry David, comic genius.

***

In honor of David Foster Wallace, a footnote:

* Did he mean to write "turn ups"... turnips, and if so, what was he implying about himself? Here's a photograph to aid your contemplation.

58 comments:

TMink said...

There are things in this world worth getting my Christian panties in a wad over, I do not see this as one. Nor the infamous Piss Christ. Incarcerating Christians in China, the world's most Christian nation in terms of numbers, and killing Christian converts in the Muslim world seems a tad more important.

But that is just me.

Trey

wv = fornesse - The Loch Ness Monster advocacy group

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

In my neighbors john there is a sign above the toilet "My aim to keep this bathroom clean. Your aim will help".

LarsPorsena said...

Jesus a safe soft target that won't hit back. If it had been campaign poster of Obama...well that's another matter.....

Hoosier Daddy said...

There are things in this world worth getting my Christian panties in a wad over

I agree. I'm a Christian myself and I guess I've just accepted that unlike some other 'vulnerable religions' Christians are the go-to group for ridicule or insulting. Goes with the territory I guess and I suppose I should be grateful we're not being fed to the lions. There's progress for you eh?

Now, that all being said, I would like to see just a tad bit of intellectual honesty from liberals who will of course gleefully cheer this 'brillian sit-com' but then tell me that I or other's are 'culturally insensitive', 'racist' or 'Islamophobic' should we lower ourselves to poke fun, criticize or ridicule Islam or Mohhamed.

I guess its a bit of a double standard when I'm told I should not offend 1 billion Muslims but my religion is fair game.

I won't hold my breath though.

Comrade X said...

He gets into trouble over one thing after another — offending all sorts of people for all sorts of things.


I'm guessing there is a glaring exception to this rule.

Joseph said...

Thank you for this post.

traditionalguy said...

Jesus of Nazareth now called the risen Christ has done enough to establish his own reputation over the last 1970 years. Today's Christians just need to get over the offense that the World hates them, quit whining, and tell the Gospel with no legalism added. They will be backed up by their Lord when they do it like he told them to.

ironrailsironweights said...

Here's today's urination joke:

An old man and his lawyer show up for an IRS audit. The auditor is very skeptical that the old man supports himself as a professional gambler. In an attempt to prove that he's telling the truth, the old man bets the auditor a thousand dollars that he can bite his own nose. Figuring this is a ridiculous idea, the auditor agrees to the bet ... whereupon the old man takes out his dentures and uses them to bite his own nose.

So now the auditor's worried. He's got bills to pay, and losing the thousand bucks is going to hurt. So he has little choice but to agree when the old man offers to bet two thousand dollars that he can stand on one side of the auditor's desk and urinate right over the top of it into the trash can on the other side. The auditor figures there's no way in creation that an old man can shoot a stream that far. He agrees to the bet, and sure enough the old man can't reach the trash can. He ends up urinating all over the top of the auditor's desk, but the auditor's so glad to have won this bet that he literally jumps for joy.

Now it's the old man's lawyer's turn to look really glum. The auditor asks him why, and the lawyer says "God damn it, before we got here the old bastard bet me five thousand bucks that he could piss all over your desk and you'd be happy about it."

Peter

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm a Christian myself and I guess I've just accepted that unlike some other 'vulnerable religions' Christians are the go-to group for ridicule or insulting."

Christians should be happy that people know they don't go in for anger and violence and that they can laugh at jokes.

I like to think Jesus would have laughed at that TV show too.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I like to think Jesus would have laughed at that TV show too.

Somehow I doubt it but hey, if it works for you...

Again, just asking for some consistency among those who think that 'certain religions' are out of bounds for criticism or ridicule because its deemed to be culturally insensitive.

LarsPorsena said...

"I like to think Jesus would have laughed at that TV show too.'

Yes, you can piss on Jesus and he would tell himself it's raining.

Ann Althouse said...

"Again, just asking for some consistency among those who think that 'certain religions' are out of bounds for criticism or ridicule because its deemed to be culturally insensitive."

My point is that the religion being insulted by that unequal treatment is not Christianity.

Oxbay said...

I don't remember his words but way back when Bush was running against Gore there was some kind of campaign event in L.A. Larry David was quoted in an article about it saying some very hateful and bigoted anti-Christian remarks when he was referring to Bush.

I'm not a Christian but I thought Larry David excluded himself from polite company and civil society that day. I've never seen his show and I will never give him a cent.

John said...

I thought it was established in season 3(?) that larry always pees sitting down.

John Henry

Paddy O. said...

Trey and tradguy, spot on.

We have explicit Scriptures of Jesus telling his disciples not to defend him against the insults, persecution, torture, killing.

We also know that Jesus tended to surprise everyone by his reactions to what some found entirely out of bounds.

He might have laughed.

Or he might have given the insulter a kiss.

To me, the description given in this post makes the show seem unoffensive, more poking at a particular sort of religious devotee. Much more akin to Life of Brian than any of the intentionally offensive art.

LarsPorsena said...

Centurion: Jesus, when you lie down on the cross could you cross your legs?

Jesus: Why's that?

Centurion: We only brought three nails.

Jesus laughs.

Comrade X said...

My point is that the religion being insulted by that unequal treatment is not Christianity.


my thinking has always been along those lines too except that the unstated insult is more to the adherants of a certain religion than the religion itself. it certainly isn't done out of respect.

rcocean said...

Lets see, imagine a Gentile TV comedian - as a comedy bit - accidentally urinates on Jewish religious symbol. Say he needs to go and can't find anything but a Yamaka to poop in.

Would it be regarded as comic satire? Doubtful. Interesting the different reactions Jews, Muslims and Christians have toward satire.

Lem said...

Some people want to show more devosion than the pope.

Matthew 6:5-8

5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him
.

Let other religions complain if they want to.

Beldar said...

I agree that it takes a particular kind of smug, smarmy asshole to make a television show in which he plays himself being a hapless and misunderstood smug, smarmy asshole. At the end of the day he's still an asshole, or perhaps an asshole squared. I can't stand him or the show. De gustibus non est disputandum.

somecamerunning said...

Yes, of course DFW "meant to" write "turn ups." This is, after all, a man who once observed that "the founders of the Super 8 motel chain must surely have been ignorant of the meaning of 'suppurate.'"

I was at the same table with DFW at that 1998 AVN awards ceremony, and I distinctly remember "holding it in," as it were, until I got back to my own hotel room, so as to avoid precisely the sort of psychic turmoil Dave describes in that passage you cite.

AlmaGarret said...

My husband and I watched and laughed a lot. I'm a Catholic and did not get upset about it. The people who are saying that he "urinated on the picture" are not reflecting what actually occurred in the show. Thank you Althouse for describing exactly what occurred.

lighten up! It was funny. But not as funny as last week's show when he shoved the wheelchair gal in the closet to hide from the other wheelchair gal he was dating ... my point is that Larry David (or the character he plays) loves to push the envelope with just about everything. Would he go after a Muslim? Well, he did that one episode last year with the blind guy and the Muslim woman so there's that.

Ann Althouse said...

"do not keep on babbling like pagans"

I love that. Jesus seems to be saying "Did it ever occur to you people that God is sick of all this repetition?"

Ann Althouse said...

Hi, Glenn.

TMink said...

"Christians should be happy that people know they don't go in for anger and violence and that they can laugh at jokes."

Well said, my thoughts as well. Somebody needs to actually be a religion of peace.

Trey

Andrea said...

What a ridiculous, petty plotline. No wonder I stopped watching sitcoms some time back in the 80s -- they were just so tedious and expected me to laugh over boring situations like this. That being said, I have some questions:

--What's a picture of Jesus doing in a bathroom? I've traveled a few places and been to a few bathrooms -- I've never seen that.

--Why would anyone assume that a drop of liquid on a photo of Jesus meant it was crying? It was in the bathroom for God's sakes.

--Why wasn't there piss all over the place? If he peed with enough force to splash on Jesus up on the wall the place should have been sopping, or at least well sprinkled.

--A question unrelated to the sitcom re men's urinals: why don't they just put them in their own individual stalls if men are that uncomfortable with the idea of other men looking at their wangs? I'll tell you a secret: all the women's toilets in public bathrooms have their own little stalls. It can't possible cost much more to do that to mens' rooms. It's not like the "can't look at the other guy peeing" anxiety is a big secret -- men are always talking about it.

Gary said...

"Christians should be happy that people know they don't go in for anger and violence and that they can laugh at jokes."

Hmm. Takes one to know one?

"I like to think Jesus would have laughed at that TV show too."

Most of the time I find Jesus weeping for his creation. I'm still looking for the verse "Jesus laughed." Christians are most at fault of playing God with Jesus' personality. There's only one time that Jesus cared for our suppositions about him. It's when he asked, "Who do you say that I am?"

Maybe that's why the Dalai Lama laughs a lot. He has no investment in what we believe about him.

And we all presuppose what we think Jesus would do in any particular circumstance. Like when he enters the Temple and overturns the tables and lashes out at the sellers. We may believe that what he actually did was shop. Because he's just like us. Right? But that don't make it so.

Peter S. said...

Not sure if anyone proved it yet, but HERE IS THE LINK to the Larry David "splashback" scene.

Catch it before it's pulled. (No, that that.)

Dave in Tucson said...

Compare and contrast to The Penn State 'cross tshirt' situation.

If you want respect, you need to show respect.

edutcher said...

Lem said...

Some people want to show more devotion than the pope.

Bull.

There was a time in this country when a minimum of respect was shown everybody's religion. Nowadays, it's only when it's what the Left calls Art (and rarely is), is it sacrosanct.

Put another way, do this story with a Koran or a picture of The Zero - then let's see the reaction.

PS No offense, Ann, but I've never found much of what Larry David has ever done all that funny or intelligent.

Bissage said...

Andrea wants to know why Alvy Singer doesn't just pick up the lobsters and put them in the pot.

That's a fair question to be sure.

Even the most learned and pious of holy men can answer no better than to say, "It's a mystery."

Peter S. said...

edutcher: "There was a time in this country when a minimum of respect was shown everybody's religion."

Name that time.

Define that minimum.

Fred4Pres said...

I thought it was worth an Althouse post. Call me crazy.

No I am not offended by Jesus crying tears of pee. What Christian puts Jesus' picture over a toilet anyway?

But I liked Larry David addressing the "loose firehose" Backdraft issue that sometimes occurs for men (and the related double stream).

Fred4Pres said...

How about sweeps week breast exam? Now that screams Althouse post doesn't it?

Paddy O. said...

I'm still looking for the verse "Jesus laughed."

John 21:25 "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

There are also the verses that talk about him being a real human. Basic part of humanity is to laugh.

We're also told he ate with sinners and tax collectors. He was accused of being a drunkard because he joined in with those who drank, and apparently was seen to be merry with them. He provided more wine at at wedding feast.

Lots of parts of being human that the Gospels don't directly say Jesus did.

Plus, NT scholars can point to some of his statements that in context, in the culture, suggest a wry sense of humor.

Kensington said...

I've seen most episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and liked many, but this was lame, not merely because it relied on the most obvious, tired target of Hollywood ire (and you're kidding yourself if you don't recognize that laughing at Christians was the point), but because it made no sense.

In order to get this joke to form, we're required to buy into medication that makes pee spray with the barely manageable force of a firehose, and we see with our own eyes that enough is splashing to soak the entire bathroom, yet David doesn't wipe anything down and nobody notices anything but the drop on the painting? Ridiculous, but not in a way that convinces comedically.

At the very least, it might have worked if David had frantically been trying to clean up the bathroom and missed seeing the drop on the painting. Instead, he only seems to notice the painting and refuses to blot the pee, which makes no sense.

They wanted so badly to do a joke about piss on the Christ painting that they couldn't even be bothered to set up it in any way that made sense. Lazy and cowardly.

Jim said...

Kensington nails it.

This was mockery of Christians - if not Christ Himself.

I don't seem to remember him making fun of any religious adherents whose idea of worship is to strap bombs on themselves and kill people. Now there's a kneeslapper!

Or how about making fun of the religious adherents who openly weep at the sight of their secular Messiah, Obama? Now THAT's a rich vein of comedy that could be tapped for years...

But, of course, offending those people might actually have repercussions. As long as he can make Ann laugh at Christians, that's safe.

Try making her laugh at the Muslim death cult, Jews (pee on somebody's yamulke and don't say a word...oh, I'm howling with laughter here) or the Obamists, Larry....I dare you, you cowardly ass.

rhhardin said...

Bible stories made no sense as a kid; I assumed it was just some peculiarity of the adults.

It all makes good joke material.

James said...

Man we have some really whiny posters here. How many of the whiners actually saw the episode? The funny part about him getting a drop of urine on the painting was not "making fun of Christians," but that it became the way he got the woman in his office who wore exclusively bare midriff shirts (with a figure that did not lend itself to those shirts) out of the office without harsh feelings. The episode was mainly another riff on fashion faux pas like the men-in-shorts episode a few back.

Any time a show uses Christianity as the basis of a joke, we get the usual suspects whining about "why don't they make fun of the Jews or Muslims??? Wahhhhh!" Of course, the people ignore the fact that Larry David regularly pokes fun at Judaism and Jews, and had an entire episode devoted to women in burkas. This would go against the whiners "we're such victims!" mentality.

Andrea said...

Bissage: I didn't say anything about Alvy Singer and the pot of lobsters. Anyway, I know why he had trouble with the lobsters (I've seen Annie Hall): the lobsters were alive and they'd escaped from their claw bands, so he had both squeamishness (the thought of boiling creatures alive should give anyone pause) and fear of being pinched interfering with the lobster-cooking. On a side note, I don't really care for lobster: the flavor is too sweet or something. I don't like crab either. I do like shrimp, though.

Kensington: you mean he actually refused to clean up the pee? Ew, why? That makes no sense! Unless it's to establish that he's some sort of psycho. Every time I read about the plot of some favorite tv show that people love I never understand what is supposed to be so funny about the actions of apparent mental hospital inpatients.

J Lee said...

David was gone from "Seinfeld" when they did the final season show where Kramer accidentally burned the Puerto Rican flag, but IIRC, that created its own outrage, and NBC opted not to show the episode in reruns and issued an apology to anyone who was offended.

But even with him not being part of the show, you can see a few similarities in something that people hold dear being desecrated and the resulting protests. We'll just have to see if the protests cause HBO to take action the way NBC did.

Andrea said...

"The funny part about him getting a drop of urine on the painting was not "making fun of Christians," but that it became the way he got the woman in his office who wore exclusively bare midriff shirts (with a figure that did not lend itself to those shirts) out of the office without harsh feelings."

See this? I don't understand this. This is supposed to be funny? I'm supposed to be laughing? I'm just puzzled.

James said...

"See this? I don't understand this. This is supposed to be funny? I'm supposed to be laughing? I'm just puzzled."


Then watch the episode. Explaining humor to people does not work very well, especially when they're predisposed to find it unfunny based on a few blog comments by people who never saw the episode

William said...

It's true that Larry David is satirizing himself, but he is in on the joke. That is not so with his mockery of the simple piety of Christians. There's something mean spirited about it. I think he knew the howls this joke would cause, and that's the part of his little joke that he relishes the most. And that's the part of his little joke that makes me genuinely despise him.

Kensington said...

Andrea:
"Kensington: you mean he actually refused to clean up the pee? Ew, why? That makes no sense!"

Well, it could have made sense if it had just been a little pee, but we see the pee splashing all over the room. At the very least the entire toilet, sink and immediate floor area would have been soaking wet based on the amount of pee we see splashing around.

It's one thing if they merely want to imply the splashing, but once they showed it vividly, as it was happening, they should have dealt with its reality.

That they didn't, I think, is because they only cared about getting to the defaced painting by any means necessary, assuming that everything else was insignificant.

And it's true that there have been women in burqas on the show before, but I don't recall them being depicted as foolish for their faith the way these two Christian women are presented as dupes and fools for believing in Curb's notion of Christian miracles.

If I remember correctly, the woman in the burqa was used because they needed a device for concealing a woman's ugly face. The joke was that she was ugly under the burqa, not that there was anything to laugh at regarding Islam. In fact, the woman in the burqa is depicted relatively respectfully. She's just ugly.

James said...

Regarding the burqas - there was also the subtle poke at the misogynist basis of the practice - Larry didn't want his wife dressed in a sexy outfit for Halloween, so he tried to force her to wear the burqa instead.

bagoh20 said...

"Comic genius" it is not.

It's an old joke, and a lazy one. I'm not a Christian nor even religious, but this could have been original, and courageous if it was Obama's picture or Mohammed's. And would have the added power of making a needed (new) political statement.

The stereotyping of Christians jumped the shark in Hollywood a long time ago. The opportunity to be original and funny was overridden by fear, conformity and peer pressure. Hollywood and the art world in general is so conformist they are completely incapable of thinking out side that leftist box.

I can understand the whole comic idea of this show's plot, but this part was a lost opportunity that is virtually universal. Just look at the number of lazy jokes made of Bush, but Obama is far more rich in irony even at this early date. If they were only allowed to look at the sun.

peter hoh said...

When I first read the "turnips" line, I put a pause between "turn" and "ups," as if it had been written with commas, like this: "which, in turn, ups the trauma."

My reading, of course, squashes the turnip.

peter hoh said...

but this could have been original, and courageous if it was Obama's picture or Mohammed's.

Because everyone knows that faithful Muslims have a framed picture of the Prophet in their house.

James said...

"Because everyone knows that faithful Muslims have a framed picture of the Prophet in their house."

I don't agree with you often, but that just might have been the perfect comment.

Why is it that every time you make a joke relating to Christianity, the whiners think you also need to make a joke about Islam? (or apparently, according to the posters here, a joke about Obama (huh?!?) )

Kensington said...

Peter Hoh:
"Because everyone knows that faithful Muslims have a framed picture of the Prophet in their house."

That doesn't strain credibility much more than Christians hanging a painting of Christ within splashing distance of their toilets.

Bill Kilgore said...

I wasn't offended at all by the episode (though I'm not much of a Christian) but I thought it was a really tired gag. It was basically "look how dumb these Christians are" which doesn't offend me as much as it serves as a rather frank admission that the comedian is out of ideas.

Unless his idea is to be lazy, unoriginal and remarkably "unclever," in which case, congratulations are in order. If he wanted to be make some noise, he could have pissed on a Jesus image that belonged to some Catholics with a lot more pigment (as many devout Catholics are- particularly in SoCal) I wonder why that didn't happen.

Woops, it looks I left out a question mark.

Mark said...

Why is it that every time you make a joke relating to Christianity, the whiners think you also need to make a joke about Islam?

Because you never make those other jokes. One might be tempted to think that you hate us worse than them.

somecamerunning said...

Hi, Althouse. FWIW, and I allow this is probably apropos of nothing, but I post under Open ID and not my name only because it's easy, not 'cause I'm trying to hide or anything.

Peter Hoh's comment about placing a comma between "turn" and "ups" made me laugh. I think at least one copy editor did insert such a comma, at least once, during the back-and-forth galleys stage, and it was dutifully removed during the marathon comma-deleting sessions Wallace and I had regularly during that stage of the editing of the piece. Which piece this post brought me back to, and many thanks for that.

BTW, the footnote in "Big Red Son" about how the experience of the AVN Awards "fried everyone's glandular circuit board" is 100% uncomfortably accurate! Just thinking about it over a decade later is...urgh..

pdn said...

In general, to curb bias, people ask whether a different picture (person, symbol, book, etc.) would make a difference in offense. It is a standard tool to check personal bias or double standards when creating humor, drama, journalism, etc. If replacing the picture of Christ with a picture of Obama, Mohammad, Hillary Clinton, Ghandi, etc. makes a difference in the offense ---- then it is a valid (not whiny) point of debate.

jgm said...

The pee on J and subsequent (fairly mild) Christian-mocking? Eh. But come on, the muffin top saving Larry's life was pretty funny.

Anyone know a reliable site that streams episodes other than from season 7? I'm hooked (thanks, Althouse), but I don't have HBO, and I'd rather not get Netflix, etc., if I don't have to.

wv: tolfer: Thee.

E.M. Davis said...

But Larry David himself contends he always sits down to pee!