"Are you okay?"
"I'm disgusted and repulsed and ... I can't look away."
After watching Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay with me, my husband remarked, "That may be the most deliberately offensive film I've seen." However, he also pointed out that he'd been laughing his head off most of the time. My first thought was that if the Harold and Kumar sequel was the most offensive thing he'd seen in awhile, maybe he needed to go to QT Fest with me next time, or watch some of those bizarre midnight movies at Alamo Drafthouse. (And what, did he forget we saw Borat together last year?)
But afterwards, I started wondering ... how many intentionally offensive comedies have we seen and loved? I'm not thinking about provocative or transgressive films that try to make you stop and think about your life. I'm talking about movies that, when they succeed, evoke that amazing moment in which your jaw has plummeted to the floor in disbelief as a bubble of laughter starts to force its way out of you and will send you to the floor along with your dropped jaw, in hysteria. I'll put up with revolting, sacrilegious, and downright repellent content in a film if it makes me laugh hard enough. Can I think of seven movies that meet such a high standard for offensive comedy? It's more like seven times seven, and difficult to pick only a few of my favorites. Feel free to share any movies that you think I neglected to include -- bear in mind that in some cases, I simply didn't like the movie enough to get past the offensive bits (the Jackass films), or although I liked the movie, wasn't offended (The Aristocrats).
1. Forbidden Zone
I first saw this collaborative Elfman family (and Oingo Boingo) effort when I was in college, and for a long time afterwards, it was the most intentionally offensive film I had ever encountered. (Maybe it still is. I'm not sure.) You might be disgusted by the continual fart jokes, poop jokes, bizarre anal sex, blackface, lewd and crude dialogue. On the other hand, it's got peppy Cab Calloway-esque numbers, some beautifully cartoonish sets, and Danny Elfman as Satan. The cast also includes Susan Tyrell, Viva, and as King of the Forbidden Zone, Herve Villechaize.
2. Blazing Saddles
We're all so jaded these days that the campfire fart scene seems almost cute (but still sidesplitting). However, this Western spoof from 1974 still has the potential to offend ... the last time I saw an edited-for-TV version, even Madeline Kahn's "I'm Tired" song was cut. The Mel Brooks masterpiece contains the repeated use of a racial slur that would get you fired instantly if you uttered it in an office, as well as plenty of other gags intended to incite even the least prudish viewer do a double-take. I love watching this movie with an audience.
3. Clerks 2
How could I not include a film that caused a well-known critic to storm out in mid-screening because of possible interspecies erotica? A film that includes a character trying to "take back" a certain racial slur? During a plane ride last week, I decided to forego the in-flight movie selection (Juno) in favor of this movie ... for some inexplicable reason the Kevin Smith DVD was in my laptop bag. When the flight attendant interrupted me and I paused the movie, it froze on a screenshot of Randal with that slur visible on the back of his Mooby's shirt. I realized that the image would be terrific to post as the photo at the top of this list, but unfortunately it proves my point a little too well.
4. The Loved One (tied with: Kiss Me, Stupid)
It's a tough call. I feel I ought to include The Loved One because its tagline, back in 1965, was "The motion picture with something to offend everyone." Terry Southern certainly tried when he adapted the Evelyn Waugh novel for the big screen: the gruesome fate of John Gielgud, the appalling Mrs. Joyboy, and that whole thing with Liberace are a few of the "offensive" highlights. But it all seems fairly tame today, and I'm not impressed with the way the novel was tarted up and "updated" for Hollywood. If you want to watch a film from the same time period that tries to push the limits of the Production Code as much as possible, I'd suggest Billy Wilder's film Kiss Me, Stupid instead. This Sixties sex comedy reaches for raunch rather than Doris Day sophistication, and also implies that adultery does not necessarily need to be punished in a Hollywood film (very radical for 1964).
5. Meet the Feebles
It's considered bad form to include a movie you haven't seen on a list like this one. And I am properly embarrassed to say that I've never seen Meet the Feebles, although for years I was dying to see it and couldn't find a copy. Somehow every time I went to the local video store that stocked obscure titles, it was out. Remember the bad old days when Peter Jackson was known for crude low-budget fare like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, and not for hobbits? Meet the Feebles may be the most obnoxious of the early Jackson films (I promise to watch soon and find out for sure), with a cast of nasty puppets that do perverted things you'd never see Muppets attempt even in bootleg YouTube videos.
6. Monty Python's Life of Brian
I first watched this film in high school and got in big trouble for it, because my baby brother was in the room and after watching the first scene with me, found my mom and asked her why Mary was a man. I was lucky the movie wasn't banned from the house (like Risky Business and Robocop, but that's another story). When the movie was released, many theaters were picketed by religious groups for its irreverent portrayal of significant Christian events -- in some cities, it never even played during its initial release due to pressure from protestors (or in Baton Rouge, pressure from the district attorney's office).
7. Bad Santa
Some people watch A Christmas Story or Holiday Inn every December. We bought the Bad Santa DVD last year to start our annual holiday movie tradition. (Although, bringing this article full circle, watching Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle at Alamo on Christmas Eve with free sliders is another holiday tradition we might like to perpetuate.) Bad Santa is full of delightfully quotable lines that I can't repeat here without using at least a month's quota of asterisks. I'm laughing out loud right now just thinking about the scenes regarding the big-and-tall dressing room. I know many of you who like a nice raunchy movie now and then draw the line at sex and profanity associated with Santa Claus -- my sister was so disgusted by that sex scene where Lauren Graham moans, "F*** me, Santa" that she cannot even hear the movie's title without shuddering. But you know, just like Clerks 2, it's a sweet movie at heart.