12 July 2011
Let’s not beat around the bush: run — don’t walk — to see Kenny, the multiple prize-winning mockumentary about an Australian port-a-loo employee who spins his philosophy of life and lets us see some of the multiple humiliations one experiences if one earns a living dealing with other people’s shit. This film is hilarious, full of the best one-liners about excrement you’ve ever heard, and surprisingly touching, and Kenny (Shane Jacobson) outdoes the entire cast of This Is Spinal Tap as a fully-realized, utterly believable character — so much so that by the end my partner couldn’t believe it wasn’t an actual documentary.
The bad news comes at Kenny like crap through a goose. He’s newly divorced and his ex-wife hates him. Talking with a co-worker about marriage, he suggests that he should “cut out the middle man; find someone you hate and buy them a house.” Then there’s his widowed father who won’t let Kenny touch a single surface in his house. “Death in the family has different effects on different people,” Kenny philosophizes. “For some families, it brings them closer together. But for other families, like our circus, it’s Christmas cards at twenty paces.” Nor does he get any respect for his work. “I’d love to be able to say ‘I plumb toilets’ and have someone say, ‘now that is something I’ve always wanted to do’.”
The thing is, you can’t help but develop a serious affection for the man within about ten minutes. Even more so when you see him dealing not just with all that excrement, but also human weakness all around him. By the time he gets to fly all the way from Melbourne to Nashville, Tennessee for a convention, you’ve got almost the same slack-jawed look on your face that he’s got as he observes a world he’s never seen.
When I run the world (now there’s a phrase that doesn’t get enough use in my household), I’m going to hold weekly Kenny quote-a-longs that will outdo any Rocky Horror or Big Lebowski standard. When he says, “There’s a smell in here that will outlast religion,” you find yourself marveling a bit that he’s willing to throw himself into the job with the fervor he does. He is good at his job, and you start to see that his odd combination of kindness and stubborn self-determination makes his life harder, but also makes him more noble.
It’s available through Netflix and even has subtitles (!) for those worried about keeping up with the Australianisms. (Apologies for the earlier version of this post, for it is most certainly not streaming through Netflix.)