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Potty mouth: Lecture takes on poop shame and public toilets

Party pooper!: Entertainer Shawn Shafner will share his knowledge about waste during his one-man show “How the Potty Trained Us” at Long Island University on Feb. 20.
Brooklyn Daily
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A Flatbush expert on excrement will drop some knowledge about how to fix our crappy waste-filled world during his one-man talk “How the Potty Trained Us,” at Long Island University on Feb. 20. People are reluctant to discuss their pooping habits, but it is impossible to improve our waste systems without first getting to the root of the problem, said the taboo-breaking talker.

“What it means to be a person who has a body — it does lots of beautiful things and things that aren’t really beautiful — and our society only focuses on the beautiful,” said Shawn Shafner. “Because s--- is ugly and smelly, but it’s real, and the denial of that s--- means we don’t build cities with access to public toilets.”

Shafner is flush with knowledge about human waste, but his childhood was filled with taboos about discussing the loo, and he would hold in his poo as a way to assert control over his life, he said.

“I was a shameful s------, I was one of those kids that didn’t want to poop outside of the house,” said Shafner. “It became this way I had control over what else was happening.”

People’s individual inability to discuss fecal matters is directly related to society’s failure to provide enough toilets for women, for those outside the gender binary, or to provide public toilets at all, he said.

“It’s called fecal denial — it means that we’re just not integrating the reality of waste into our system. Cities that don’t really account specifically for the need for public toilets, and there’s lots of people that affects, whether it’s a cab driver, or someone who is disabled, or a parent out with a child,” he said. “And the taboo plays out in the global sphere: 40 percent of the world lacks access to safe, clean toilets. We can’t solve it if we can’t talk about it.”

His talk at the Kumble Theater will be a scaled-down version of his award-winning show “An Inconvenient Poop.” Shafner includes voice-overs from different experts, including a woman who explains the proper etiquette for cutting the cheese, but he can vary from the script if something potty-related comes to mind, he said.

“What I like about the stand up version, it’s a lot more casual, more real,” said Shafner. “Just me having a conversation, and I can speak with the audience loosely if a story comes up in the news.”

The audience will not be able to hold in their laughter, and may feel relieved to finally be understood, said Shafner.

“Everybody poops and I think as much as we don’t talk about it, what I found over the seven-and-a-half years doing this work, is once you start the conversation, people have a lot to say,” he said. “I’m just excited to spread the message to my home ’hood in the beautiful Kumble theater.”

“How the Potty Trained Us” at the Kumble Theater at Long Island University (1 University Plaza at Dekalb Avenue Downtown, www.kumbletheater.org). Feb. 20 at 6:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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