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Poop Jokes and Existential Dread Co-Exist in How to With John Wilson's Final Season

The HBO docu-comedy contemplates life's big questions via toilet humor.
  • Toilets take center stage on the How to With John Wilson Season 3 premiere. (Photo: Thomas Wilson/HBO)
    Toilets take center stage on the How to With John Wilson Season 3 premiere. (Photo: Thomas Wilson/HBO)

    How to With John Wilson kicks off its final season with lots of poop. While trying to find a place to relieve himself, Wilson treats viewers to shots of a fully loaded portable toilet, a van covered in bird crap, and one upsettingly large pile of dung (from what kind of creature is unclear) sitting right smack dab in the middle of a New York City sidewalk. It’s entertaining in its absurdity and because, “juvenile” or not, poop jokes are funny.

    Throughout the Season 3 premiere, “How To Find a Public Restroom,” Wilson indulges in plenty of literal toilet humor. He uses his unique ability to pair a perfect B-roll clip with his monotone narration, showing a man awkwardly walk-running through a crowded sidewalk while discussing the difficulties of needing to go on the go. He cuts to a sign for colon-cleansing treatment as a visual punchline. And while attempting to use a bathroom at an open house, he accidentally breaks the home’s toilet seat right off.

    But as with all episodes of How to With John Wilson, it becomes about so much more than just using the bathroom. Halfway through Wilson’s stream-of-consciousness video diary, he’s forced to contemplate the ephemeral aspects of his creative process and the fragility of humanity.

    The transition to such existential topics may seem unlikely, but Wilson’s genuine curiosity makes it feel completely natural. He intently interviews his subjects and lets their answers and life experiences determine his next move instead of coming to them with too rigid of an agenda. That’s how, in an episode about bathrooms, he ends up spending a week at Burning Man filming some of the footage he’s most proud of — footage the world will never see because another filmmaker secured legal exclusive rights to the fest.

    Wilson’s spiral about that now useless footage leads him to finding someone just outside the Burning Man grounds to talk to about sewage instead, someone who just happens to be obsessing over building a home underneath a former missile launch site, a decision that’s tearing his family apart. That leads Wilson to explore another bunker in Washington, D.C., one where riot gear is provided for its inhabitants as protection for when they inevitably turn on each other. Things get heavy, but before discussions of the nuclear destruction of the world as we know it go on for too long, Wilson’s back to talking about toilets.

    The balance is part of what makes Wilson’s attempt at making sense of the world feel so relatable. There are always these big unanswered questions about life and existence floating around, but eventually, while we’re still on this earth, everyone needs to poop. And simultaneously feeling overwhelming dread about one thing while uncontrollably giggling about the other is what the human experience is all about.

    How to With John Wilson airs Fridays at 10:00 PM ET on HBO and streams on Max.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: How To with John Wilson, HBO, John Wilson