Australian Screen

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Kenny (2006)

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clip 'S(tore) H(igh) I(n) T(ransit)' education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be M

Clip description

Kenny (Shane Jacobson) drives a tanker full of sewage to the Melbourne sewerage farm at Werribee, as he explains the origins of the word 'shit’. Back at the depot, he demonstrates some of the damage sustained by his company’s portaloos.

Curator’s notes

Part of what makes Kenny so likeable and the movie so funny, is his facility with language. The character has a natural humour that’s inseparable from his natural humility. The monologue about the history of the word 'shit’ tells us he’s interested in language, even though he’s less than confident about his level of education; he’s also philosophical, in his own way, about the subject of human waste and the way it embarrasses people. Part of the clever way that his character is constructed is that he keeps surprising us. Shane Jacobson’s performance is never self-conscious, a common problem in a lot of mockumentary. A lot of viewers apparently believed that Kenny was a real person when they watched the film – an impression the Jacobson brothers carefully fostered in their promotion of the film, where Shane Jacobson would appear in character, rather than as himself.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows Kenny (Shane Jacobson), who works for Splashdown Corporate Bathroom Rentals, explaining the origins of the word ‘shit’. He is shown driving a tanker full of sewage to the Melbourne sewerage works at Werribee, before his return to the Splashdown depot to repair damaged portaloos. He holds a portaloo door with a gaping hole up to the camera and remarks ‘What kinda curry’s that bloke been eatin’?’. In the clip Kenny sometimes speaks in voice-over and sometimes directly to camera.

Educational value points

  • Kenny is a mockumentary, a film genre that relies on parodying or exaggerating the conventions of the documentary form to represent a fiction as reality. In Kenny a seemingly serious treatment is given to a rarely discussed subject about which people often feel squeamish or tend to regard as vulgar. By passing off fiction as reality, mockumentaries undermine the assumption that documentaries accurately represent reality.
  • Kenny is largely made in the style of an observational or fly-on-the-wall documentary, which records and presents the lived experience of ordinary people with no voice-over commentary or on-camera interviews. In keeping with this style, the film makes liberal use of a hand-held camera to follow Kenny in his day-to-day life, while Kenny often speaks directly to camera. This style is similar to fictional film in that each scene reveals aspects of the subject’s character.
  • Much of the humour in this clip is derived from the seriousness with which Kenny discusses the origins of the word ‘shit’ and his deadpan delivery of expressions such as ‘mama and papa poo’ to describe the sewerage works, as well as his commitment to a job that many might dismiss as inconsequential but that Kenny identifies as an essential service. This earthy humour, coupled with his dedication, gives the character an integrity that audiences warmed to.
  • Far from being an acronym as described in this clip, the word ‘shit’ has a long and well-documented history that includes the Anglo-Saxon word ‘scittan’, the Latin word ‘scitta’ (found in a 12th-century text) and many examples from the 14th century in which ‘schite’ refers to excrement or is used as an insult.
  • Kenny was awarded Best Original Screenplay by the Film Critics Circle of Australia in 2006. According to director Clayton Jacobson, who co-wrote the script with brother Shane, it was a hybrid made up of a tight story structure, written dialogue and improvisation. The script is able to move deftly between comedy and light drama by using Kenny’s monologues and his interactions with those around him to develop his screen character and provide humour.
  • Kenny’s trademark overalls, forthright manner, colourful turn of phrase, often wry humour and strong work ethic identify him as a working class bloke and battler, balancing the responsibilities of work with his relationships with his son and father. The confidence with which Kenny approaches his job and his willingness to do overtime suggest he derives satisfaction from his work, a sense reinforced by the candour with which he talks about it.

This clip starts approximately 5 minutes into the feature.

Kenny is driving a tanker full of sewage through traffic.
Kenny We’ve got a bit of a drive here because we have to drop this load off at mama and papa poo in Werribee.

We see Kenny driving the truck, opening the gates, and driving into the treatment plant.
Kenny (voice-over) The funny thing is, a lot of people use the word 'shit’ now, of course, as an abusive word, you know as a swear word, the sort of word you want to keep away from kiddies. But the funny part is, where it came from, was when they started to transport manure in the ships so they could use it to fertilise gardens. Problem was, moisture would get into the boat, into the bottom of the boat, and mix up with some of the manure they were transporting and it would start to ferment and it would cause a gas. And the problem was, if someone went down there with a candle or lit a match or had a pipe or something down there, sometimes it ignited and there was an explosion on the boat. After that, they put all the crap in boxes and it had SHIT written on the side of the box and that stood for Store High In Transit, and that’s where it got its name from. So, I don’t know whether there is any truth to that story or not, but it’s a pretty elaborate lie. Bit of longwinded set-up if someone’s made that story up. I’m going with it!

Kenny is back at the depot, fixing the panels of the portaloos.
Kenny Just having to work a little bit of overtime tonight, just to get a couple of extra toilets ready. We have a heap of them going out next week.
Kenny points out the damage to some of the panels.
Kenny As you can see, the kids, I don’t know what they do. They’ve broken through that one. They do all sorts — oh, have a look at this one. You won’t believe this. ‘Ave a look at this. This one I replaced this morning.
Kenny holds up a loo door with a huge hole in it.
Kenny Look at that, hey. What kind of curry’s that bloke been eating? Devil’s curry. Hell’s teeth, I tell ya.
Kenny moves around the workshop.
Kenny I‘ve never understood why people all carry on about it. I enjoy a good crap, to be quite honest. Well, not only enjoy, I love it. I don’t think it’s all pain and anger. Me personally, I sit on a toilet for 20-odd minutes. As most men can. You know, it’s an interesting fact, as far as smells, apparently your body only is in shock, and sometimes it is shock, for the first seven to twelve seconds or something, and after that you get used to it very quickly. That’s why a man can read a newspaper or magazine from front to back, you know, in the toilet in his own smell, and not notice it. Mind you, the next person that walks in will think he’s been smacked in the head with a poo bat. But, ah, I don’t know, you know, if a woman walks in after ya, kill 'em, knock 'em in half.

I’ve always understood that people, I know that everybody does get embarrassed by taking a crap — you wouldn’t want to be doing it in the middle of Bourke Street butt naked trying to poo into a cup. I mean, even dogs, if you watch a dog crap, even a dog’s embarrassed to do poos. You know, when they do a poo they’re all bent over like they’re trying to root a cricket bat, but even they get embarrassed, and that’s a dog, and they’ll eat it!

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