Arts & Culture

Making With the Funny: “Sex: Our Bodies Our Junk” co-Author Todd Levin

If you’re looking for a sex book that will teach you all the things you really don’t need to learn about doing the dirty, and make you laugh page after page, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk comes with our highest … Read More

By / October 11, 2010

If you’re looking for a sex book that will teach you all the things you really don’t need to learn about doing the dirty, and make you laugh page after page, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk comes with our highest approval.

The story behind the book seems simple: Todd Levin, who has written for Late Night With Conan O’Brien and Onion News Network, got together with a few of his buddies (who also share impressive comedy writing resumes) and decided to write the book that may change your sex life, and get you slapped with a sex offender tag if you follow any of the books instructions.

Adam: This is a thought I had while reading the book: was sex something that was openly discussed in your family growing up? Todd: Not at all. I think my parents are more liberal now than they were when they were younger. But i happened to have a really close friend who lived maybe 100 feet away from our house and his dad was an artist and his mom was a part time painter and a psychologist and they were divorced and he had all the sort of contemporary stuff. His mom especially, would have these parties with all her post-hippie liberal friends. There’s nothing like an upstate hippie. And she would let him put pictures from playboy up on the walls of his room when we were 12. So she had all those books. The Joy of Sex and Our Bodies, Ourselves. That was the first time I saw any of those books was at their house cause they just had them out and it was no big deal. And those were always really funny to me. The absurdity of trying to explain the mechanics of sex just seemed so crazy. And literally illustrating it… And no one was ever gonna really practice it that way. Once you actually get in there, you end up blindly jabbing around until its over and you’re apologizing profusely or pretending it didn’t happen. There’s nothing joyous about it. Joy’s got nothing to do with it. The Joy of Sex is the worst. That’s the one that influenced us the most in terms of wanting to create these characters. Because the guy who wrote it… Who did write it? A guy named Alex Comfort. No way. Comfort? I know. He was a phD but the way he wrote the book – its really sort of informally written. It’s all structured like a menu, which is disgusting. so there are sections like ‘hors d’evours’ and ‘hot apps’ What a weird choice. Yeah, he was playing off the cook book. And the other thing that I found fascinating and we all took a cue from was that joy of sex was famous because it had all these watercolor illustrations of these bearded hippies that were kinda out of shape. And that was him. That was Comfort? It was him. And some model he hired that he eventually left his wife for. And i just thought ‘the hubris of this out of shape, bearded hippie to put himself in it’. And thats why we used one of our authors, Ted And a hot lady, I must say. An attractive woman. That was a model that we hired through Craigslist. I have a friend in LA who runs Suicide Girls and he was like ‘I know some models in new york’ and they were almost too intense. So we found this one woman. This Australian woman who was trying to model. And she was so nice. So patient. Because we were like ‘listen. its gonna be kind of weird. You’re not gonna be nude or anything. You’re gonna be in your underwear, but you’re gonna be, y’know- You’re gonna be wrapping a strap around a fat guy and holding him back as he thrusts forward. t: Yeah. He’s gonna be biting on your head. So, we did this photo session in Ted’s apartment with a sheet as a backdrop and the 2 of them in their underwear. Then this guy Kiji, who illustrated it, just added a top hat on him and all those details. So the actual writing process – what was that like? It came together pretty fast once we had a proposal. we looked at a bunch of those other books to kinda get an outline to say this is the information we have to include in this book or general areas of human sexuality that need to be covered and we kinda tried to follow those as a guide. And that’s how we came up with the chapters. And within each chapter we kinda knew at the bare minimum what we’d have to say and we all pitched ideas. For every chapter we all pitched 5 to 10 ideas. A title of a subsection and a couple sentences of what it would be. And we picked the ones we liked the best and made sure we were covering all the information we needed. And usually the person who pitched it was assigned it except in the cases where it would give someone way too much work to do. We tried to divide up the work chapter by chapter. I ended up doing a little bit less than the other guys cause I was trying to do this while i was working at Conan.. Plus, you had the cats to take care of. I had the cats to take care of. But that was really how it went. We’d work on 2 chapters at a time and assign 1 of the 5 of us to be the group editor.so he would make sure the segues worked and then we’d send it to our book editor I love how the book is structured, taking you from the beginning of the sex act to the end. Yeah. In fact, there was a point where we gonna have an additional chapter on the future of sex. It still seems like a rich area, but we ended up not having enough space in the book. It was really fun to write. The thing that was really nice was that all 5 of us quickly agreed on the voice. There was some variations in tone and we tried to clean up some of that in the editing but for the most part everybody sort of fell in. And because we knew it was 5 dudes writing a sex book and we didn’t want it to be like Maxim’s guide to sex – Its infinitely smarter than that. That’s why we tried this weird , almost scientific, removed voice. And because its a book on sex there’s so many easy jokes you can make, so many dumb plays on words. We didn’t want have anything on like The Dirty Sanchez or any stupid stuff like that. So we ended up going in a weirder, maybe less accessible place for some people, but I think more rewarding. I think it hits the perfect tone. And knowing that its such a collaborative process, that its 5 guys, the voice is impressively unified. I love all the Didja Knows at the end of the chapters. Those were really fun to write. My personal favorite is ‘Humanity’s very last sexual penetration will occur on May 6, 3022, in the early morning hours, immediately following a Cinco de Mayo party in Arlington, Virginia’. Yeah there a couple in there that always make me laugh. There’s a Didja Know that’s ‘The first marshmallows came from vaginas, and were a by-product of stress’. It’s so insane, but yet you can kind of picture that physically happening. But it makes no fucking sense. Have you read the book front to back? I’m sure you have. Oh yeah. Cause we tried to copy edit it ourselves a couple times. But there are always stuff you miss. And that’s good. And for someone like me, who grew up loving comedy and was a voracious reader of those National Lampoon books and the Onion books, it really was important to write that kind of thing where, if you flip back into it, you’re like ‘Oh God, I forgot how funny that was’ Re-readability. Dense with weird references and jokes that you might miss one time through. It totally has that quality. You flip through and you see a picture of a vagina with the crazy Games Magazine maze on it, and it’s like ‘OK. I’ll get back to that in a minute’ Right. Now, is this the first time you’ve been back to New York since you moved? I’d been back for just one weekend, so this is the longest stretch I’ve been back. And I do miss it. It’s funny cause I was really steeling myself to come back to NY because what happened last time was I was so nostalgic for it and I didnt wanna leave and it made me hate LA and this time I was preparing myself for the same experience. And then I got in and I was staying in lower Manhattan and I thought ‘This is terrible. It’s filthy. There’s scaffolding everywhere. People are either really poor or really rich’. I was so bummed out. (We see another dog) t: That’s a great looking dog.