The entertainment industry is littered with shorthand terms and silly idioms, ranging from the purely practical (cute-meet, button gag) to the more abstract in nature (jumping the shark). I’ve got an addition that is somewhere in between - horse farts. The etymology of horse farts is quite literal. Two years ago my writing cohort – I’ll call him Mr. Sprinkles to protect his identity – and I were working on a comedy script that featured a scene involving a horse-drawn carriage. The producers didn’t think the scene was as humorous as it could be, so they added a running gag in which every time a character said a specific word, the horses pulling the carriage farted loudly. They thought it was genius, so this comic gold fungally spread beyond what we came to dub the “horse farting scene” and into any and every scene featuring a horse. I make no bones about the fact that I make my living writing low-to-no-brow comedies, but the shear go-for-broke pointlessness of this “gag” rubbed me the wrong way. Mr. Sprinkles and I tried to get the horse farting out of the script, but it’s hard to make the case that something is “too stupid” when you’re writing a ridiculously stupid movie to begin with.
We may not have walked away with our dignity, but we did get a spiffy new term! For us horse farts are uncreative, exploitative jokes added to a script by the producer or director to “punch up” a scene – adding a fart is almost always a horse fart, as is excessive Juno-style slang, and ADR jokes added in post-production are the devil’s horse fart playground - but it’s a broad concept. Horse farts are really anything added by someone else to your work - be it a script, essay, song, blog, whatever - designed to get cheap, easy reactions for the audience. Hell, it could even happen right here if my editor decided this article didn’t have a punchy enough ending. He might insert one final childish joke that seems sorta out of place. Anyhow, horse farts has caught on with Mr. Sprinkles and my screenwriter friends. Now I pass it along to you lovely, handsome people. May you never need to use it! Titties and Racial Slurs!
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