How they went on and on about it

Be warned. Roy Colbert ventures this week into territory that may offend some readers.

Masturbation. Now there's a funny thing. But the thing is, is it funny?

The Fortune Theatre one-man show Mamil, superbly handled, not a pun, by Mark Hadlow, has a masturbation scene, and as I absently flicked a speck of lint off my sleeve, so uninterested was I in the topic, I couldn't help but notice at least two-thirds of the packed audience were shrieking hysterically, whooping, gasping, hammering their heels into the floor.

I mean, am I missing something here?

It happens all the time, not just at the Fortune Theatre.

In television, where there has been nothing funnier than Seinfeld, Episode 51, entirely about masturbation, it was rated the funniest television episode of all time by TV Guide.

The phrase Master Of My Domain has since entered popular culture with a vengeance.

Yes, I AM missing something.

America, of course, despite the sexual atrocities it has forced upon us over the years, is a surprisingly conservative country, and with humour being essentially a shock, this might explain why masturbation on stage elicits such shrieking.

But in Dunedin, New Zealand's most cultural city by a military mile, where virtually everyone is mature, level-headed and wise, why on earth would we shriek at such an unfunny thing?

Mind you, it was opening night when I went: was it the drink talking?

If I could slip briefly into incomprehensible metaphor, I could opine that the cave housing sexual activity is a very big space, with all sorts of nooks and crannies in there that could rip the eyeballs right out of a lesser man's head.

But masturbation is barely even IN that sexual cave, it sits sheepishly outside, like the stand where you put your umbrella, or where the real estate agent sets up the Open Home sign, not that they ever have open homes for a sexual cave, but you know what I mean.

I must confess I am well out of the masturbation loop.

I have no idea when boys learn about masturbation and my disinterest is such that I am not going to look it up.

But I do remember an acne of 12-year-old boys turning viciously on me in the school playground demanding to know if I did something, a two-worded something I didn't have the foggiest notion about.

I knew the two words, but not in that order.

Of course I said yes, that's what you do in the school playground when being set upon, but they grilled me hard and soon found out I was a lying little swine.

This has had long-standing effects which Nigel Latta could never fix: when I hear a horse-racing commentator say Giant Pharoah is being pulled off the fence to get a better run, I laugh so hard my ears whine.

Mamil did have one item from the sexual cave I raised my thumb to - man talking to his penis.

In dense intellectual discussion after the show with a bevy of very intelligent women, it became apparent that women don't believe a man talks to his penis.

Good grief.

I have been talking to my penis since I was 9, years before I learnt about masturbation.

Though I would question Mark Hadlow's decision to have his penis talk back in a high voice.

All talking penises I am aware of speak with booming depth and resonance.

Most of us mature men also give the penis a name.

Mine is called Peter and he has his own house with many different rooms, a setting which allows metaphor to run absolutely beserk.

But that is another story for another time.

It might be pertinent at this point to mention May in America is Masturbation Month, and I didn't just make this up.

Don't shriek with laughter.

A polite gentlemanly chuckle is enough.

• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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