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Men redefining 'manly' _ and not just for laughs

Thursday - 5/17/2012, 4:36pm  ET

By LEANNE ITALIE
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - May, it turns out, is a manly month, and a funny one at that.

The Mother's Day flowers are barely wilted and already there's a heavy male energy in the air _ of the wry, ironical, comedy variety _ in new books and movies ahead of dad's day June 17.

We've got "Mansome" from the "Super Size Me" dude, Morgan Spurlock. And "Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity" from Time magazine's Joel Stein. And "Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad," from humorist-at-large Dan Zevin.

Why, when it comes to the discourse on masculinity, is the conversation routinely rolled around laughs? Where, exactly, does all the funny lead? Does it help redefine a new masculinity, make it easier for men to talk about this stuff?

We went straight to the source, the funny guys themselves and some of their foils, the unintentionally funny, to see if they could get serious about the burning issues facing MANkind today.

MORGAN SPURLOCK

In his latest com-doc, Spurlock takes on male grooming, enlisting the mother lode of funny guys: Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis and "Arrested Development" brothers Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, both of whom are executive producers.

And Morgan Spurlock thinks the point is?

"Men are in a position now where we're being marketed to and targeted in the same way that women have for decades, where suddenly men aren't good enough. Suddenly you're too fat. Suddenly your skin's too ugly, you don't have enough hair. All those same types of things that were told to women to let you know you were inadequate unless you tried X, Y or Z are now the same types of tactics that are being used on men, all in this effort to try and push this commodification of manhood."

So is that a good thing? For men, that is.

"I'm sure it's good for somebody, but for men in general? Shouldn't men want to take care of themselves? Sure. Should they spend a gazillion dollars? Probably not."

JASON BATEMAN

In Spurlock's movie, he and Arnett _ spa robes on _ compare shaving technique, get side-by-side pedicures and facials, take a soak together and try to keep the manly talk light.

What does Jason Bateman think is funny about manhood?

"The men who are speaking about it or presenting it are trying to avoid embarrassment and taking the subject, or themselves, too seriously."

Asked to get serious for just a sec, Bateman admits he doesn't have an answer for what it means to be a man.

"I try to be the best man I know how to be, which is just to kind of listen to myself and make the decisions that I'm instinctually drawn to make as opposed to having any sort of premeditated agenda, or any sort of strategy. I'm just trying to be honest and human, if that means being confident in one moment, then I'm that. If that means letting vulnerability show because I'm feeling vulnerable, then doing that. It's nice to be able to show it and feel it all."

JOEL STEIN

Never an outdoorsman, always anxious, Stein did something he never thought he would when his wife got pregnant: He freaked out because the baby was a boy.

There would be camping trips and footballs to throw! So he decided to make a book out of a manly bucket list to overcome his fears and generally effete way of doings things. He did a 24-hour shift with Los Angeles firefighters. He knocked back Scotch, went hunting and survived three days of Army boot camp.

So what'd he learn? What does being a man mean to Joel Stein?

"I think being a man today means less than it used to. It will always mean less than it used to. Don Draper (of `60s `Mad Men' fame) seems like such a man. He says no to things, but if you remember those segments in the first season or two where they show his dad, and his dad was like coming home and just beating the heck out of his wife and his kids. It was like, `Oh, men were even scarier before Don Draper.' They're always going to be scarier the further you go back. Being a man these days? It's still some version of being able to stick up for yourself and people around you, and it's still about being self-sufficient in every way."

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