When Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist visited a bookstore to check out the placement of their new book, The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex, the comedians-turned-authors found it in the "oddities and curiosities" section.
It was displayed along with all the "stuff that they didn't know where to put. Like by the sudokus," Ms. Schaal says.
"They file us under 'weird,' I guess," Mr. Blomquist adds.
The bookstore staff might be forgiven for not knowing where the book belongs. Filled with dubious guidance on such things as the aphrodisiac powers of prison food and "role-playing for one," the farcical sex manual by Ms. Schaal, the actress who plays Mel on the television show The Flight of the Conchords, and Mr. Blomquist, a writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is far heavier on humour than self-help.
Theirs, however, is among a growing list of sex books that blur the lines between funny and informative.
Sex has long been fodder for comedians. But lately, humour writing and sex advice have become increasingly intertwined. The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex, along with other new titles such as Worst Laid Plans: When Bad Sex Happens to Good People, based on a Los Angeles stage show, and Sex: Our Bodies Our Junk from a group of writers for Saturday Night Live, The Onion and Vanity Fair, belong to their own genre of silly sex guides.
Absurd as these books may be, experts say the new niche allows people to open up about issues of sexuality and helps make sex advice more accessible to those who find traditional manuals too clinical or daunting.
Ms. Schaal and Mr. Blomquist say they examined plenty of sex guides while writing their book and found they couldn't relate to many of them.
"Not enough pictures, not enough colours. Many of them are lacking in the scratch-and-sniff element," Mr. Blomquist jokes.
He also dismisses the frequently dispensed advice to spice things up with lingerie as "a waste of money."
"If you want to make out with a doily ... take my grandmother's end table out for dinner," he says.
All kidding aside, the authors say approaching sex with humour makes readers feel more at ease and better able to tackle their performance anxieties and inhibitions.
"If they can learn that sex is something that you can laugh at and not to take too seriously, then that's a good lesson to take away from the book, even though most of it is silly hogwash," Mr. Blomquist says.
Adds Ms. Schaal: "The minute you can have a sense of humour, it betters your sex life by a thousand."
At The Art of Loving sex shop in Vancouver, co-owner Vera Zyla says the tongue-in-cheek approach has become "a little trend" in sex literature. Increasingly, the store has been stocking new joke-laden sex books with titles such as How to Live with a Huge Penis: Advice, Meditations, and Wisdom for Men Who Have Too Much.
Ms. Zyla says she often employs humour when giving sex seminars, and used to partner with a stand-up comedian to conduct workshops on oral sex.
At those workshops, "I would sort of have the facts and give the goods on stuff, and he would [bring]this comic relief element to it that would make people laugh and feel comfortable, and it really worked," she says, noting that participants were far more receptive to her lessons when they were having fun. "It doesn't need to be all dry and professorial."
But there are certain areas of sex, such as issues of abuse, that one simply shouldn't joke about, she says.
Toronto sexologist Jessica O'Reilly also believes that sex and humour should be mixed with caution.
Silly sex guides can be beneficial to those reluctant to discuss certain issues, Ms. O'Reilly says.
"If you say, 'I'm reading a sex therapist's book ... where it's about healing,' then it implies that you have a problem," she says. "So if you can read the humorous books or just kind of the more fun-loving, lighter books, it begins kind of from a place of sexual enrichment as opposed to beginning from a place of sexual healing or sexual problems."
But she warns that all the silliness needs to be balanced with a degree of sobriety.
"Sex is such a serious part of our lives, and it brings a whole series of serious issues with it, like relationships, marriage, children, pregnancy, obviously STIs and stuff like that," Ms. O'Reilly says.
She adds that while there's a place for sex books by celebrities, comedians and other non-experts, "we do risk sometimes getting misinformation if people aren't trained in the field."
In The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex, there is almost nothing that Ms. Schaal and Mr. Blomquist don't joke about. They suggest gay men and women should fake their deaths to ease the blow of coming out of the closet; they blame impotence on "Gypsy curses" and refer to fetuses as "female stomach parasites." They even wrote an entire section on the biographies of the 72 virgins a suicide bomber would meet after death, which didn't make it into the final version of the book.
There is, however, one line the authors will not cross.
Even though Ms. Schaal admits to going "for the easy dick joke laughs," she says, "I think the one thing is no one should be ridiculed or made to feel shameful about sex."
"Yeah," Mr. Blomquist says, "sex and sexuality is something that should be celebrated, not belittled."