Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* But Were Afraid To Ask

Hollywood finds sperm hilarious—donating it, stealing it (or both, as in Ted 2, out this week), spraying it, accidentally drinking it, whatever. That is a comedy well that never runs dry—or a dramatic one, for that matter. Because what easier way to bring up issues around identity, family, and responsibility than by throwing in a plot line that reunites donor with offspring? Below, a lovin’ spoonful of some of those seminal—semenal?—works of big and small screen.

1. Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life (1983)

“Every Sperm Is Sacred” is such an iconic ditty that it already headlined our list of sperm-related songs. As a comic deconstruction of Catholicism’s anti-masturbation teachings, the sketch is as brutal as anything the Pythons came up with, yet the musical support for Michael Palin and Terry Jones’ writing—André Jacquemin and David Howman’s music, Arlene Phillips’ choreography—make the song and dance so irresistibly jaunty that it’s easy to forget how razor-sharp the satire is. The follow-up sketch, in which Graham Chapman’s stuffy Protestant explains how his religion’s stance on contraception means he can have sex as much as he wants (which, as it turns out, is twice), is also excellent, but it does leave rather less room to get swept up in the fun. But then, that’s kind of the point of “Every Sperm Is Sacred”: The song undoubtedly needles Catholicism, but it’s downright reverent of the musicals like Oliver! that inspired it. As Terry Jones observed in the Pythons’ 2003 group memoir, “Every Sperm Is Sacred” “is not a parody of these things, it just is those things.” [Alasdair Wilkins]

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2. A Boy And His Dog (1975)

In the post-apocalyptic America of this cult movie (based on stories by Harlan Ellison), Vic, an amoral teenage scavenger (a young Don Johnson) scours the wasteland for food and women with the help of his telepathic best friend, a dog named Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire). When Blood leads Vic to the scent of a suspiciously corn-fed beauty named Quilla June (Susanne Benton), Vic is overjoyed—not only because she’s the only woman who’s ever had sex with him willingly, but also because she leads him to the secret, seemingly utopian underground city of Topeka. Vic, having left Blood behind on the surface, is even more thrilled when he’s informed that the pasty, inbred residents of Topeka need his rambunctious, virile sperm to impregnate 35 women—until he realizes it will be extracted via artificial-insemination gizmo. Cut to Vic having a series of very conflicted orgasms, as his ejaculate is harvested in a jug. His eventual escape reunites him with Blood on the surface, where, in the film’s understandably controversial ending, the best pals eat Quilla June. [Dennis Perkins]

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3. Forget Paris (1995)

The 1995 romantic comedy Forget Paris may not be the most memorable film, but it’s a proud participant in the tradition of sperm-related shenanigans. Having fallen in love and gotten married, Billy Crystal and Debra Winger begin trying to have a baby. A series of plot contrivances leads to the scenario of Crystal racing against the clock to get his sperm sample to the doctor in time to put it to good, baby-making use. As they must, hijinks ensue, including a police officer pulling him over, at which point Crystal indicates the small container he’s belted into the passenger’s seat, and says, “Officer, do you know what’s in this bag? It’s a cup full of sperm.” This information is not taken calmly. [Alex McCown]

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4. The Babymakers (2012)

The Babymakers is a bank-heist film, just not that kind of bank. (Cue record scratch, then James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”) Tommy (Paul Schneider) and Audrey Macklin (Olivia Munn) discover they haven’t gotten pregnant because of his lackadaisical sperm. But how can that be, when Tommy paid for Audrey’s engagement ring with the proceeds he earned jerking it at a sperm bank? When the place refuses to return his last good batch to him, Tommy and his pals hatch a plan to steal it back. As in Forget Paris, there’s a run-in with the police, who are also alarmed by the sperm. (“Hand over the jizz, and get on the ground!”) Good thing a ski-masked, naked Nat Faxon shows up to create a diversion. [Kyle Ryan]

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5. Childrens Hospital, “Sperm Bank Heist” (2015)

When Valerie Flame (Malin Åkerman) decides she needs some of the sweet “Ivy League sperm” in the new sperm bank at the Childrens Hospital, she assembles a suspiciously familiar crack team to liberate it, including a hacker, someone to crawl sexily through laser beams, and, naturally, an Asian contortionist. This being Childrens Hospital, there’s no explanation of why administrator Sy Mittleman (Henry Winkler) started a sperm bank in a kids’ hospital, or why the hospital’s clown doctor, Blake Downs (Rob Corddry), escapes with all the sperm in the twist ending. Relaxing on the beach with his booty, Downs recites what may as well be the Childrens Hospital motto: “Wait, why did I do this again?” [Dennis Perkins]

6. There’s Something About Mary (1998)

The line “Is that hair gel?” epitomizes the raucous, ridiculous comedy of the Farrelly brothers’ There’s Something About Mary. Following the advice of a friend, Ted (Ben Stiller) masturbates before his date with Mary (Cameron Diaz), but the ejaculate ends up dangling from his earlobe. Mistaking it for hair product, Mary rubs it in her hair, and the ultra-rigid result has become one of the film’s lasting images. Although the scene’s nonsensical—that’s not how sperm works, for starters, and why would Mary just randomly jam it into her hair without checking it out afterward?—the movie’s commitment to it makes it surprisingly hilarious, as well as utterly gross. [Kevin Johnson]

7-8. Look Who’s Talking (1989) and Look Who’s Talking Too (1990)

The Look Who’s Talking movies announce their premise in utero. Literally. (Well, the first two at least—there is a conspicuous lack of dog sperm in 1993’s pet-centric Look Who’s Talking Now.) The setting of the opening credits for each movie takes place in Kirstie Alley’s womb. In the first film, Bruce Willis starts out as a little swimmer, besting his contemporaries in a race to the egg to the soundtrack of the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around.” Roseanne Barr takes over for Willis in the second go-round, pushing her way to human glory as the egg, voiced by Alley, that laments the arrival of the “tadpole squad.” [Molly Eichel]

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9. The Switch (2010)

The “Surprise, you’re a dad!” trope is an old one, so the people behind The Switch apparently felt the best way to escape repetition was to complicate things as much as possible. Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) gets sperm from a bank, but Wally, her platonic best friend who’s also in love with her, accidentally pours the sample down her sink when he gets drunk at her “insemination party.” He naturally replaces it with his own, but doesn’t remember it because he’s blackout drunk. Cut to seven years later, when Kassie returns with a son who has Wally’s personality. And, what the hell, why not make it so Kassie believes she’s dating her son’s father too? Based on a Jeffrey Eugenides short story called “Baster,” The Switch bombed at the box office, landing in seventh place on its August 2010 opening weekend, falling behind the much easier to follow Piranha 3D. [Gwen Ihnat]

10-11. Starbuck (2011), and Delivery Man (2013)

Fitting for the story of a man who fathers 533 children through sperm-bank donations, the Canadian comedy Starbuck has spawned three separate adaptations: the Bollywood remake Vicky Donor, a French-language version called Fonzy, and the pun-derful Vince Vaughn vehicle Delivery Man. Hollywood’s take boasts approximately one storyline for every child brought into the world by David Wozniak (Vaughn), swirling elements of a legal drama, a mob thriller, and a big-hearted tearjerker into what’s ostensibly a comedy about Wozniak earning $24,255 by jerking off. It’s not the volume of his donations but a mix-up at the fertility clinic that contributes to his substantial virility, though he takes an active hand in the kids’ lives once he’s discovered that some have grouped together to file a class-action suit against the clinic. [Erik Adams]

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12. The Simpsons, “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” (1992)

Sperm can be the most basic way to start a story about family, so it’s fitting that The Simpsons would use it to bring back one of the show’s great guest relatives: Herb Powell, Homer Simpson’s half-brother (voiced by Danny DeVito). When a routine test at the power plant finds that Homer’s sperm has been rendered sterile by radiation, the company offers him a special award (the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award For Outstanding Achievement In The Field Of Excellence) and a one-time cash payout to distract him from suing. Now homeless after Homer’s buffonery (and Herb’s own poor business sense) cost him his fortune, Herb reads about the Homer’s reward in the newspaper and asks his estranged brother for a loan to rebuild his business empire. It’s a sweet, goofy tale of American enterprise and good old-fashioned hard work, and it all began with some sluggish, ineffective sperm. [Zack Handlen]

13. Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (2014)

At first blush, it may seem like Community creator Dan Harmon was looking for the most humiliating way to send off cast member and noted Harmon nemesis Chevy Chase: Chase’s sexist, racist, homophobic curmudgeon Pierce Hawthorne masturbates to death (offscreen, thankfully). Instead, Pierce’s legacy (in the form of the canisters of frozen sperm he died filling), turns out to be as paradoxically affecting as Pierce himself could be, without ever losing touch with how out of touch he was. (Maintaining to the end that Joel McHale’s Jeff Winger is gay, Pierce just assumes that Winger would want a big canister of sperm.) With guest star Walton Goggins’ lawyer bestowing everyone’s sperm with surgically deadpan delivery, Pierce’s exit is as typically inappropriate as it is undeniably, hilariously sweet. [Dennis Perkins]

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14. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* But Were Afraid To Ask (1972)

The most surreal entry in Woody Allen’s canon is Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* But Were Afraid To Ask anthology, a movie that includes seven short films related to the title subject. The most famous segment, “What Happens During Ejaculation?,” shows how a male body’s “control central,” decisively commandeered by Tony Randall, organizes a successful sexual climax. The erection team is a construction crew; Burt Reynolds is a team lackey who yells out reports like “thighs are being stroked!”; and the possible loss of erection is traced to a priest shouting Catholic guilt epithets. Allen plays his sperm character as neurotic, worrying about strange stories he’s heard in which “sometimes the guys will slam their heads against a wall of hard rubber” and, “What if he’s masturbating? I might wind up on the ceiling!” In the end, the sperm all remember the oath they took at sperm training school: “Fertilize an ovum or die trying” and control central toasts another successful mission—until it’s time to go again. [Gwen Ihnat]

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15. Parks And Recreation, “Ann’s Decision” (2013)

Throughout the fifth season of Parks And Recreation, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) tries to move forward with her decision to have a baby without a partner. Initially she visits a sperm bank, but after a disconcertingly close encounter with Sewage Joe, Perkins decides to go with someone she knows. Although she nearly ends up with local shock-jock The Douche, she makes literally the best possible decision on the father front: Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe). Attempts to go the in-vitro route, however, prove too clinical for the couple, leading to a decidedly more natural sperm donation that ultimately results in Perkins and Traeger living happily ever after. [Will Harris]

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16. She Hate Me (2004)

Sex columnist Dan Savage often points to certain outlandish sex acts that only exist in the mind of 14-year-old boys. In 2004, one of those 14-year-old boys was 47-year-old Spike Lee, who after an early career of challenging, insightful work, decided to channel all of his worst impulses into She Hate Me. Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a biotech executive falsely accused of fraud who, in order to maintain his lifestyle, does what unemployed men in movies have done for years: sell his sperm so lesbians can have babies. While anyone who’s donated sperm in real life can attest to the pay and prestige barely rising above selling plasma, in Spike Lee’s fevered imagination, it’s a job with only slightly less pay and perks than Mick Jagger’s. In the film, Mackie ends up being paid $10,000 per satisfied customer, and unlike real-life sperm donation, he delivers the goods the old-fashioned way. Because if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that lesbians love doin’ it with men. [Mike Vago]

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17. Upright Citizens Brigade, “Mafia” (2000)

Semen holds “Mafia” together, beginning with a segment where Matt Besser’s investigative reporter uncovers “unsightly semen stains” in the typical hotel room with his trusty blacklight, not realizing what it shows on his face, hair, and clothes. Later, a reformed gangster named Fantosi (played by Ian Roberts) takes a heartfelt interest in helping a childless couple conceive, so he mobilizes his entire criminal enterprise to provide the terrified would-be parents with an unending river of mafia ejaculate. Tying it all together in signature UCB style, Fantosi dies during a huge, semen-soaked courthouse shoot-out (also captured by blacklight camera), his essence changing into a giant sperm cell that shoots into outer space. [Dennis Perkins]

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18. Family Guy (1999-2006)

Stewie Griffin has always been Family Guy’s evil mastermind, a concept that was introduced at the show’s beginning. As early as episode three, “Chitty Chitty Death Bang,” viewers learn how far back this villainy goes, as Stewie proves to be masterful even in sperm form. The episode turns Stewie’s conception into a Death Star-type battle, as all Peter Griffin’s sperm attempt to reach Lois Griffin’s ovum. Stewie, of course, is victorious. He revisits his sperm-battle self in season three’s “Emission Impossible,” when, determined to remain the youngest in the family, he goes after a sperm named Bertram (voiced by Wallace Shawn). The two eventually bond over their hatred of Lois, people who use family pictures as Christmas cards, and Jason Patric. Due to a sperm-bank mix up (the unofficial theme of this list), Bertram eventually reaches the outside world in season four’s “Sibling Rivalry,” becoming Stewie’s arch-enemy, with the unlikely premise that Peter’s sperm could be the source behind not one but two evil geniuses. [Gwen Ihnat]

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19. Made In America (1993)

Clearly, the most effective way to address tense race relations in the early ’90s was a broad comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson, released exactly 13 months after riots erupted following the Rodney King verdict. But if one thing can unite all races, it’s a sperm-bank mix up. Sarah Mathews (Goldberg) learns the donor whose sperm helped create her daughter Zora (Nia Long) isn’t black, as she requested, but an obnoxious white car salesman, Hal Jackson (Danson). “You’re Hal Jackson? But you’re white!” Zora says upon meeting him. “That’s true, darlin’, but when we’re alone in the dark, what difference is that gonna make?” Danson replies, before learning whom he’s propositioning. Made In America has been forgotten aside from the tabloid fodder it created when Danson left his longtime wife to briefly date Goldberg—and, infamously, host her Friars Club comedy roast in blackface (at her suggestion). [Molly Eichel]

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20. L.A. Law, “Beef Jerky” (1987)

Back from a temporary banishment to night court during L.A. Law’s first season, uptight prosecutor Grace Van Owen (Susan Dey) finds her humiliation has not ended: Her first case back involves prosecuting a man accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in prize bull semen. Everything from the punny episode title down to the trial itself—where the show tested just how many times the word “semen” could be uttered in prime time—is designed to test Van Owen’s ability to maintain her poker face. (She only loses it a bit when the last vial of precious bull sperm is knocked, in dramatic slow motion, across the courtroom.) In the end she prevails, after urging the sniggering jurors to “giggle your way to justice” if they must. They do. [Dennis Perkins]

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21. Picket Fences, “Mr. Seed Goes To Town” (1995)

Although Lydia Brock was not a major character within the Picket Fences universe, the ex-wife of Sheriff Jimmy Brock—like the ex-wives of so many TV characters—usually caused a stir when she showed up. In this episode from the show’s third season, Lydia (Cristine Rose) informs Jimmy (Tom Skerritt) and his wife Jill (Kathy Baker) that she intends to get pregnant using an old sperm sample frozen when she and Jimmy were married. (She has a chromosome imbalance that makes it difficult to conceive, and considering she and Jerry had a daughter together, she knows it’ll work.) Jimmy and Jill immediately say no, which leads to a lawsuit and an unorthodox order from the judge: house arrest until they work it out themselves. [Will Harris]

22. American Pie (1999)

The Weitz brothers’ hit is a direct descendent of There’s Something About Mary’s gross-out humor, which it makes clear early in the film during a house-party scene. Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas) finishes himself off after a blowjob from girlfriend Vicky Lathum (Tara Reid), quickly ejaculating into a beer cup just before Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) barges into the room with a potential conquest. When the girl stalls the proceedings, a frustrated Stifler downs a deep swig of what Myers later calls “pale ale.” [Kyle Ryan]

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23. Bones, “The Dude In The Dam” (2013)

It isn’t an episode of Bones without a murder victim, and in this particular installment, a body discovered decomposing in a beaver dam belongs to a sometimes-model who made additional funds by donating sperm. The former manager of the local sperm bank ended up pregnant after getting the guy’s sperm the old-fashioned way, upsetting her so much that she beat the guy to death with a hoe. At least his bloodline will live on: The guy was so prolific that the women who used his sperm start a playgroup with the children he helped conceive. [Will Harris]

24. Seed (2013-14)

Donating sperm seems like a simple, pleasurable way to make a few bucks without strings attached, provided those strings stay detached. In the Canadian sitcom Seed, bartender Harry Dacosta (Adam Korson) unexpectedly meets the products of his donations, a 9-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl, whose families are equally shocked to learn that Dacosta is neither a doctor nor a Princeton graduate. Dacosta proved himself to be as immature as his biological children over two seasons on the City network, though it only ran for two episodes in the States, where it briefly showed on The CW. [Will Harris]

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25. The Kids Are All Right (2010)

When uptight Nic (Annette Bening) and her free-spirited wife Jules (Julianne Moore) hit a relationship rough patch, the couple’s clueless sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) only makes it worse. It takes all but one meet-up—at the request of Nic and Jules’ teenage offspring, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson)—to set into motion a complete family breakdown. With his disarming good looks and love of Joni Mitchell, it isn’t long before the results of his charm causes an interest in eating local, riding motorcycles, and fucking outside of your marriage. Eventually, any pleasant feelings for the guy who was once 18 and just looking for easy cash morph into hatred, coming to a head when Nic deems him an “interloper” and tells him he should go make a family of his own if that’s what he wants. Man, sperm donors just don’t get no respect. [Becca James]

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