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The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media spacer The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media
Talking Bollocks: Nuts and Zoo
by Leontia Flynn
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The 16-22 April Issue of Nuts has Carmen Electra on the cover, in competition with Zoo's slightly more naked Jodie Marsh. This distinguishes both from magazines like Esquire and GQ which currently feature Kate Winslett and Uma Thurman, signalling their status as classier publications in the choice of serious actresses rather than glamour models. The simple absence of foil-wrapping also sets the weeklies apart from big-budget publications, like Loaded's 'Playtime Special', or the current edition of Maxim which bravely seeks to reopen the intellectual debate: 'Art or Porn: You decide?'. Nuts' cover reads: 'Fast Show: The Movie!; Hot new Lexus; Why Chelsea will win!'; Zoo offers 'Becks Text Sex: We fill in the bl**ks' and a Kill Bill exclusive. Looking inside, the Jodie Marsh photos are slightly sluttier, but Carmen Electra is better looking (I have established, by this stage, that she is not Carmen Miranda), and there's more of her though you don't get a free poster. Much of the content intially confirms my thesis that a certain exaggerated quality might be required to counter-balance the phenomenal girliness of buying, not merely a magazine, but a weekly magazine. Quaintly, Nuts actually contains features on stunts (man drives car through the burning carriages of a moving train; man holds up breezeblocks to stop 620 mph bullet). Zoo comes over more Boys Own Adventure than Action Man, with articles on cricket, of all things, Trident submarines and, naturally, the sinking of a frigate this last article occasioning a hilarious pun.
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Actually, the format for both magazines proves to be more or less identical. The regular 'Nuts but True' section is rivalled by Zoo's 'Weird Week: 7 days of strangeness and stupidity'. For the 'serious feature' Nuts narrates the tale of a gangster who fought his way out of the underworld, Zoo how ice hockey player Eric LeMarque lost his legs to frostbite after snowboarding in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Both are heavy on lists and trivia, have regular slots for readers' jokes and jpegs, and a 'bloke's' TV guide. Perhaps less predictably, broken limbs are popular across the board Nuts contains a photo of an Australian Rugby Star with hisfinger dislocated at an eccentric angle, while the 9-15 April Issue of Zoo summarises its top contents, simply, as 'Arsenal V Chelsea Golf Broken Legs Gags'. Yet in all this it has to be said that Nuts has the edge; indeed, it claims on the cover to be 'The Best Selling Men's Weekly'. Where Nuts's photo captions and commentary have a sub-Heat non-taxing wit, Zoo's are merely shite. Where Nuts' readers' letters are just unfunny, Zoo's are, more or less, inducements to lesbian separatism.
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Take the 'Becks Text Sex' feature in Zoo, for instance; the capitalised words are filled in by the magazines' writers: 'Love the sound of the cotton just RUSTLING AS YOU RIDE MY TACKLE and your BOTTOM CORNER COVERED BY SEAMAN.' Combined, a lack of familiarity with real football jargon and a basic understanding of anatomy make it impossible to determine really how unfunny this is. Take too the trivia contained in each mag. Where Zoo's 'Weird Week' is weird without being particularly amusing (though there's a pretty good photo of a 'twin nailed thumb'), 'Nuts but True' is quite good fun 'Eunuchs form political party in India'; 'German authorities block plans for a dog brothel in Berlin' and, happily, almost certainly not at all true. So too, where Zoo and Nuts both have a 'Top Ten' feature, Zoo chooses to list English bowlers and 'Women who are Still Sexy at 30', while Nuts imparts genuinely useful information. See here the 'Top Ten Conspiracy Theories for Bruce Lee's Death'; at Number 3 'A Curse on the Whole Lee Clan' (as a baby Bruce was dressed as a girl so that 'the demons' wouldn't know the family had a son). On the smut front too, Nuts proves superior; or, at the very least, its feature on 'Sexy Rock Wives' is unlikely to make you burst into tears. By contrast, Zoo's 'What a Lovely Pair: the First Ever Page 3 Twins' sees '19 year old beauties Kirby and Fallon' pose topless and in bikinis. They are almost poignantly unattractive, their hands placed sadly on each others' breasts.
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Perhaps the real clincher, however, is the Reader's Jokes page. Nuts' jokes are too long-winded to quote, and only the odd one raises a smile, but some of Zoo's I genuinely remember from primary school; the best of these is probably: 'What did the left testicle say to the right testicle? Dunno but they were talking bollocks'. Curiously, in the very same week both magazines have printed variations on the joke: 'Why do women like circumcised penises?'. It's probably significant, from a sociological point of view, that Nuts gives the punchline as 'Because they can't resist something with 20% off', while in Zoo the answer is that 'they can't resist something with 10% off'. After spending too long thinking about it, I take this to mean that Zoo's readers either believe their penises to be longer, or consider their foreskins to occupy less space which doesn't really matter, as one way or another they're probably talking bollocks.
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