Los Angeles TImes Festival of Books 2013

"And honesty is a must in comedy," says Heather McDonald, who appeared on the "Vastly Inappropriate" panel at the Festival of Books on Saturday. (Arksaha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times / April 20, 2013)

As one might expect -- nay, hope -- the expletive deleteds were flying fast and furious at the Los Angeles Festival of Books' Saturday afternoon  panel discussion "Humor: Vastly Inappropriate," which consisted of authors Heather McDonald, Ophira Eisenberg, Lizz Winstead and Kelly Oxford, who were  questioned and cajoled by moderator Adrian Todd Zuniga.

There were also the requisite graphic and very funny descriptions of the panelists' various sexcapades,  such as Oxford’s first date with the man who would become her husband. "We had sex and we were gay-bashed because I had a short haircut -- and we were having sex in a park. People threw rocks at us."

Eisenberg recounted the time she had sex with a guy "who had like 300 stuffed Garfields -- I know, red flag, right? I wrote about how bad the sex was and how I felt so empty inside." Eisenberg said that after her book was published, she received an email from the guy, whose only comment was to thank her for being generous in her description of his anatomy.

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To be fair, the above sex talk -- and more that can’t be repeated here -- was in response to Zuniga’s question to the panel about why they chose to share such intimate details of their lives in published books.

"Because we’re being honest," was McDonald’s answer. "And honesty is a must in comedy." This coming from a woman whose first book was titled "You’ll Never Blue Ball in This Town Again," was followed up with a book called “My Inappropriate Life." "I think my stories about non-penetration are as funny as other people’s story of penetration," she said later. "And I figured that if someone can write a book about having sex, I could write a book about not having sex."

"If you do talk honestly about sex, it’s very freeing," added Eisenberg, whose recently published memoir is titled "Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy."

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Winstead, (“Lizz Free or Die”), whose comedic bent is of a more political nature, quipped that she mostly writes about “getting [expletive] by the government. Though I do write about getting pregnant and getting an abortion."

After half a beat, she added: "If we don’t write about ourselves and define ourselves as sexual beings, then other people will define us,  and I’m not having any of that."

But there were also some moments of genuine insight mixed with the ribaldry, such as the all-female panel’s general agreement that the current state of comedy is more favorable to women than it has been for the last decade or two.

"Comedy for women has changed," Oxford said. "No one likes to say why but it’s because thanks to ‘Bridesmaids’ we got to see women having diarrhea."

Only once did the standing-room-only crowd seem to find something the “Vastly Inappropriate” panel touched on to be slightly inappropriate.

When Oxford described how a Twitter follower took objection – on Friday – after she tweeted about her upcoming appearance at the Festival of Books while the Boston Marathon bombing suspect drama was still unfolding across the country, Winstead jumped right in.

"Well, we were on that boat," Winstead said, referring to the place the bombing suspect was eventually captured. A few audible mutters could be heard in the crowd.

"Whatever," Winstead shot back, prompting a laugh from the crowd and living up to the comedic writing advice she’d offered a few minutes earlier. "Go for it, push it, say what you mean and be ready to defend it and take it on."

Adam.tschorn@latimes.com