James Ponsoldt is amused by the thought of former President George Bush and actor Robert DeNiro uttering the words "Porn 'n' Chicken" in disgust.
At Yale, Ponsoldt headed the infamous society of the same name. He would gather with his friends and eat fried chicken because it was delicious, while watching videos of people having sex.
"(The attitude) was "let's do something that's completely anti-intellectual and nonprofessional; It's our senior year and let's blow off steam, we deserve it," the 2001 graduate said.
"The point wasn't to watch porn and it wasn't like 'hey, we're going to meet some girls and get laid.' We could just as easily have been watching the Home Shopping Network and eating fried chicken or pork chops. But porn just seemed like the lowest common denominator."
Comedy Central fictionalized Ponsoldt's tale in its first original movie "Porn 'N Chicken," which premiered Sunday night. Loosely based on the Yale society, (the story actually takes place at a nameless liberal arts college, and was filmed at Columbia University, the movie focuses on Josh "Hutch" Hutchison, a burnt-out overachiever who is himself slightly based on Ponsoldt and played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach. He finds that watching porn movies with friends is a good stress-reliever and soon students are packing his dorm room to partake in the carnal cinema.
But, the real Porn 'n' Chicken's origins are shrouded in mystery.
"Ever since the story got big I've had Yale graduates as old as 35 approach me and say 'yeah, me and my buddies used to do that, we started it,'" said Ponsoldt who joined the organization after being contacted as an underclassman. "And then other people say 'of course guys and girls have always sat around, drunk beer, eaten fried chicken and watched porn.' There's nothing new to that."
The most popular theory centers on a 1996 strike, staged by Yale's Graduate Employees and Student Organization. As a sort of symbolic protest against the establishment, some of them began eating chicken at a local Popeye's and basically saying screw the man. Soon they started watching porn and quickly forgot about the issues.
In the movie, an evil dean, Dick Widehead, tries to put a damper on the society's exploits.
In reality the organization had little trouble with the administration, even as they tried filming a porn movie of their own (a send-up of Yale's secret societies featuring students in action) in the school library.
"Yale is actually a pretty liberal school," Ponsoldt said. "There was a small, but very vocal conservative faction at the school who I think really loved to hate us. They thought we were the anti-Christ. As far as other organizations though, especially the feminist organizations, like the Yale Women's Center, they loved it. They thought it was very liberating."
As in the movie, women were a significant presence in the society. Ponsoldt estimated they made up half the audience at weekly meetings, in spite of the misogynistic nature of the adult cinema.
"I can understand any criticism (of alleged sexism), but anyone who was there knew that it absolutely wasn't," he said. "We went out of our way to let the people in the club select the movies. We would do feminist porn, we would do gay porn, we would do blaxploitation porn, we would do postmodern porn. We wanted to be equal opportunity, or at least as equal opportunity as porn can be."
The only incident the society ever ran into was when Bush, a 1948 Yale graduate, spoke at the school during its tercentennial festivities last year.
"We devised a fairly elaborate poster scheme to advertise the preview of our movie," Ponsoldt said. "He was aware and a little upset about it."
During his senior year, Ponsoldt wrote a film treatment, and with the help of the high powered Creative Artists Agency, shopped it around Hollywood. Tribeca Productions which is owned by DeNiro, showed interest and Comedy Central picked it up.
"I don't think anyone would accuse Comedy Central of being conservative," Ponsoldt said. "But I think for awhile it looked like the film wasn't going to be called 'Porn 'N Chicken.' For a long time the working title was "The Chicken Club." But they came through and went the full Monty with it."
The status of the organization's own porn movie, purportedly titled "The Staxxx" is dubious. Some claim the movie was never made. Only a trailer was ever shown, and according to some accounts the movie was destroyed after one of the actresses, a fellow Yale students, became uncomfortable with the footage. Ponsoldt has always remained coy about the subject.
Porn 'N Chicken remains active at Yale, but with the recent publicity has tried to maintain a low profile.
"I don't if it's as out in the open, because the media got a little too interested," Ponsoldt said. "But there have been a number of groups at other colleges that have contacted us and told us that they want to start their own branch of Porn 'N Chicken. I remember a group at the University of Pennsylvania saying they wanted to start a porn and cheese steak club. Another group said they wanted a porn and kosher chicken club."