March 24, 2000
When criticized for the use of vulgar language in his standup act, the comedian Buddy Hackett explained that, if you drop an anvil on your foot, you’re not going to say, "Spring is here!" You’re probably going to say something that, on most television stations, would get bleeped. (At least in the United States. Other countries are more interested in editing out exploding heads than expletives, but everybody’s heard this. In fact, you can turn on MTV and hear rock stars saying, "Man, in [bleep]in’ other countries you can say [bleep] on TV and they don’t give a [bleep]. Now [bleep]in’ violence they won’t show." This sort of statement is usually part of the rock star’s explanation that his new video, featuring numerous exploding heads, is "not really about violence.")
Now, I’m not in favor of censorship, but there is a disturbing trend in television these days: the excessive use of the bleep. I hear people being bleeped in sitcoms, cartoons, and even commercials. (I won’t mention talk shows. If your friend, lover, sibling, cousin, or even a complete stranger wants to be on a talk show with you, you’re going to say, "Spring is here!" before the security guards haul you off.) And we all know what they’re saying. These are words I’ve been using since I was ten. Before that I didn’t use them because, having seen what happened to people on TV when they said [bleep], I was afraid a giant cartoon hand would slap a "Censored" sticker on my face. By the time I was sixteen I’d learned it was much funnier, after dropping an anvil on my foot, to say, "Aw, shhhaving cream." By the time I was eighteen, I already knew what Kurt Vonnegut would later put in one of his books: swearing doesn’t make you sound important. It doesn’t even offend people. It just gives them a reason not to listen to you.
Swearing effectively requires a special context. I once heard a comedian say, "If you get in the highway fast lane, you’d better move your ass." The audience found this funny. It wasn’t. When a friend of mine at the zoo saw a donkey and said, "Hey, nice ass!"–that was funny. The fact that a nun with a group of children overheard him made it even funnier.
Then there was my friend Mike, the cautious one, who, when he got angry would let loose with the following stream of invective: "GOSH! I SWEAR, THIS REALLY TICKS ME OFF, YOU BIG DUMMIES! SHOOT!" This was proof to me that you don’t need to be vulgar to be funny. (In fact my other friends and I would taunt Mike until his face would turn red, and we’d all back off and say, "Uh oh, I think he’s about to swear!" There was nothing funnier than ticking off Mike.)
To sum up, my mother used to tell me, "If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all." Let’s amend that slightly: if you can’t offend someone, don’t bother trying. Anybody who won’t automatically shut you out as soon as you say [bleep] isn’t going to be offended, and anybody who will isn’t worth talking to.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
MONDAY – My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the satisfaction from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.
TUESDAY – Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to throw up on their favorite chair…….must try this on their bed.
WEDNESDAY – Slept all day so that I could annoy my captors with sleep depriving, incessant pleas for food at ungodly hours of the night.
THURSDAY – Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body in an attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was. Hmmm….not working according to plan…..
FRIDAY – I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture. This time however, it included a burning foamy chemical called "shampoo". What sick minds could invent such a liquid?! My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.
SATURDAY – There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies". Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.
SUNDAY – I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The Bird on the other hand has got to be an informant. He has mastered their frightful tongue (something akin to molespeak) and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait, it is only a matter of time………