Sunday, November 09, 2008

Swearing can Big and it can be Clever

I thought there was a good chance that the recent kerfuffle about comedy on the BBC would be used by some people as a weapon to push home a prissy conservative agenda.

I figured it would the Undead Concerned Christian Tory Viewers Society or similar; but now it seems that the push is coming from tabloid newspapers which have made good livings from sex scandals and pictures of bethonged celebrities' girlfriends.

I'm against gratuitous swearing - but no swearing at all ?

Scott Adams, the creator of the "Dilbert" cartoons once extracted the basic elements of comedy :-
  • Clever
  • Cute
  • Bizarre
  • Cruel
  • Naughty
  • Recognizable
His theory is that only by combining a number of elements can anything be truly funny. Taking the example of the phone-message from Brand and Ross, this only ticked the box marked "Cruel" and that's why it was it wasn't at all funny.

The usually excellent Emily Maitlis on the usually excellent "Newsnight" programme took one of my favourite jokes of the last year and used it to beat up on a BBC representative as an example of how offensive comedy on the BBC had become.

I would contend on the contrary that this particular joke should be handed down through generations of comedians to show them what a well-constructed joke looks like. It should be ruthlessly compared and contrasted with the inarticulate dung-chucking in which Brand and Ross indulged. I'm disappointed that Emily Maitlis would pretend not to understand the difference.

Frankie Boyle's joke was on "Mock the Week" and if you missed it, it is currently available on YouTube here.

Here are the points I would make about it (no, I'm not going to repeat it):-
  • He said "Pussy" and not one of the more usual stronger, meaner words for the same thing, and that made it all the funnier.
  • He said it was "haunted" which is a bizarre notion and infinitely preferable to any other descriptions involving death, decay and dessication.
  • It was a clever, bizarre, admittedly cruel, naughty joke delivered by a cheeky chappie at the height of his powers.
  • It absolutely slayed the audience and his fellow comedians and me at home. You can forgive a lot when a joke just "works".
What's the harm in an adult listening to a joke like that ? None. Things get more complex when you talk about kids. Sure, there's a watershed but there's also YouTube, BBC IPlayer and Digital Recorders. There's a debate to be had here, but let's admit that it's a complex one and don't let's kill what is good with simplistic calls to ban everything.

Vote Frankie Boyle.

1 comment:

ArcticFox said...

What I thing is that sometimes comedy ios spontaneous.... and I think it's fair that sometimes it could go wrong.... I don't think it warrants a witch hunt. Saying that, if there was to be a witch hunt, then maybe they ought to begin by looking at the "Satanic Slut" who was mortified at Russel Brand's comments making her grandparents consider her in a sexual context!! Pot and black spring to mind....

Controversial? Not really - comedy like drama like music like keeping fish.... can and occasionally does go all too wrong.... keep trying.