I like watching stand-up comedy. A lot. What can I say? I enjoy a good laugh – the more the better. And not only can I appreciate a joke that contains numerous cuss words, I often find jokes funnier due solely to the masterful use of precisely chosen profanities. Swearing has its proper place in comedy. Just ask George Carlin.
One of my new favorite comedians is this grouchy dude named Lewis Black. Anyone who has seen Lewis Black anywhere besides The Daily Show knows he has absolutely no problem using the F-word in his bits and in fact uses expletives to immense comedic advantage…
…unless you happen to be watching him on Comedy Central in which case his jokes are completely destroyed by incessant bleeping.
Now, I understand that Comedy Central has no interest in posturing itself as a paladin for free speech. I realize the company’s mucky-mucks would rather censor the bleep out of a stand-up routine airing at 10pm on a school night than face six or seven letters of complaint from puckered church-group bitties. I also know that their reasons for censoring their programs really have nothing to do with morality, as evidenced by the fact that they regularly run marathon ads for Girls Gone Wild DVDs throughout the wee hours of the night.
What I don’t get is how they go about selecting what to censor.
With regard to last night’s Lewis Black performance, for example, words such as “fuck” and “shit” were, of course, right out (as were any phrases containing these words). But beyond that, the reasoning behind what was censored and what wasn’t became non-existent. Expletives such as “God-damned” and “Jesus Christ” – terms clearly forbidden by the Third Commandment* – were fully allowed by Comedy Central, but whenever Lewis displayed his middle finger – a gesture never spoken to in the Bible, as far as I know – his hand was blurred out so as to spare us from its gruesome obscenity. He blatantly defied Carlin’s well-known set of rules by saying “tits” and totally got away with it, but a different body part – “asshole” – got bleeped every time. The word “prick” was okay, though. He used that one a lot. Lewis Black is really good at calling someone a prick.
Anyway, I’d love it if someone could explain to me what yardstick Comedy Central uses to determine when to hit the bleep button, because censorship – especially that with no reason applied to it – sucks all the funny right out of a joke.
Might as well be watching Larry the bleeping Cable Guy, for bleeping bleep’s sake! You know?
*Second Commandment if you happen to be Catholic or Lutheran.