Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The whole Ross / Brand thing has raised quite a debate about bad language on TV, and more generally in society. I've recently corresponded with a friend who was somewhat surprised at the amount of swearing he heard in a church context. It was timely, then, that Clive James decided to address the issue on Radio 4 on Sunday in his contribution to Points of View. In it he also refers to Frank Skinner's experiment in eliminating swear words from his routine, which had little effect on the number of laughs he got.

Skinner's observation in an interview I heard was that he was surprised how well it went. He will continue to use swear words, as they are more dramatically and comically effective when rationed, but add punctuation. As he puts it "clever swearing, the beautiful, eloquent swearing", referring to Chaucer as a literary precedent!

James is in sympathy with this view and suggests that laughs from audiences that are shocked / embarrassed by over-use are very different from proper laughs from an audience that has been amused by clever wit and humour.

Best to read the article - he puts the case much better.

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