True or False: Swearing always makes comedy funnier. FALSE! Despite the way many people think nowadays, swearing is highly unnecessary and often has the opposite effect intended.
Remember back in the day when people would speak as respectable human beings who wanted to sound intelligent and demanded respect through being respectful? I DON’T because I was born in the 1980s. Swearing has always bothered me because it’s so negative. It makes me feel uncomfortable and gives off an air of hostility and ignorance that my inner old lady does not appreciate. The quality of stand up comedy is diminished by “bad words” because it takes the emphasis off the content itself and puts it on the crass delivery. Swear words have been around for a long, long time, but the fact that they are so tolerated in mainstream society is beyond disappointing.
It’s true that comedy is about pushing boundaries and provoking a response from the audience. As a result, over the last couple of decades especially, swearing has become a lot more prevalent. I don’t have a problem with swearing in comedy, I have a problem with excessive swearing in comedy. And there is a difference. Far too many comedians rely on combinations of horrible words to shock their audiences. But why, because shocking = funny? Sometimes, but only if that person is actually making a funny point. If they’re just swearing for the sake of being outrageous while making no point at all, who cares?! So many amateur comedians resort to excessive swearing when they are floundering on stage, berating the audience in an attempt to make themselves seem bigger. Jerry Seinfeld agrees that “most of the time…it’s someone who’s lost and scared and uses swearing to save their tail” and it’s generally unsuccessful.
BUT I do believe that swearing can also enhance comedic writing if used properly. British writer and comedian Arthur Smith says it perfectly that “a well-placed swear word is a marvellous bit of grammar.” Go ahead and punctuate with a little swear word if it will actually compliment the material. But if bad words are overused, they lose their effectiveness and just come across as trashy, ignorant, and offensive.
I recently got to visit my marvellous grandparents and my Nana can’t stand modern-day stand up comedy because of the extreme amount of swearing. Isn’t that sad?! Personally, I like to be able to share my passions and talents with all my favourite people, without fear that they may feel alienated and uncomfortable watching. Everyone likes to laugh which means that everyone should enjoy stand up comedy. And comedians constantly need audiences. So why would anyone completely chop off major demographics just because they feel that the only way to be funny is to curse like a sailor?
Comedy doesn’t constantly need to be cruel. With some intelligence and effort, we can all be PROUD of what we do and even invite our grannies to come watch.