Is it a lack of confidence in their own ability?
Do they think it makes them seem more in tune with the younger generation?
Do they think it makes them more witty?
No Fs please – we’re British! Why do comedians swear so much?
This little rant is about the almost obsessive need for comedians to include F*** or C*** in their humour. Good material doesn't need swear words to make it funny, topical, or relevant. Just listen to these lyrics from the American satirist Tom Lehrer.
The underlying message is very topical despite being written in the 1960s.
Who is Tom Lehrer?
Tom Lehrer is a Harvard mathematics graduate who, for a few years left teaching and wrote and performed satirical songs. His songs are very witty, with accurate comments on politics, society, values and attitudes.
But the great thing for me is ... no swearing! So why do comedians swear? We go to the Edinburgh Festival every year and are so disappointed when comics sprinkle swear words throughout their act. And the sad thing is the good ones don’t need to. Their material is funny enough without the F and C words ... so why do they do it?
My introduction to Tom Lehrer, by my school friend James, has proved to be a life long source of enjoyment and friendship.
We were hosting some friends in Edinburgh and, during one conversation, I started reciting a line from another Tom Lehrer song:'Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down' To my amazement my friend Hugh continued: 'That's not my department, says Wernher von Braun. This moment revealed that we were both ardent Tom Lehrer fans. And this has happened so many times that there must be battalions of Tom Lehrer fans out there. a Christmas Ballad is a classic example.
A Christmas Ballad.
On Christmas day you can't get sore, your fellow man you must adore,
There's time to rob him all the more the other three hundred and sixty-four.
sparing no expense'll send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil. "just the thing I need! how nice!"
It doesn't matter how sincere it is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it, what's important is the price!”
So I must ask why do comedians swear when they can capture a much bigger audience by desisting.
Flanders and Swann.
Another shining example of humour without swearing is the songs by the duo Flanders and Swann. Actor and singer Michael Flanders and composer, pianist and linguist Donald Swann wrote and performed more than 100 wonderfully funny songs about a wide range of topics. Anyone who has moved house, and had constant stream of tradesmen coming and going will appreciate the lyrics of this song.
The Gas man cometh.
Twas on a Monday morning the gas man come to call,
The gas tap wouldn't turn. I wasn't getting gas at all.
He tore out all the skirting boards to try to find the main,
So I had to call the carpenter top ut them back again.
Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
The song recounts how the carpenter is followed by the electrician on Wednesday, by the glazier on Thursday, then the painter on Friday, who accidentally paints over the gas tap.On Saturday and Sunday they do no work at all...so t'was on the Monday morning that the gas man came to call.
We have been privileged to see tribute acts in the Edinburgh festival celebrating the music of both Tom Lehrer and Flanders and Swann and they were excellent. If you’re a fan of either Tom Lehrer or Flanders & Swann which are your favourite songs, and do any hold a special memory for you?