Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What would George Carlin Have Said? ...by Sybil Adelman Sage

"Why do they lock gas station bathroom doors?" George Carlin asked. "Are they afraid someone will go in and clean?"

Though we never met, in the early 70's our interests converged. A year after he was arrested for his piece, "The 7 Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television," I wrote my first TV script, which the network refused to shoot. It was for "The New Dick Van Dyke Show," the series with Hope Lange playing Dick's wife, and a memo arrived from Program Practices (aka the censor) reading, "This script is entirely unacceptable." The reason? Their daughter walks into her parents' bedroom while they're "making love," (fill in your own aka), which we'd handled sensitively, using none of the 7 dirty words.

The producer, Carl Reiner, notified CBS that he'd walk away from the show if they stuck to this position, which is what happened, but not before he shot the episode at his own expense. It aired - though only in Canada - and there was not one letter from a viewer complaining that it was offensive.

A subsequent script I co-wrote with Pat Nardo resulted in a censor's note demanding, "Change the character's name from 'Dick' to something else," which we addressed, calling him 'Peter.' We suspected the censors were grade school kids whose tittering would determine what was dirty. I wonder what George Carlin would have said about all this.

Obscenity isn't always easy to define, but someone spending over $80 million to buy a piece of art (aka, what a Monet went for this week at a Christie's auction), I find obscene. That amount of money would be better spent feeding starving people or being put towards medical research while the painting could be enjoyed by all in a museum. We don't expect to own famous composers, so why do we (aka, they) spend an obscene amount on art? I wonder what George Carlin would have said about that.

An important voice has been silenced. It's a monumental loss.

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