I catch shows like TWO AND A HALF MEN and there are at least fifty penis jokes, usually before the act break. I have to shake my head when I think about my battles with CBS Standards & Practices. Times have certainly changed.
On MASH it was routine that we’d get a memo from S&P saying “cut the casual profanity in half”. Whether we had four “hells” or “damns” or eight, we’d get the same directive. So of course we’d start padding our scripts with double the casual profanity in order to keep the ones we needed.
One time we had Radar showing a visiting General to the VIP tent. Radar’s line in the script was: “Right this way, your VIPness.” They caught it.
Damn damn them to hell hell!!
When we did that ill-fated train wreck show for Mary Tyler Moore we wanted her say “ying yang” in a speech. S&P flagged it. We couldn’t say “ying yang”. “Why not?” I asked, “It’s the Asian symbol for opposites.” According to our assigned 65 year old S&P spinster, “ying yang” was a slang expression for penis. I told her I was unaware of that and we weren’t using it in that context. Plus, Mary Tyler Moore was saying it. She didn’t know what a penis was.
Ms. S&P insisted it was on the list. “What list?” I asked. Well, it seemed that CBS had a whole list of unacceptable words for penis. And since I didn’t know that, I asked her to read me the list.
So picture the Church Lady having to recite “dick, cock, pud, schmuck, petzel, pecker, schlong, sword, Johnson, wang, German helmet, wanker, hose, Mr. Happy, dork,” and about fifty others. When she finished it occurred to me that there must be a list for vagina as well. And breasts. And intercourse. And oral sex. For the next half hour over the speaker phone she regaled me and my hysterical writing staff with every sexual euphemism there was.
It was only after I had gotten home that night that I realized that “VIPness” wasn’t on her list.
But getting Mary to say it proved to be an even bigger problem.