Saturday, January 03, 2009

"Right this way, your VIPness."

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.


Near by said...


Tallulah Morehead said...

"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."

SLOWER! I'm taking notes!

Is that "Lyndon Johnson," or just any Presidential prick?


(UNBELIEVABLE Word verification conicidence. Mine is dougge !!!

Cap'n Bob said...

You mean letting Radar say it. In any case, it makes you wonder what her hands were doing under the desk as she read that list.

blogward said...

Of course, now all the verification words are double entendres.


Arun Kumar said...

Did they have a list of things you couldn't show on air either? Like a suggestively shaped Banana? Or Gatorade?

Unknown said...

You know often enough people say "You made me laugh so hard" and I don't get why.

I guess I'm in the "laughs at penis jokes" column. I really laughed out loud at the speakerphone part *snicker*

Great story. These and your travelogues as well as the stories about your kids are why I read this blog daily :-)

rob! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rob! said...

I seem to remember that joke on MASH, so did you guys get it (*ahem*) in eventually?

Anonymous said...

When will you, a person who made their living off of allegedly "creative" works, start giving credit to the quotes you use, the jokes you ripoff, and the countless pictures you use without attribution and clearly out of the realm of fair use?

Anonymous said...

For some reason, I think the Church Lady was really Orrin Hatch at Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings. If you remember Hatch reading from "The Exorcist," it was quite a show.

I remember a "MASH" episode where Hawkeye is doing a rant in the OR and says to the nurse, "What would Hippocrates say? What would Socrates say? And what would you say to going to the supply room for 10 minutes of heavy breathing?" Hot Lips yells, "Would you knock it off?" Hawkeye replies, "That's what I'm trying to find out." I was AMAZED that got through.

The other classic was on the original Mary Tyler Moore show. Ted Bessell, playing her boyfriend, had been drinking with the male regulars. He comes back in and Ted is conked out on Lou's lap. He says something like, "Is Ted drunk?" Ted says it's the first time. Lou says, "In drinker's terms, tonight Ted lost his olive." The Church Lady must have been napping.

Mary Stella said...

For a long time, romance authors couldn't use "penis" in their books. There are still some publishers who ban the word, depending on the historical era. In contemporary, most of us can get away with it.

Oh, those old days, with manhoods, manroots, throbbing phalluses, love muscles, mighty swords, bulging rods, masterful ridges of desire . . .

Anonymous said...

... not to mention one that a romance-writer friend of mine told me was often employed: His Hardness. She told me she couldn't take it seriously when she read it because it sounded like a royal honorific.

There's a MASH quote I can't pin down, which friends insist I misheard or made up (from an early season). Frank is insisting he can't help in the OR because he has to prep his own patient, and Hawkeye wisecracks "That's right, it takes a long time to fellate a patient properly." Is there a chance that I'm right about that?

(Aaand... my word verification is ansuccet!)

Anonymous said...

but you could probably write in a character named Richard Johnson


Anonymous said...

Pity these were pre-fax days. You could have received the list and then proceeded to invent your own euphemisms.

Such as my WVW: zootamic, which is one that is so long it can be twirled like a watch chain on a zoot suit.

Kirk said...

OK, so the censors wouldn't let certain words on MASH, but what about all the adultery in the early years? Frank and Hot Lips, obviously, but Trapper John and Henry Blake also cheated. Then, four seasons into the series, it suddenly ends. Hot Lips, now Margeret, breaks up with Frank, Hawkeye, who's not even married, backs out of a relationship with Gwynith Paltrow's mother, and BJ, when he finally stumbles, is traumatized by the whole thing.

Did the censors decide to clamp down on cheating, and if so, why?

lactan: milk as a sun shield

Anonymous said...

Lordy, it took me forEVER. Because I kept pronouncing it vip, as a single whole word - vipness.

When Radar used the phrase, was he supposed to realize what he was saying, because Radar was very naive and usually blushed any time sex came up (oh, sorry, no double entendre intended).

Cap'n Bob said...

Anonymous is right about that copyright thing. That yin-yang symbol is copyright 2009 by the Korean flag. All rights reserved. Whew! We forestalled an international incident.

rob! said...

"That's right, it takes a long time to fellate a patient properly." Is there a chance that I'm right about that?

Sorry, no (if only!) Hawkeye says to Frank "It takes a long time to filet a patient", underscoring Frank's rather weak surgical skills.

Anonymous said...

My best friend Joe married a girl from Manila and has been referring to her as his Philippiness for more than 30 years. Which is quite a record, considering how she must have tired of it by week two. (And why the hell can’t they spell Phillipines and Manilla the way I do?)

Ken I’d be interested in your take on this, but it’s been my contention that the go-ahead to employ the word “penis” in narrative television may have been first established by the news divisions. Specifically, dating back 15 years ago to the infamous John and Lorena Bobbit in Manassas, VA. At least I can’t remember hearing it over the air before that.

I mean it wouldn’t do for the news anchor to report: “She told police she grabbed a carving knife from the kitchen, went back and cut off more than half his ‘thang?’ After driving a short while, she rolled down the window and tossed the half of the thang she still had in her possession it into a field. Realizing the severity of the severance, Ms. Bobbit then called 911, whereupon police were dispatched. They located the ‘thang’ and packed it in ice; after which it was reattached to the victim in an operation lasting more than eight hours.”

Through the long, heavily reported, trial and then some, there was little in the news but penis, penis, penis, the whole (half?) penis and nothing but the penis -- so help me John Holmes! With regard to the initial news reportage, I’m guessing the network censors soon realized that the substitution of any word other than the biologically established one for penis sounds worst than the implementation of the Real McCoy [at least that’s what I call mine].

After that, every other show must have been able to say, “Look, you use it on the news, and you’ve got to be more sensitive about THAT than you are about our little program. Of course not the kids shows, like Pee-wee’s Playhouse, where they apparently believed the use of a penis is only acceptable in theaters.

And in conclusion ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I believe the term “to bobbitize” seemed have had a short but illustrious run in the vernacular in most subsequently reported incidences of spontaneous penis removal. However, I am surprised that another form of the verb never seemed to have gained traction. Specifically when used in conjunction with (and possibly only with) one particular pronoun: “The 45 year-old Spokane woman told authorities that she had also had enough of her husband’s penis, and if he didn’t watch out she was going to bobbit.” Can you think of anything more onomotopoetic?

So Ken, does this have any basis in fact? Were you liberated-by-Lorena?

Incidentally, Mary, I miss alabaster breasts and heaving bosoms -- in no particular order. And so concludes today’s Discovery Channel episode of“Penile Philology: Threat or Menace.”

Anonymous said...

Here is one of my favorite movie lines of all time, and I'm afraid I don't recall where I heard it.

A child was sitting at his bowl of pea soup refusing to eat it. His mother said to eat it because it was good for him. He asked what was so good about it. The answer:

"It's full of wholesome green peaness."


leor said...

this discussion reminds me of the great episode of Newsradio when Bill went off on the air about hearing the word "Penis" on the radio, ignoring the fact that it was used in a medical context.

RIP Phil Hartman, still missed...

Anonymous said...

Didn't this finally come out in another episode because I really remember Radar saying VIPness.

David Letterman once spent 5 minutes with Shaffer talking about how he had received a memo that he couldn't say Johnson on the air anymore. And then Paul said something 20 times worse.


Rob said...

Is it just me, or did the barriers seemingly brought down by NYPD Blue get erected (ha!) again by Janet Jackson?

The CBS Monday lineup gets away with a lot of 'em these days.

And how Lorne Michaels got "Jizz in my Pants" past NBC without a bleep (when "Dick in a Box" got bleeped) is beyond me.

My word, sadly is "Metromen!"

Cap'n Bob said...

Did you know, A. Buck, that the Phillipinos don't have the "f" sound in their language? So it's puck you, motherpucker when they say it. Don't ask one of their lawyers for a fee schedule, by the way.

Anonymous said...


The closest I know to that quote is from the Food Network's Iron Chef show, where one of the judges says something like "There's much pea-ness going on here, which is nice" with a majestic obliviousness that leaves you awestruck.

Anonymous said...

Alan said:

> David Letterman once spent 5
> minutes with Shaffer talking
> about how he had received a memo
> that he couldn't say Johnson on
> the air anymore. And then Paul
> said something 20 times worse.

Not the same incident, but one night Dave went on at length about Richard Nixon's birthplace, Yorba Linda, a name of which, like W. C. Fields and "Homosassa, Florida", Dave just liked the sound. Again and again: "Yorba Linda. Yorbalinda. Your Belinda."

At least that's how Paul must've heard it, because when Dave stopped for a breath the camera went to Paul, who said "My Sharona."

It may have been one of those "you had to be there to appreciate it" moments, but it brought the house down.



1. where cowboys compete in riding small watercraft

2. a cereal shaped like ships

Kirk said...

All this stuff about David Letterman reminds me of something I saw on his NBC show about 20 years ago. Fran Dresher was his guest (this was before THE NANNY so I guess it was her bit part in THIS IS SPINAL TAP that got her on) and she had some chocolate candy or something she made herself. Dave took a bite and wisecracked, "I think I got some hair in my teeth"

Fran had a pretty good comeback:
"What have you been doing in the dressing room?"

Anonymous said...

I've had a small crush on Fran Drescher since Hollywood Knights. You may now all exhale.

PS My WVW is "yanidler" which is the guy you call when your ya needs nidling.

Anonymous said...

And now the WVW is "binepan" which is what a dyslexic writes when he is trying to eliminate all evergreen trees.

Anonymous said...

lol You rascal, getting that poor Church lady to recite the list. lol


(Word verification: "ginwing" which is no doubt a euphemism for something on somebody's list somewhere.)