There is a radio station in the Denver area that exclusively plays pieces of standup comedians routines. It has quickly become a favorite of many of the supervisors and I’ll listen to it myself when I’m driving to Boulder and I lose all of my Northern Colorado stations. Recently, a bit was aired from Eddie Murphy’s comedy, where he relayed a phone conversation he had with Bill Cosby where Cosby complained about Murphy’s language in his routine. Basically, Murphy was making fun of Cosby’s reluctance to swear. But it got me thinking about a different issue. It seems like the biggest, crudest names in comedy eventually become stars of children’s programming. Here are some examples.
Like many modern comedians, Eddie Murphy’s standup is fairly crude. I’m not terribly familiar with his routines, but the fact that Bill Cosby called him to complain about the language his son was exposed to at a Murphy performance, and the fact that Murphy then lampooned Cosby for not being able to repeat the language says enough. *side note: if you object to crude language, why would you let your child see a performance that is going to have it?*
But that didn’t stop the star of Beverly Hills Cop, I Spy, and The Nutty Professor from being cast as the lovable if annoying Donkey in the hit movie series, Shrek. While it can be argued that much of the comedy in the animated series is aimed at adults, the movies are definitely classified as children’s films.
Aside from the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth, no other show stands out in my memory from my formative years as Full House. The show that launched the careers of the Olson twins is about as family oriented as television gets. The only thing I can think of that was more wholesome to watch is Leave It to Beaver. Bob Sagat played the widowed father of three girls who was aided in raising them by his brother-in-law and best friend.
Have you ever seen Bob Sagat’s standup? I haven’t. The language is so bad, editing it for television would render it incomprehensible. He is so vulgar that it is pretty much the only thing reviews of his routine talk about.
My first exposure to Chris Rock was his breakout hit No Sex (In the Champagne Room). The part I always loved was his horoscopes, where he outlined that everyone was going to die eventually. But that track and others have a fair amount of foul language. While some of it, I find over the line, for the most part, Rock is one of the few vulgar comedians whom I actually enjoy because of the larger issues he raises.
So what does a comedian best known for his usage of the “n” word do? He becomes Marty the zebra in the Madagascar movies.
George Carlin, however, wins the prize. George Carlin, was famous for his vulgar language. He even had a standup piece about it, The Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television. George Carlin was actually one of the pioneers of vulgar comedy. Up until his death, he was still touring, making commentary on absurdities in society and using a good measure of crude language.
What other way was Carlin a pioneer? He was the first vulgar comedian to become a children’s programming star. In 1991, he replaced Ringo Starr as “Mr. Conductor” on the show Shining Time Station. Mr. Conductor was a tiny mentor to the children who spent their time at a rail station and he would tell them stories of Thomas the Tank Engine with educational lessons.
The first time my mother say George Carlin on the show, she burst out laughing. She couldn’t believe the comedian who did “Seven Dirty Words” would even be considered on a children’s show.
Can you think of other crude or vulgar comedians who also do children’s programming? Do you think that the phenomena is a good or bad thing?