You Bet Your Ass

Cidu Bill on Jun 23rd 2010


A discussion about this strip got me thinking… How long until the first mainstream comic takes the plunge and actually uses the word “ass” (and gets away with it)? I’ll start the pool by predicting “Mother Goose, within three years.”

Filed in Beetle Bailey, Bill Bickel, comic strips, comics, humor | 37 responses so far

37 Responses to “You Bet Your Ass”

  1. Dan Jun 23rd 2010 at 12:38 pm 1

    “Root out his deadwood,” eh? Project much, Sarge?

    Maybe Beetle needs Enzyte.

  2. Danny Boy (London Derriere) Jun 23rd 2010 at 12:43 pm 2

    Pining for the old days?

  3. Elyrest Jun 23rd 2010 at 12:46 pm 3

    You might be right about Mother Goose Bill. Today Mike Peters did the “peanuts envy” joke today. You can just tell he is dying to try to stick something more subversive in the strip. Stephan Pastis, in his highly editorialized Pearls Before Swine treasuries, often writes about how he had to change jokes because his editors at the syndicate complained. I’ve often wondered if the comics would be better with the restraints lifted, but I’m not really sure. They would be different that’s for sure, but better……?

  4. CIDU Bill Jun 23rd 2010 at 12:56 pm 4

    Well, Danny, it beats pining for the fjords. But actually, humor is improved by restrictions: would Cole Porter lyrics have been anywhere near as clever if he didn’t have to sneak in the naughty stuff?

  5. Esteban Jun 23rd 2010 at 01:05 pm 5

    My money’s on Pearls Before Swine.

  6. Gilgamesh Jun 23rd 2010 at 01:21 pm 6

    Does the use of ‘arse’ (British slang) count?

    “Sneaking in the naughty stuff”, reminds me of a humorous anecdote by a famous Science Fiction author whose name I don’t recall. The writer said he was able to sneak a risqué line in one of his short stories past a hard nosed censor during the 1950s: ~”I used a ball bearing mouse trap - my tomcat.”

  7. David Jun 23rd 2010 at 01:24 pm 7

    Sherman’s Lagoon had a joke about the musical instrument “Shark flute”, or “flark” as it’s usually called. The setup eventually got around to where you go to college to major in flark performance - Flark U.

    Pearls probably pushes things the most, like Pig telling his date’s father that she was late getting home because she lost her souvenir golf “Virginia tee”. Pastis says he puts the worst stuff on Saturdays, since that’s when it’s more likely to slide past.

  8. Danny Boy (London Derriere) Jun 23rd 2010 at 02:28 pm 8

    (Actually I was just trying to start a series of tree-based puns, content not too important. But you never know what the unconscious will do with the supposedly irrelevant :) So, are we oakey on that?

  9. bookworm Jun 23rd 2010 at 03:29 pm 9

    Danny, wood you please knot do that?

  10. Soup Dragon Jun 23rd 2010 at 04:05 pm 10

    What about Doonesbury? Garry has used cuss-words like “hell” now and then, though I can’t remember “ass”.
    (Will wordpress censor me now?).

    But what’s all the fuss about tiny and cute equines?

  11. paperboy Jun 23rd 2010 at 04:11 pm 11

    Using “flick” was a way to slip one in.

  12. Daniel J. Drazen Jun 23rd 2010 at 04:23 pm 12

    In the Doonesbury of March 28, 2004, there’s the following exchange between BD and Ray as they ride in a Hummer in Iraq (a couple months before BD loses his leg):

    Ray: “In the service, man, it’s all about structure. Give me an order, lieutenant — any order!”
    BD: “OK, stop yapping until we get to the checkpoint.”
    Ray: “Perfect! See, I don’t question that … I don’t have to think! There’s no ambiguity, no choice! There’s clarity to a military order!”
    BD: “Then how come you haven’t obeyed it?”
    Ray: “Because it was a dumb-ass order. Give me another.”

  13. Mark in Boston Jun 23rd 2010 at 05:10 pm 13

    The dirtiest line I ever heard on network TV was delivered by Mandy Patinkin during a Boston Pops broadcast.

    He sang the old song “Singing In The Bathtub.” Toward the end he imitated his mother knocking on the door and shouting “Mandy! What are you doing in there?” He answered with the line that follows “Henry! Henry Aldrich!” on the old radio show. That’s all I’ll say about it.

  14. paperboy Jun 23rd 2010 at 05:13 pm 14

    Daniel J. Drazen#12- I think the “ass” in “dumb-ass” refers to a donkey (Equus asinus), rather than the human posterior (Gluteus maximus), and therefore is acceptable for main-stream use. (reminds me of the long, involved joke that ends with “Hey, Lady; can you grab my cock and pullet while I kick my ass down the street?”)

  15. Igelino Jun 23rd 2010 at 06:49 pm 15

    Danny #8, I agree with bookworm. Better leaf it alone.

  16. Chakolate Jun 23rd 2010 at 08:10 pm 16

    Holy crow! I had no idea Beetle Bailey was still around. Did it ever get funny?

  17. paperboy Jun 23rd 2010 at 08:32 pm 17

    Chakolate#16- DROP AND GIVE ME TWENTY punch lines.

  18. Robert Warden Jun 23rd 2010 at 09:31 pm 18

    People were getting away with it on talk shows and such back when President Carter made that statement about what he would do if Kennedy ran against him for the nomination. The first time I heard it on a sitcom or drama was on “Moonlighting” in 1987. I’m pretty sure I heard drummer Buddy Rich say something on Dick Cavett’s show about Cavett’s “dumbass jokes” way back in the 70s. I’m not sure how that got through.

  19. Cidu Bill Jun 23rd 2010 at 09:55 pm 19

    “Ass” is old news on television and radio, of course — but I remember listening to a talk radio station in 1980 or 1981, and one of the hosts impulsively used the expression “kick his ass” and you could hear the sudden silence as he and everybody else in the studio wondered whether he was going to be fired by the end of the show (he wasn’t).

  20. Czhorat Jun 23rd 2010 at 10:31 pm 20

    Just a note to Gilgamesh - I believe the “Ball bearing mousetrap” line was Heinlein.

  21. furrykef Jun 23rd 2010 at 11:23 pm 21

    This actually made me LOL, if only because I wouldn’t expect that sort of language in Beetle Bailey.

    While we’re at it, have you guys seen this? Varning för snusk. (You’ll know what “varning för snusk” means when you get there…)

  22. chuckers Jun 24th 2010 at 05:34 am 22

    Let’s face it, NOT saying the words makes it funnier than actually saying them.

  23. Heather D Jun 24th 2010 at 10:27 am 23

    Speaking of risque language on tv and radio, I just heard the “motherf**er” bomb dropped on live radio… on the CBC. On the show “Q”, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, a guest used it during an interview just about an hour ago. There was no reaction right away, but a few moments later he apologized, they both kind of giggled… and Jian made a pointed (but humourous) jab about it a few minutes later.

    For those who don’t know, the CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it’s public radio, and while there are some shows that have mild cursing, they’re generally in the late hours… this is a daytime, current events/pop culture interview and analysis show which is usually very “family friendly”. My son loves it! I did a real double take when I heard it.

  24. Keera Jun 24th 2010 at 12:30 pm 24

    Furrykef @21, that’s what’s fun about living in Scandinavia: We get to see Mort Walker’s dirty mind at work. In print.

    Mark @13, could you point me to an explanation, please? I’m not familiar with “Henry Aldrich”.

  25. Elyrest Jun 24th 2010 at 12:45 pm 25

    Keera (24) In case Mark doesn’t answer this I’ll fill you in. Henry Aldrich is an adolescent boy and in the radio show his mother is always calling him. “Henry! Henry Aldrich!” is heard on every show with the refrain “Coming Mother” soon following it.

  26. mitch4 Jun 24th 2010 at 02:51 pm 26

    I remember being startled (if not shocked) by this bit of dialogue in Private Benjamin (1980):

    Mrs. Goodman: [At Yale’s funeral, he died of heart attack after sex] Please dear, I need to know. What were his last words?
    Judy Benjamin: I’m coming.

    (Pasted from IMDB.)

  27. Detcord Jun 24th 2010 at 03:47 pm 27

    bookworm (9)

    Thank you for one of my very few LOLs… and also Danny Boy (London Derriere) for setting it up.

  28. Scott Jun 24th 2010 at 03:50 pm 28

    And Firesign Theatre used the “Coming, Mother” joke in “Don’t Crush that Dwarf” in 1970 or 1971 - on a record, though.

  29. Keera Jun 24th 2010 at 04:23 pm 29

    Thanks, Elyrest @25. LOL!

  30. Mark M Jun 24th 2010 at 06:23 pm 30

    Mort is obviously trying to push the envelope. Every other pun-type word describes something about trees in general, and then ash? If he was truly going for funny, “break his limbs” seems like an obvious choice.

  31. Ooten Aboot Jun 24th 2010 at 06:42 pm 31

    IMNSHO, what are now called the media displayed much more creativity back in the days when they had to work around the restrictions imposed by the Hayes Office and other such bowdlerizing regulators. Newspaper cartoonists may be the last of a dying breed. I’d wager that fellows like Pastis, Peters et al would miss the restrictions if the editors ever said that “anything goes”. The most boring movie I ever saw was Hoffa. All I remember is DeVito and Nicholson f*****g saying f**k or f******g every f*****g third word. Holy F**k! Enough al-f******g-ready!

  32. Gilgamesh Jun 24th 2010 at 06:42 pm 32

    Thanks Czhorat. I should have remembered considering I read every Heinlein book I owned until it fell apart.

    Reading the comments caused me to recall the time I was listening to Barry “The Southern Gentleman” Farber on a drive home from work. He had a guest host on, a younger female relative; possible his daughter or granddaughter or a niece. This was during the Clinton Presidency. While discussing current events with a person calling in, the guest host used the word ‘b–wj-b’ with derision. I could tell Barry was upset. Although still using his; ‘hi neighbor, lets’ talk, I’ll pour you some coffee’ voice, his very slight stammer increased. He soon called for a commercial break. Returning, he sounded calmer, like a man whose kerfluffle feathers had only just been smoothed down. Barry apologized to his listening audience and then allowed his guest host apologize. He explained that he did not allow that type of language on his show.

    The word in question had flown past me without much notice. Listening to the gentle schooling Barry gave his younger guest host, my respect for him, already high, grew enormously. Mr. Farber had established the content allowed on his show and had enforced it, gently, but firmly. He stood for his principles and was not bowed by the halitosis tainted wind of popular culture.

    I always enjoyed listening to Barry Farber’s radio talk show. He did not rant nor spew poisonous language that might be the trigger for a psychopath to kill people a radio host hated. Mr. Farber was always polite and respectful, even to those he disagreed with. He kept his show flowing along by using lingual jujitsu to remove ranters from the air in a way that left them satisfied.

    Now, as I flutter and flit about the internet, I see where Mr. Farber’s exemplar of civility would benefit many bloggers.

  33. Powers Jun 25th 2010 at 07:15 am 33

    Heather @23: if that had happened in the U.S., Congress would threaten to pull NPR’s funding, Jian Gomeshi would be fired, and each radio station that broadcast the show would be fined $1,000 by the FCC.

  34. Heather D Jun 25th 2010 at 01:01 pm 34

    Well, now, it seems that Stephen Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) is no longer even getting away with using ‘creative’ language to dodge censors:

    Yup, they’ve censored him from using the word “banana”.

    So all the points above about how things were funnier when comedians had to come up with clever euphemisms rather than just use the straight-up words… It seems they can’t even do that anymore.

    And in this case, the censor-safe approved version (”man-thong”) is way less funny than the original.

  35. David Jun 25th 2010 at 01:52 pm 35

    I was just reading Vol. 2 of the complete Bloom County. There’s a Sunday strip where Opus is forced to sing a song of praise about Steve Dallas to Bobbie Harlow. The last line is supposed to be “and he’s one heck of a guy”, but to make it rhyme with the previous, Opus sings “and he’s one heck of a gay”. Berke’s modern day comment was that he doesn’t think he’d be able to do that joke these days.

    Daniel (12), when BD did lose his leg, there was controversy, censoring, alternate text, national coverage, etc., because he says “Son of a bitch”, so that was probably the first time that made it into the comics.

    From the cartoons, there’s this infamous clip. Never shown in theaters though.

  36. Soup Dragon Jun 25th 2010 at 03:05 pm 36

    In this discussion, I think this is worth a view:

  37. Chakolate Jun 25th 2010 at 05:26 pm 37

    Heather D @ 34: Am I out of touch with the mainstream? All of this sounds like a mom who delicately puts her hands over her son’s ears when she says someone is in a ‘family way’, when the kid is fifteen and constantly dropping the f-bomb.

    I just can’t tell if the censors are out of touch or I am.

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