4 Ways Comedies Hoodwinked Censors

Dirty jokes can sometimes take surprising amounts of subterfuge
4 Ways Comedies Hoodwinked Censors

The job of professional fun-ruiners (aka movie and TV censors) is predominantly a thankless one. Mainly, they have to ensure that no scenes featuring naughty language or naked human bodies get in the way of children’s enjoyment of over-the-top, graphic violence. Since their work often involves attempting to sanitize comedies, over the years, several famous humorists have had to become incredibly crafty when it comes to sneaking dirty material past these corporate buzzkills, like how…  

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The MPAA Didn’t Notice That The ‘South Park’ Movie Had a Dick Joke in the Title

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is notorious for its back-and-forth battle with the MPAA. This may have led to countless frustrations for creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but at least it eventually gave us this dramatic reading of their memo to the rating board as performed by Matt Berry.

The MPAA also took issue with the film’s original title, South Park: All Hell Breaks Loose, apparently because it had the word “Hell” in the title. Roger Ebert noted at the time that the MPAA was, contradictorily, totally cool with Johnny Depp’s Jack the Ripper movie From Hell (to say nothing of the Rowdy Roddy Pipper flick Hell Comes to Frogtown). So the film’s subtitle was changed to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which the MPAA seemingly assumed was merely a straightforward descriptor of the film’s format rather than a fairly obvious dick joke, and happily allowed the change.

Robin Williams’ Ad-Libs Forced ’Mork and Mindy’ to Hire a Multilingual Censor

The legendary Williams was known to have enjoyed the occasional risqué joke — the guy literally snuck a boner gag into a straight-to-video Aladdin movie, for example. Even back when he was starring in his breakout TV show, Mork & Mindy, Williams’ penchant for blue material couldn’t be restrained — although, somehow, Mork resisted the urge to drop an F-bomb after meeting his doppelganger: Robin Williams.

Williams reportedly snuck “dirty jokes” into the show by saying them in other languages, including Yiddish, that none of the network suits could understand. Once they caught on to Williams’ scheme, ABC put a stop to these hijinks by hiring “a censor who spoke three or four different languages.”

Wes Craven Made a Fake, Extra-Gory Version of ‘Scream 2’

Sure, Scream 2 is technically a horror movie, but it’s arguably a comedy as well. Exhibit A: Tori Spelling showing up as herself.

Director Wes Craven previously fought with the MPAA over the R-rating for Scream; the ratings board wanted to censor the line, “Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative,” which was explicitly written as a dig at Bob Dole and conservative talking points of the day. While Craven won that argument, he was still forced to cut some of the film’s bloodier moments.

So for the sequel, Craven ingeniously decided to game the system; knowing that the MPAA would similarly take issue with the film’s trademark slasher violence, Craven and his editor “jacked up the film” with additional gore that was never intended to be in the finished movie. This included the death of Jamie Kennedy’s character Randy. In the version the MPAA reviewed, he “just got stabbed forever.” Once they demanded that the more violent aspects be cut down, Craven was more than happy to dial the movie down to the gore level he always wanted.

‘In Living Color’ Made Up Fake Jokes As Bait

In Living Color, the 1990s sketch show that introduced the world to both Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez’s dance moves… 

…was known for its boundary-pushing, frequently controversial content. But Fox’s censors, who were apparently totally okay with everything that was going down on COPS, were very aggressive when it came to policing In Living Color’s content. So, in order to mislead these humorless suits, according to cast member David Alan Grier, the writers used the censors’ “cultural ignorance” against them. 

The In Living Color writers would put fake punchlines into the scripts, then intentionally “laugh really hard” during table reads to make the censor suspicious. When the censor would order them to replace the seemingly offensive phrases, they would then slip in actual filthy material. According to Keenen Ivory Wayans, this tactic once allowed them to replace the relatively harmless term “kayak city” with the way dirtier “toss your salad.”

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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