Accidental brilliance

Some creative people get prickly about editors. I’m not one of them—not when I’m writing for my clients. I figure it’s their work, it should express what they want to say. I’ll speak up if I think they’re making a huge mistake; that’s my job. But if it’s just a matter of swapping out “revivify” for “revitalize,” I’ll go with whatever floats their boats. That’s an actual client discussion, by the way—and the funny thing was, the word choice didn’t matter. The piece wasn’t going to be published in English anyway.

So most creatives can accept editors, but nobody likes being censored. Craig Ferguson, one of my favorite comedians, often railed against the CBS censors when he hosted The Late Late Show. He refused to clean up his language, but he devised a novel way of masking the naughty words, as you can see in this clip reel. And enjoy the theme song at the beginning of the clip. Ferguson wrote it himself and it contains one of my favorite lyrics in all of songdom: “Tomorrow’s just your future yesterday.” A dark sentiment indeed, but when you hear the chipper, bouncy music you can’t help but smile.

Speaking of lyrics and censorship, musical theatre genius Stephen Sondheim encountered some himself, and from the same corporation that would plague Ferguson a half-century later. Here’s the story, from a really interesting Slate article on the origins of cursing in Broadway musicals:

“When Stephen Sondheim was writing the lyrics for ‘Gee, Officer Krupke,’ to be sung in the 1957 musical West Side Story, he was hoping to be the first person to use a serious four-letter obscenity in a Broadway show: ‘Gee, Officer Krupke—Fuck you!’ This did not come to pass. Columbia records balked because obscenity laws would prohibit the recording from being shipped over state lines. In the end, the line was changed to ‘Krup you!’—Sondheim has since maintained that it may be the best lyric line in the show.”

Sondheim is correct—in that case, censorship created a moment of brilliance. Accidentally. Hey—sometimes editors (even censors) have the right idea.

In case you’re not familiar with the song…well, we can’t have that. Here you go:

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