Using a lot of cuss words may not make you a dude, but it doesn’t hurt — especially if you use them skilfully, and not just because you have such a shitty vocabulary that you don’t know any modifiers beyond "fuckin’."
The value, after all, of a well-placed vulgarity is its power to shake things up, to draw attention, and to break taboo. This accomplishes what comedy does best: lets off steam — and sometimes other bodily fluids too.
Moreover, anyone can be brilliant with big smarty-pants words, but to be brilliant with expletives is a true art. Note that few but the ingenious Coen Brothers could write one of the most slyly intellectual comedies in history and at the same time stuff it full of more fucks than Eddie Murphy Raw.
According to Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand Ups of All Time, the top three standup comedians in history were not cutesy punsters like Henny Youngman or charming raconteurs like Steve Allen or wacky wildmen like Steve Martin. No, the funniest fellers of all time just happened to be Da Vincis of dick jokes, Michaelangelos of motherfucker, and Shakespeares of shit: That is to say, these three were particularly famous among their fellow comics for a trailblazing exaltation of low language.
Coming in at number one was Richard Pryor. Number two was George Carlin. Number three was Lenny Bruce. While any of us would have been privileged to enjoy a beer or twenty with either of these gut-busting funnymen, only one expounded a distinctively Dudeist worldview: George Carlin. The philosophical legacy he bequeathed the world might be summed up simply as "fuck it."
Perhaps more than any other comedian in history outside of Bill Hicks, Carlin was a trenchant social critic. His distinctive talent was to unclothe our culture, to strip it naked and show that what was truly vulgar was not johnsons and vaginas, but the hypocrisy hidden underneath all the fashion. His routines proved that human biology tends to be far less disgusting than human sociology.
Furthermore, he demanded, how can people get so upset by mere words, when the suppression of our freedom of speech is far more despicable — not to mention, unconstitutional? This affects all of us, Dude. Lenny Bruce died face down in the muck to defend our basic freedoms.
In the end, what Carlin did most of all was prove the transformative power of humor. A product and progenitor of the American revolution in civil liberties in the 60s and 70s, he had an arguably more lasting effect than most official political activists, simply because he was funnier. Carlin knew how to make light when darkness warshed over. Just as the lessons of The Big Lebowski affect us more deeply because they’re laced with laughter, his jazzy, beatnik-style social commentary is better remembered today than most radical rant-a-thons. It certainly reached a much wider audience.
As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. And you can catch even more with some really funny shit.
(Rest in Peace, George. 1937 – 2008)