Barking mad censorship continues at the Edinburgh Fringe Programme office

The censored and acceptable Edinburgh Fringe show image

Yesterday, I blogged about the insanity and inanity which has characterised the compilation of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme this year. In particular, the barking mad decision by the Fringe that the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PRICK was unacceptable and that it should be replaced by the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PR!CK which was acceptable.

Commenting on my blog, Stuart’s reaction was: “I thought this was an isolated incident, but I’m genuinely disturbed by how many people have come forward and said they’ve had copy disallowed for reasons of ‘taste’, ‘decency’ or ‘house style’. This was the Edinburgh Fringe we were talking about – What’s happened?!”

The other cracker which I mentioned yesterday was that comedian Richard Herring’s updated version of his 2002 show TALKING COCK (which was printed in the Fringe Programme under that title with no problem in 2002) had been changed by the Fringe Office – without his knowledge – from TALKING COCK: THE SECOND COMING to TALKING C*CK: THE SECOND COMING.

Quite why the word ‘cock’ (which, in this context comes from ‘cock & bull story’ – a phrase with a totally non-sexual origin and meaning) was deemed offensive but, in this context, the word ‘coming’ was deemed inoffensive is a mystery.

And it remains a mystery. And it is not alone. Australian comedian Jon Bennett is performing his first Edinburgh Fringe show PRETENDING THINGS ARE A COCK at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

The show’s title has been printed in full without any problem in the brochures for the Adelaide Fringe, the Edmonton International Fringe, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Montreal Fringe and the Vancouver International Fringe. And, this August, the Edinburgh Comedy Festival booklet/posters/flyers will have ‘Cock’ written in full in Pretending Things Are a Cock, but the official Edinburgh Fringe Programme will not.

This morning, producer Bronwyn Hooton told me: “It’s baffling to think that the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest fringe in the world – is censoring the art forms that appear within it, when your own Commonwealth countries do not.”

The Edinburgh Fringe, this year, seems determined to become a laughing stock world-wide, not just in Britain.

Bronwyn continued: “The welcome video on says: The Fringe was created 65 years ago when eight companies who hadn’t been invited to take part in the international festival, in the true show-business tradition and in a flash-mob style decided to stage their work anyway. On a tradition of open-access and freedom, to have censorship issues from the Edinburgh Fringe Office themselves seems to go against this ethos they claim to abide by.”

The word ‘cock’ in Pretending Things Are a Cock had to be censored (to ‘c*ck’) on the image used in the Fringe Programme because the word was deemed to be offensive, though the image itself (see above) was not.

I could barely believe my eyes when I saw this censored image.

But it is a very nice asterisk and, obviously, it has made a big difference.

Has the Fringe Office got their kn*ckers in a twist and gone completely mad this year?

Well, yes, apparently it has.

The Chortle comedy website yesterday pointed out that, printed in the upcoming Fringe Programme will be “a show called Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, which has escaped the blue pencil, comic Chris McCausland has been allowed to use the quote from a Chortle review ‘balls-out funny’ and a show called Sex Ed: The Musical contains the blurb: Have you ever tried hand-to-gland combat? Playing the clitar? Spelunking? Have you ever been vaginally tardy?

Writing in his blog yesterday, Richard Herring pointed out that Kunt and The Gang’s name is acceptably print-worthy to the Fringe Office, as is Reginald D.Hunter’s show title Work in Progress… And Nigga (Reg has a tradition of putting Nigga in his titles) and that, indeed, in Richard’s own Programme entry, the Fringe Office took no exception to the phrase “the yoghurt-spitting sausage” but, somehow, ‘cock’ was too much for them to swallow.

Comedian Jody Kamali commented that the Fringe Office “said I couldn’t use three dollar signs in a row ‘$$$’ in my Fringe entry, as it didn’t fit their ‘house style’.”

Also, following my blog yesterday, Chortle phoned the Fringe Office and reported that “when asked why certain words are deemed offensive and others not – and how Herring’s title was changed without him knowing until now – the Fringe office said they did not wish to comment.”

No surprise there. But there was a surprise that – several weeks after the final deadline had past – the Fringe Office told Richard Herring yesterday that his very expensive quarter page ad in the Fringe Programme was suddenly also unacceptable. He was told that he would have to disguise the word ‘cock’ by removing the letter ‘O’.

In his blog yesterday, Richard wrote: “I wonder will the Fringe brochure people object if the “O” of cock is… hidden behind a big splurge of dripping white liquid… (it) might be allowed because a splurge of white liquid is not on the list of rude words.”

The two substitute censored versions he submitted to the Fringe are below:

“Talking Cock” – censored with an asterisk

“Talking Cock” – censored with a splurge

Presumably, the Fringe Office objected to Richard Herring’s ‘cock’ because of what they perceived as the use of a genital word (even though the common phrase Talking Cock is not sexual in origin).

However, they had no objection to a review quote on the ad, which says:

“Man’s answer to the Vagina Monologues – The Guardian”

So, apparently the word ‘cock’ (in the context of the non-sexual-origined phrase Talking Cock) is unacceptable but the word ‘vagina’ (which has a solely genital meaning) is completely acceptable.

Richard Herring, in his blog yesterday, wrote:

“Whilst I acknowledge there is a point where some choice has to be made over what is suitable to go into a general publication, I am concerned about the draconian level of censorship that is occurring here and what it says about what the Fringe is turning into. This should be the last place where freedom of expression is clamped down on.”

Or, as Richard said to me: “Underneath the silliness and twatdom it’s a very important issue”.

What on earth is going on?

One thing is certain. There is no point asking the Fringe Office.


Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Language, PR

7 responses to “Barking mad censorship continues at the Edinburgh Fringe Programme office

  1. My thoughts are that the blame for the Fringe office’s over reaction lies firmly at the door of Kunt and The Gangs phallace stickers at last year’s fringe. Many ordinary Edinburgh folk – particularly those with young families – took offence at the insertion of the cartoon cock and balls on posters all over the city. Councillors have no doubt put pressure on the Fringe office to clean things up.

  2. Oh Alan how can I continue to bear a grudge against you when you are so funny – It is nice to see kunts cock still being discussed but Psychologists have proved that if you hide pictures of willies away from children then they will grow up to be far from ordinary folk and potentially psychotic… just like their parents… X

  3. Richard Herring

    Also Alan, none of this will affect people putting up posters (and certainly not adding cocks on stickers to existing posters) – My poster, which will hopefully be up all over the place will have the word cock on it, just the brochure won’t. Which makes their decision all the odder.

  4. I think you might actually classify what the Fringe Office is doing here in some instances is bowdlerising not censoring, which in the context of the comedian’s craft is actually a worse sin than censorship.

  5. There is actually an imbecility and grotesque fault in the logic applied by the Edinburgh Fringe Office when they bowdlerise the publicity material of artists performing on the Fringe this year. Especially in the manner that they have chosen to adopt with terms they deem unfit for human consumption. The terms prick and cock are apparently unacceptable. Bollocks seems an immediate and wholly appropriate response to this infraction.
    Let us grasp the word ‘prick’ with both hands and consider the almost – no, actual Victorian approach to subverting this fine piece of Germanic vernacular to pr*ck. What is this subterfuge actually meant to achieve? To hide the term or simply to protect those who may be offended by it?
    Well, let’s begin at the beginning. If I read the term ‘pr*ck’ it is highly unlikely that I would consider prack, preck, prock or pruck as the alternate term the asterisk is intended to save me from. (Though just for the record a pruck is a term used in Northern Ireland to describe an interesting or attractive item that is purchased but which has no practical use.) Instead it merely draws emphasis and focus to the term, not just onto the word but also onto the stultifying effete nature of the mind that decided to take this action in the first place. As a verbal fig leaf it is useless. What the asterisks achieve is to prevent the writers’ intention of impact, its effrontery and literary qualities of which it has many. The online etymology dictionary bears witness to this with a memorable and interesting entry: ‘Earliest recorded use for “penis” is 1590s. My prick was used 16c.-17c. as a term of endearment by “immodest maids” for their boyfriends. As a term of abuse, it is attested from 1929.’
    The asterisk does not hide the term but rather injects a value and a position not held by the original writer. It subverts their intention to something else, it carelessly dilutes some else’s objective. The Edinburgh Fringe has by this puerile intervention stepped beyond the bounds of their purpose and role.
    The next question is whether the * symbol actual protects anyone? Well, children who can read and rudimentarily spell which for majority is by around 7-8 years of age will have encountered the word prick in the school yard if not on the TV or on the street. The asterisks will merely challenge their phonetic spelling skills. With or without the abhorrent symbol the reading child will know what is meant and for the none-reading child it will not matter jot. At worst it will add one more layer of repression, another facet of conservative, self-consciousness, corner of the school yard sniggering in the use of language. A word is not ‘bad’, which is clearly what is being proposed here. It is the use, the context and purpose that gives meaning and force to the vocabulary we use. This is the arts; it is the fringe of the arts and as such should be edgy, challenging and exciting. The inappropriate and misguided action taken here seeks to rob us all of this experience and instead interferes with our reception by the intrusion of someone with mind numbing principles and misinformed beliefs.
    The Edinburgh Fringe Office by inserting an asterisk into the words prick and cock have merely affirmed that they themselves are pricks and cocks.

  6. #1

    Blair removed the socialists, and now this lot at the Fringe have removed the creatives. Eh – freedom of speech guys! That you even have to be reminded of it makes you inexcusable little …..scum shitbags! (I’m sorry. I was trying to maintain my dignity and lost it)

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