“Gleefully wacky and irreverent.”

–The New York Times

“Line by line, Mr. Rudnick may be the funniest writer for the stage in the United States today.”

–The New York Times

“Deeply funny musings and adventures elevate Paul Rudnick to the highest level of American comedy writing.”

–Steve Martin

“One of the funniest quip-meisters on the planet.”

–The New York Times

“Paul Rudnick is a champion of truth (and love and great wicked humor) whom we ignore at our peril.”

–David Sedaris

“Quips fall with the regularity of the autumn leaves.”

–Associated Press

January 18, 2014

Bad Language


This is an adorable video of a cat and a squirrel clearly falling in love. But what really interests me is a comment from Teresa Jimison, who says, “Someone should edit the sound out of this the lady that took the video is annoying and she cusses.” In a later post, Teresa removes the audio and announces that the video is now “family friendly.”

At my Uncle Rudy’s funeral, my indomitable Aunt Lil put her arm around me and said, “Paul, your Uncle Rudy loved you very much. He didn’t understand why you needed to use that language, in your work, but he loved you anyway.” When Lil offered this advice, we were standing maybe two feet away from the coffin.

In a few of the prissier online reviews of my YA novel, Gorgeous, readers have complained of “too many F-bombs!”

When folks worry about bad language in books, plays, TV shows or movies, I always wonder: what world do these people live in? Have they ever met a teenager, or a child, or an adult?

I will confess that sometimes I’m secretly tickled, by the fact that a simple curse word still has the power to shock.

My Mom and I finally stood on equal footing, once she was able to swear at me. I was in my early twenties when she finally broke down and called me “a real shithead.” She giggled, and from then on, she felt free to call me all sorts of things. This was liberating for both of us.

Many women draw the line at the “c word”, although I’ve never met a woman who, under stress, and usually when she’s truly angry at another woman, doesn’t use that word. My agent Helen Merrill was a German woman with a grand manner. When there was someone she didn’t care for, she would say, “That woman is what I call ‘the c word.’ You know, a cunt.”

I truly dislike euphemisms, such as “frigging.” They sound coy, and I’d rather have the author use “Smidgekins!” or “Fudge!”

In a movie, according to the MPAA ratings board, the characters are allowed any number of shits, hells and damns, and the film can still get a PG13 rating. Movies are allowed one fuck, and if there are any more, the film gets rated R. Screenwriters learn to choose their fuck carefully.

Profanity, unlike sports cars, gourmet cuisine or designer clothing, is available to everyone. It’s one of the few truly democratic pleasures.

I once had a meeting with Simon Doonan, the supremely witty author of such books as Beautiful People and Asylum; he also writes a column for Slate. Simon is every bit as droll and delightful in person. He’s also the Creative Ambassador at Large for Barneys, and we were discussing the upcoming holiday window displays.

There was construction going on in the store, and a rear, employees-only metal door had been temporarily nailed shut. A construction worker, unaware of this fact, was pounding on the door and cursing a blue streak: “Open this fucking door you fucking cunthead shitface motherfucking…”

Simon, who’s English, remained serene and turned slightly towards the door and said, in a tone combining the best of Miss Jean Brodie, Lady Bracknell and Martha Stewart, “Language!”