Let us swear while we may, for in heaven it will not be allowed. —Mark Twain, 1898.
People were swearing up a storm at Re-bar—happy cursing while greeting a friend, careless cursing while chatting in the drink line, consternated cursing after spilling a pint of beer. The cursing class had come to watch Swing Vote (a political talk show and game show and drinky town-hall meeting), organized by Seattle School, the mad performance scientists who cooked up Iron Composer (a songwriting content and game show and drinky obstacle course).
Two pundits (Stranger reporter Erica C. Barnett and think-tank conservative Jim Melton) sat on barstools, drank beer, and debated. A trial-lawyer-cum-referee stood behind them, assigning points for good arguments and rescinding points for bad arguments. A cameraman from the Seattle Channel filmed the proceedings. The topic was oil consumption and energy policy. The host, Spike Spin (AKA Mike Min), kicked off round one by asking: "So, Erica: What the fuuuuuck? The U.S. shouldn't base energy policy on the price of oil?" The pundits argued, as did the audience. There was swearing: Someone called bullshit. What, someone else asked, the fuck? "So how... how do we get America to go green?" Spin stammered. The ref blew her whistle. "Foul on the moderator!" she shouted. "That's a vague and fuckin' ambiguous question."
The first round ended. The crowd returned to its conversational cursing. Spin stood by the dressing room (really a pool room, covered by a curtain). A woman and a man, both from the Seattle Channel, approached. They talked about how well things were going, how quiet the audience was on the microphones. The TV people asked if there could be a little less swearing. "It makes it easier to air if there isn't so much bleeping—if we don't have to bleep so much out."
"Yeah, I think we can do that," Spin said.
"I mean, I don't want to mess with your formula. 'Motherfucker' is one of my favorite words. But if you can cut down, great, if you can't... I mean, if something slips in. Right now, there's a lot, like it's put on. I don't want to mess with your formula, you know. But if something slips in..."
"I don't think it's put on," Spin said sheepishly. "That's just what slipped in." He told the TV people he'd try to cut down on the cursing and they left. "You know what we could do?" he wondered aloud. "We could use voiced-over 'dangs.' That would be funny."
It was time to film the second episode. The topic was pharmacists and emergency contraception. Spin started by turning to Erica and asking: "So, Erica, what the fuuu—uh—roooot? What the fruit?" The pundits stumbled over a few curses that almost slipped in. Afterward, at the bar, I walked up to Mr. Melton. "That was really fuckin' good." I said. "Fuckin' thanks!" he swore back.