Thought about that while listening to this Saturn Scene podcast, which might be my fave interview with PFT ever.
In this two-part conversation we discuss dissecting details, Lennon vs. McCartney, a wharf full of freaks, bad behavior, good reading, and a life-changing relationship.
Here's what PFT says about cursing onstage:
Even if people are laughing at something, I know when I could have done it better. An example is when I start a new bit, when I'm working on a new thing and it's the first time I'm doing it in front of an audience, I will tend to swear more than I ever do onstage because I'm filling in the idea very conversationally and I swear occasionally in life when I'm talking to people. But it's also there's a survival instinct that kicks in from my earliest standup days that cursing gets laughs.
People will laugh at the f-word. It adds a bite to certain things. But I have always felt that it's a crutch. I know that it is. To me, any time I'm using that word onstage and people laugh at it, I think that's the only reason they're laughing. And if that word wasn't there, they wouldn't find this funny. So I have to figure out how do I get a laugh without using that word and have it be just as big a laugh or bigger than if I was swearing.
Cursing (and sex stuff too) gets laughs because it's a "naughty" thing to do. So it triggers a nervous laughter in people. Sure, they laugh when you say dick, shit, fuck, pussy, or cock. But they also laugh if tickled. Both ways are a bit third gradery. Plus, you can't do it at a clean show (or, if you're at that stage, on TV).
Anyway, the rest of the interview is worth checking out too. Lots of astrology
Here's what he says about being conversational with his material:
Being able to make it conversationally funny – it's dressed up a little bit for the stage – but I try to keep it as much like I would talk about it in life as possible. If you have a funny story that you tell, even if you're just hanging out with your friends, you're trying...It's the way you're sharing something with a friend of yours, you're not trying to impress your friend. You're coming at it from a point of view that's 'Wait until you hear this. This is what happened to me.' You're not approaching your friend like they are an audience. There's an intimacy there where you're saying, 'Hey, you're going to appreciate this.' That's the feeling that I'm trying to get to onstage always that we're all hanging out and I'm telling these stories.
I think the audience gets a different kind of connection from a conversational performance. It's more intimate. They get to leave feeling like they actually know you as a person instead of some mask that spits out jokes.