Television is a strange thing.
From era to era, what was allowed to be said over its airwaves has changed. Back in 1960, after NBC censored one of Jack Paar’s relatively harmless jokes about a toilet, the Tonight Show host walked off the show in mid-broadcast as a protest.
Flash forward to 2017 and even sex jokes are de rigeur on The Tonight Show, indeed across television in general. Stephen Colbert recently and (in)famously referred to Donald Trump’s mouth as Vladimir Putin’s cock holster on CBS’s Late Show.
From country to country the threshold changes, too. A cursory viewing of Adult Swim gives you an idea of how lax American airwaves have become. However, a trip to other lands yields different results.
A few years ago on a media tour to promote my shows in Malaysia, I was handed a list of the 14 things/topics I was not allowed to discuss on the air. Which brings me to my current situation of putting together a set list for the Comedy Central Asia filming I’m doing next week.
Catch me at a live show and every subject is up for discussion. Put me on cable television and the list of things I can talk about is a little smaller. Network television? Even fewer things I can talk about. When foreign governments have a hand in it, it may be Jack Paar 1960 all over again.
It’s enough to want to craft a set list containing all 14 elements in the list! Infographic, anybody?
But, as the above Venn diagram shows, I’ll probably fall in line and stick within the guidelines. Mostly. Because while I do want my my half hour to make it to air and not the cutting room floor (or Trash file on the production company’s hard drive), I have a greater desire to not be in prison in another country.
Who can be sure, though? The easiest way to find out is to show up to the two nights of filming and laugh your ass off to 16 of my funny friends (and me). Thursday, July 13, and Friday, July 14, at the HGH Convention Center in Kuala Lumpur. Tapings begin at 8pm each night. (I’m on the Thursday evening filming.)