Why comics swear

It's a sign of a broken home, says Kay

Peter Kay says comics can only swear and tackle offensive subjects if they are not close to their families.

He says he keeps his act clean because he fears what his mother would think – but that stand-ups without a stable family life often don’t feel so constrained.

‘When I do stand-up, I never swear because if I did, my mum would batter me,’ he told the Daily Telegraph. ‘That’s how I ended up with this style.

‘Comics like Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks were estranged from their families and could talk about anything they liked, but I’ve got to think about my nan, my mum and my sister.’

Pryor was the son of a pimp and a prostitute, who deserted him at the age of ten, leaving him to be brought up by his grandmother, who owned the brothel.

But Hicks had a more stable upbringing in his Southern Baptist family. Although he left home to follow his comedy career at 18, he died in his parents’ home, and his family still look after his estate and his memory.

Kay also claimed audiences were getting fed up of aggressive comedy, and preferred his less confrontational style of stand-up.

‘No one gets slagged off in my comedy,’ he said. ‘It’s not the comedy of hate. I hope it’s a breath of fresh air for audiences.

‘Comedy has swung away from those panel games where the comedians are vicious about everybody. Audiences want comedy that has no venom.

‘I’m not the sort of comedian who wants to make audiences think about politics. I’m not clever in that way. But maybe I’m clever in a different way because I can bring up things that make people think, “oh, we do that, too”.’

Kay said he had no immediate plans to tour again, but added that he was still collecting material. ‘I’ve continued writing down funny things that I hear from day to day,’ he said. ‘You need to live life in order to build up a new act.’

  • Kay was speaking to promote his role voicing Roary The Racing Car, a new children’s series starting on Five on Monday. Click here to read the full interview.

Published: 4 May 2007

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