Research is everything in journalism so I am happy to be able to report that for this piece I spent a good half hour watching Rodney Rude videos on YouTube. It was probably around 1983 when I last devoted this level of attention to the work of this Australian comedian.

So rude he needs defending…

At our cutting-edge public school there was a tiny room you could hire called “the audio visual centre” which contained a single cassette player, and many lunch hours in Year 10 were spent with mates listening to our tape of the ground-breaking comedy LP Rodney Rude Live.

From memory the album went No.1 in the charts. It was regarded as massively offensive by many people.

Rude was banned from performing in Queensland for swearing and would probably be regarded in today’s more politically correct age as even more objectionable.

The album is filled with bizarre stream-of-consciousness anecdotes involving moments such as Rude’s sexual encounter with a lesbian at a rock festival who subsequently challenged him to a farting competition, his description of how he went to school with a boy who was “born without any arms or legs or anything, he was just a head” and who sank to the bottom of the pool in a school swimming contest on account of having a cramp.

Rude later released a single entitled I May Not Be a Wog (But I Look Like One) which did not fare as well as his debut LP.

He still pops up in the clubs from time to time with material which involves aberrant sexual banter, jokes about Japanese people, New Zealanders, Germans, albinos, the Pope, people with disabilities, and himself - a general smorgasbord of filth and weirdness.

I am not holding Rude out as the greatest comic of all time but there was a kind of charming and intense level of stupidity about him which endeared him to many Australians.

I write about him today because his largely squalid body of work forms a handy checklist for the types of sentiments which could soon be illegal. In the movie The People Versus Larry Flynt the American pornographer and founder of Hustler magazine argued that anyone who believed in free speech should support his cause because “I’m the worst”, and that as someone at the squalid outer limits of taste he needed to win in the Supreme Court to affirm the sanctity of the First Amendment.

The weird thing about Australia right now is the types of laws which are being canvassed won’t affect the most extreme and offensive and inflammatory sentiments or forms of behaviour, such as Larry Flynt’s repellent concept of satire, but could actually snare behaviour which is quite mundane.

You could go through the once chart-topping LP by a largely harmless nut such as Rodney Rude and draw up a handy checklist of aggrieved groups who could have a humourless moan in a court of law under Canberra’s beefed-up anti-discrimination laws.

The immediate past chief justice of NSW, Jim Spigelman, is such a level-headed and reasonable person that he is known in legal circles as Gentleman Jim. Spigelman is now the ABC chairman and he gave a terrific speech this week looking at how under the proposed changes it will become unlawful to offend people.

“We would be pretty much on our own in declaring conduct which does no more than offend to be unlawful. The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech,” Mr Spigelman said. “There is no right not to be offended.

“I am not aware of any international human rights instrument or national anti-discrimination statute in another liberal democracy that extends to conduct which is merely offensive.”

If you think back over the life of this toxic and dysfunctional parliament, where minority government has flushed out conduct on both sides which is way out of step with the way most people behave, the language of politics has become more heated than usual.

Julia Gillard has been labelled “JuLiar”, called a witch, a crook, a feminazi, Tony Abbott has been labelled a misogynist, a negative, policy-free fraud, the Liberals accused of dealing with “scumbags” to pursue the AWU story and so on.

I am not sure whether any of this language is desirable. But I am convinced that none of it should be actionable, as all of it has the capacity to offend someone. And the moment we start letting people try their luck in court because they have their precious feelings hurt, we are heading down a disturbing path towards state-sanctioned limits on what passes for conversation.

There are already limits to what we can and cannot say anyway through the common law, with defamation being a very popular and often lucrative way to take action if you feel you have been hard done by and can convince a judge or a jury of your peers of that fact.

One of the most inflammatory moments of this year was the absurd and violent protest by the ratty minority within Sydney’s Lebanese Muslim community, who thought that belting cops was a reasonable response to the screening of a film overseas ridiculing their chosen deity.

These blokes were clearly deeply offended. So much so that it was offensive to the rest of us.

We don’t need our government treating us like those nuts in Martin Place, who clearly devote much of their time to being offended. The long-standing advice to calm down, keep things in perspective, or lighten up should hold more value than any government-mandated attempts to make sure no one ever says anything offensive, ever.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.

Most commented


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    • pete says:

      01:05pm | 17/12/12

      It was funny cause he swore.

    • JoniM says:

      02:12pm | 17/12/12

      But you gotta love the head that drowned because of cramp !
      He ignored his mum’s advice and didn’t wait half an hour after eating lunch before diving in the pool !
      Rude’s work is full of good safety messages like this and great relationship advice that should be shared with kiddies of all ages !
      A true progressive and champion of free speech !
      Unlike today’s whinging & whining, totally conservative, out of touch & political correctness infected range of feminist groups, gay lobbies, ethnic councils, indigenous groups, Church groups, etc.
      Time to throw off those old conservative shackles and stop taking yourselves so seriously ! Get some Rude on !

    • ZSRenn says:

      03:00pm | 17/12/12

      The head also played darts. He would get someone to put the dart in his mouth and then say to them “Now throw the Fuckin dart board at me.”

    • Rachel says:

      01:16pm | 17/12/12

      I miss the 12th Man.

    • Rupert M says:

      01:17pm | 17/12/12

      @ news limited I thought being rude and stupid was manditory?

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      03:17pm | 17/12/12

      Indeed, and if I didn’t know Penbo better, I’d say this article is is trying to build a strawman to insinuate that people who are critical of his frequently boring, racist, inflammatory slurs and bullying (along with the Telegraph at large), are just prudes who don’t like rude ‘edgy’ humour- rather than face the fact that he’s just a crap journalist who, on top of all this, is actually doing the exact thing he seems to be writing against- whinging about other people’s opinions.

    • Schmavo says:

      01:27pm | 17/12/12

      How would we get comedy gold like Monty Pythons “The Arguement” which such classic abuse? “Shut your festering gob, ya tit”. And good on comediens that manage the fine line between humour and abuse. Such skill.

    • Mouse says:

      06:48pm | 17/12/12

      Is not….....        (lol xoD)

    • Don Paul says:

      01:28pm | 17/12/12

      I’m after some legal advice:

      Can I publicly offend myself, then use these new laws to take myself to court?

    • Anubis says:

      02:16pm | 17/12/12

      Nah - A better option would be to publicly offend me so I can take you to court

    • TChong says:

      01:28pm | 17/12/12

      Saw Rodney Rude heaps in pubs and clubs, early to mid 1980s , still damnably funny.
      “Dont you play those blues, ,boy, dont you know you’re bringing me down.
      You take Sally, I’ll take jane ,
      Sallys got great %#$%
      But Janes got the cocaine,
      Cocaine, cause you cant snort ^%^$%  up your nose….”

      Still gets a larf.

    • PJ says:

      02:57pm | 17/12/12

      Early to Mid eighties?

      No ageists here.

    • Smoke Crack - Worship Satan says:

      03:08pm | 17/12/12

      No ageists here.

      Nope. Just old buggers…..

    • sunny says:

      03:28pm | 17/12/12

      “old buggers”

      tough old buggers - I jogged home from my vasectomy.

    • Smoke Satan - Worship Crack says:

      04:26pm | 17/12/12

      I may have posted here earlier, but I’m not sure.

    • craig2 says:

      05:13pm | 17/12/12

      Funniest shit I heard back then, man is a legend!

    • PJ says:

      05:26pm | 17/12/12


      Is it true Gillard ‘rips them off ya’ as part of the secret ceremony to join the Gillard Government Supporters Club?

    • sunny says:

      06:57pm | 17/12/12

      Nah the opposite - if you ever want join Labor you’ll first need to grow a pair.

    • Robin says:

      02:05pm | 17/12/12

      My favourite was “I’d like to see Simon Townsend’s dog Woodrow piss all over him on TV, yeah I’d like to see that!”  Classic humour.  But I agree with this article.  Too many precious little darlings out there.  And it does start at the top.  It seems our PM - bereft of any meaningful debate - has decided being offended is a point scorer.  But it is all through our society now.  Whimps.  Sooks.  Ah hell, now I will probably cop a barrage from some poor darling.  Bugger ‘em all.

    • subotic the rude placard kid says:

      02:17pm | 17/12/12

      Sydney’s Lebanese Muslim community, who thought that belting cops was a reasonable response to the screening of a film overseas ridiculing their chosen deity.

      Behead all those who insult the Rude prophet?

    • Imste says:

      02:27pm | 17/12/12

      Rodney was an amateur at swearing compared to Derek and Clive some 5-10 years earlier.  If someone were to perform their acts live then they would be sentenced to life in prison under the new laws lol

    • robin says:

      02:56pm | 17/12/12

      I had completely forgotten them.  Yep, their album “Derek and Clive Come Again”.  Interesting songs, and of course “Nurse”.  Going to go home and drag it out of the cupboard for another listening.

    • Brad Coward says:

      04:42pm | 17/12/12

      I remember once walking in on my then six year old niece, listening to Derek & Clive…laughing her head off !

      There was her head….rolling about on the floor !

    • unclassified in grafton says:

      05:05pm | 17/12/12

      A point of distinction if I may.

      Rodney Rude got the working class to laugh at themsleves. Derek and Clive, on the other hand, mercilessly took the piss out of the working class.

      I’ve laughed along with Rodney, but I’ve pissed myself lstening to Derek and Clive. And to my eternal shame, occasionally the Pope does give me the horn.

    • JoniM says:

      02:27pm | 17/12/12

      And Trendsetters, how can you go past Rude’s Health Warnings on Macca’s !
      A must to be played for every classroom in the war on obesity !

    • Zeta says:

      02:37pm | 17/12/12

      Spigelman wasn’t strictly correct. There are some pretty regressive German statutes on offensive behaviour. I’ve personally always found it ironic that in the nation responsible for 90 per cent of the world’ scatological pornography you can’t make a joke about the Holocaust. I’m not saying that I don’t find jokes about the Holocaust offensive, but that I’d probably rather listen to a joke about the Holocaust than watch middle aged Germans mistake glass coffee tables for toilets.

      I guess what concerns me most about the shit Roxon’s put on this particular table is that it wouldn’t just apply to jokes about the Holocaust, or scat porn, discretely – but that I couldn’t even write the sentence above. I mean, it might be offensive to someone that I’d put the Holocaust and German scat porn in the same sentence. It might even be offensive to put Nicola Roxon, the Holocaust, and faeces in the same paragraph.

      The problem, as I see it, is that nothing is universally offensive. Even within one homogenous culture, if such a thing even exists anymore, there is always a fringe where the edges around acceptable behaviour blur. Back to Germany, they took a very clear view that protecting the sensibilities of the majority was more important than respecting the freedoms of a degenerate few. So the Germans drew that line around behaviour and the Holocaust got put on one side, but a squeezing out a steamer on Hans’s chest fell inside the other. And you can draw that line when your culture faces a really grave challenge like what faced Germany.

      So what I’d like to ask Roxon is, what does she see as being our culture’s grave challenge against which we have to draw this line? Is a good bullocking from shock jocks really adequate justification for doing what a country like Germany did in the face of such a grave question about where a culture’s tolerance for tastelessness is?

      I think what really worries me is that without that gravity to your question of offensiveness, the line you draw around it will be wide indeed. Confronted with the challenge of impinging on free speech to prevent Nazis, their sympathisers, and those who’d be disrespectful of that nation’s horrific history having a forum, you can really put the German free speech laws into perspective. When your objective is to cut that kind of cancer out of your society, suddenly, scat porn isn’t that bad.

      You can see very clearly the same thinking in Howard’s sedition laws. Confronted with the challenge of the war on terror, Parliament draws a very fine line around writings that are considered offensive to protect us from the kind of hate speech that breeds terrorism.

      I don’t think many people would argue that that is the line of offensiveness – well, some did argue, but they were dirty Trotskyites anyway.

      The important thing about our existing laws is that they go straight to intent. You can make a joke about the Prophet, but you can’t invoke his name to commit acts of terrorism. One is offensive to mainstream Australians, the other is not. The worrying thing we have now is the possibility of intent being removed, and people’s ‘feelings’ being allowed into the equation.

    • TheRealDave says:

      04:11pm | 17/12/12

      The wisest thing I have ever read on the Internet.

      I’m going to take a moment to sober up and read it again…

    • Brad Coward says:

      04:46pm | 17/12/12

      Absolutely brilliant stuff !

    • Shane says:

      06:08pm | 17/12/12

      @ Zeta, good comment. I would say one thing a little differently though - the problem as I see it is that nothing is universally inoffensive. If you try you can find someone who will be offended by almost anything. Giving people the right to sue will turn being offended into a court based lottery with unlimited free tickets.

      If you make it illegal to offend, then what will be permissible? And more importantly who gets to decide what speech is permissible and what isn’t? That’s where the real danger lies in my opinion.

    • DP says:

      02:59pm | 17/12/12

      There are definitely 2 ways of saying the same (swear) word .Both have different meanings due to the way in which it is said

      You can use a (swear) word as a noun OR as an adjective. Tone gives you the indication if it is meant light heartily and or nastily. The overall way in which words are USED is more important than the word itself.

      Rodney Rude has mastered this he is also on tour at the moment.

    • Brad Coward says:

      04:52pm | 17/12/12

      Wonder if Rodney has any Gillard jokes in his routine ?

      You could imagine her giving him the “phonecall”, telling him to cut it out !

    • Your name:DP says:

      06:28pm | 17/12/12

      Your comment:~  ‘Brad Coward says:04:52pm | 17/12/12

      Wonder if Rodney has any Gillard jokes in his routine ?’ ~

      Yes. I saw him last weekend. He did One joke
      about Ms Gillard and in the way he said it I dont think she would be offended. However, it was RUDE.

    • sunny says:

      03:05pm | 17/12/12

      I went to a Rodney Rude show at the local workers club about 20 years ago and fair dinkum they nearly had to revive me - don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my life. I’d heard the tapes so I knew what we were in for but as a live act he’s just on another level.

      “he went to school with a boy who was “born without any arms or legs or anything, he was just a head” and who sank to the bottom of the pool in a school swimming contest on account of having a cramp”

      That same kid was a champion darts player “Put the dart in my mouth, feathers first” he’d say. “Now throw the fuckin board at me!”

    • Sickemrex says:

      03:06pm | 17/12/12

      Nowhere near as funny as Kevin Bloody Wilson. Especially around the festive season. Santa Claus you effing c, where’s me effing bike?

    • Robin says:

      04:10pm | 17/12/12

      and don’t forget the song by Santa’s Elves.

    • Wickerman says:

      03:34pm | 17/12/12

      I still laugh at his “I hate cats” & “I still hate cats” songs. A relative of mine was shocked (being a cat lover), & claimed “thats not funny”.  It bloody was to me:

      If you like farting in bed, grab by his little head,
      hold him under the sheets, hold ‘til he’s f******g beat….
      make your cat sniff your farts.

      But no time did I consider doing any of the stupid things in the songs to a cat, because it was….humour

    • Brad Coward says:

      04:50pm | 17/12/12

      Far out !  That song is the funniest thing that I’ve ever heard.  I almost had to be given oxygen the first time that I heard it.  I literally laughed myself to the floor.

    • JoniM says:

      03:48pm | 17/12/12

      “So the Germans drew that line around behaviour and the Holocaust got put on one side, but a squeezing out a steamer on Hans’s chest fell inside the other. “

      So beautifully penned, Zeta !
      You have encapsulated the whole issue regarding this totally divisive proposition from this government.
      Who’s rights and sensibilities are actually being served by these proposed law changes and who will decide who’s rights of one group may be jeopardised by the finding of offensiveness by another group ?  Or not !
      Grab your favourite can of worms !

    • Proud thinking Australian says:

      03:57pm | 17/12/12

      I have often used Rodney’s “great work from the 1980’s” as a benchmark to indicate just how low the current mainstream free to air FM radio media aka 2dayFM has gone in comparison with radio banter from the same period (back in the 80’s).

      The net effect is that “Youth 18-35 segment?” radio on the FM band is now certainly very compatible with Rodney’s crude and immature banter or worse.  It appears that our worst content is directed to warp young minds first thing in the day, nice work guys…Per “Back to the Future 2” we are now living in the downside-up alternative 1985.

      Unlike Rodney’s good-old target audience (then and now) “free to air” morning FM radio is much more pervasive and indiscriminate in its broadcast reach.  Much like an open sewer, you can smell the stench for miles on free to air (now even around the globe it can kick up a stink).

      Ethical standards in broadcasting (if we can get some – don’t hold your breath) should be welcomed as a friend on the pathway to a better, positive, life-affirming, quality services for all public listeners in the community.

      Mainstream youth/shock FM radio has been trolling much lower than community standards would prefer for years.  A correction is well and truly overdue.  Others in media la-la-land should stop writing apologist pieces trying to put off the inevitable Judgement Day.  It has now come.  You have been defecating in the water supply far too long.  Your material has reached the ceiling fan level.

      One of the critical milestones for civilisation and community health from 3rd world to 1st world living conditions is the conversion of open sewer drains into closed and buried pipe sewer systems below the ground.  It keeps the nasties & pathogens inherent in human habitation out of harm’s way for the general population to enjoy clean conditions and good health.
      May the potty talk be kept locked-up in the out-house and off the public free to air broadcast record - for good!

    • PJ says:

      05:23pm | 17/12/12

      Looks like we cannot call people from the UK POMS for much longer.

      As a result of the release of the Census, it Reads like the traditional POM has almost gone as a result of Labours policies.

      “Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing .?.?. There was a reluctance elsewhere in the Labour Government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour’s core white working-class vote .?.?.
      ‘Part by accident, part by design, the Labour Government had created its longed-for immigration boom. But Ministers wouldn’t talk about it.’ Why not? Because Labour voters wouldn’t have liked it.
      ‘While Ministers might have been passionately in favour of a more diverse society, it wasn’t necessarily a debate they wanted to have in working-men’s clubs in Sheffield or Sunderland.”

      Read more:

    • sunny says:

      06:59pm | 17/12/12

      You’re a POM aren’t you?

    • michael j says:

      06:10pm | 17/12/12

      Hey Pen were not Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wislon almost being put in the rasist ratbag trolling category only a few weeks ago , now ya laugh at any thing.


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