Wednesday, August 3, 2011
MARK TWAIN: POTTY MOUTH
On Friday, August 5th and Saturday, August 6th at 8 p.m. at the Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain, Sea Tea Improv will be performing R-RATED TWAIN – an evening of Twain’s naughtiest writings. The texts include speeches, poems and prose that cover such unsavory topics as masturbation, farting, sexual relations, among other unmentionables. We take a moment to consider how “The Lincoln of our Literature” occasionally took the low road…
It should come as no surprise that Samuel Clemens would have in his possession an impressive array of words. As an extremely prolific author with dozens of novels and hundreds of other written works (poems, plays, letters, speeches, articles and short stories), Twain had a prodigious vocabulary. His verbiage could be high-minded and eloquent, endearing him to the cognoscenti and literary elite. His writing also could effectively paint a portrait of the lowest echelons of society. His characters in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pap and Huck being examples, exhibit his masterly grasp of colloquial terms and rough dialects. So, really, it should shock no one that Mark Twain had one hell of a potty mouth.
Twain stated in his Notebook, “If I can’t swear in heaven, I shall not stay there.” Since he was unsure how his salty tongue would be received in the afterlife, the author seemed bent on peppering his phraseology here on Earth. In his letters to William Dean Howells, Twain did not help his case in making it to Heaven when he wrote:
“Sir to you, I would like to know what kind of goddam government this is that discriminates between two common carriers and makes a goddam railroad charge everybody equal and lets a goddam man charge any goddam price he wants for his goddam opera box.”
Phew! Alfred Bigelow Paine’s biography of Twain quotes the vitriolic master as saying, “In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.” Apparently he was overcome by many desperate circumstances in his home as his daughter Clara quotes him in her book My Father – Mark Twain with the following invective: “By the humping, jumping Jesus!” His lovely wife Livy put his lips on lockdown when it came to swearing, but even she was not able to keep the consummate master of cussing from unleashing his tongue in the house. Paine recounts how Twain, who generally curbed his tongue around his wife, let fly with some scorcher of a curse that occurred within earshot of Livy. She confronted him by repeating his remark to which Twain responded:
“Livy,” he said, “did it sound like that?”
“Of course it did,” she said, “only worse. I wanted you to hear just how it sounded.”
“Livy,” he said, “it would pain me to think that when I swear it sounds like that. You got the words right, Livy, but you don’t know the tune.”
Twain’s potty mouth also translated to a potty pen when he created some filthy fun in some of his private writings. The bawdy burlesque 1601, an imaginary gathering of Tudor England’s elite getting blown away by a fetid odor, was written by Twain for his best buddy Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell. A letter to a group of wealthy men who enjoyed fishing turns into a downright naughty tribute to male endowments. A speech written for a Parisian group, The Stomach Club, goes South of the border with a salute to self-gratification.
Considering his rough-and-tumble Tom Sawyer-esque adolescence, his career on riverboat docks and his time out in the Wild West, it should not be a shock that Twain could be so shocking. To be honest, we love this stuff and we are delighted to take a time to salute the type of things Twain wrote and said that you wouldn’t learn in school. We hope you join us for an evening of R-Rated Twain that would make your mama wash your mouth out with soap.
Tickets for R-RATED TWAIN are on sale now and can be ordered by calling (860) 229-3049. Tickets will also be available at the door at the Hole in the Wall Theater, 116 Main Street in downtown New Britain. The performance includes West Hartford playwright David Ryan Polgar’s short comedy Mark Twain: Ladies Man. Tickets are $15. Info and directions: www.hitw.org.