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Newcastle Herald

Carry on Carey

Author: James Joyce
Date: 30/01/1998
Words: 982
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: Friday Guide
Page: 1
DREW Carey considers himself television comedy's Mr Joe Average.

His hit sitcom, The Drew Carey Show, is not set in spacious New York apartments and trendy cafes but his unfashionable home town of Cleveland.

Carey's dumpy TV character works in middle-management in a department store and likes nothing better than knocking off early to sink a few pints of Buzz Beer with his buddies at their local tavern.

Forget those oh-so sophisticated decaf skim cafe lattes sipped from oversized cups.

In real life, Carey - whose bad military academy buzz-cut and black-rimmed specs are no costume - likes nothing better than watching his favourite TV shows, The Simpsons, The X Files and E.R., on the ridiculously expensive 'big-ass' home theatre he bought as soon as his show was renewed for a second season.

'E.R. I really like,' the ex-marine and bank teller once said.

'Remember the baby episode, where the woman had the Caesarian section? A friend of mine had the best joke. When they were carrying the baby away to the table, my friend goes "Hot baby coming through, watch out!" It was, like, the funniest thing.'

And, yes, Drew Carey swears.

'I don't think you'll ever see on TV how scummy and perverse I really am,' Carey once told an interviewer.

This is the man who told a gathering of American TV critics at a swish network launch that the original title for his sitcom was 'The Drew Carey Show.'

'We were going to call it The Drew F. Carey Show and see if anybody at home could figure it out!'

In his new book, Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined (Hyperion, $19.95), the stand-up comedian writes: 'I started working squeaky clean and getting respectable laughs.

'Then, wanting to get more road work and make more money, I started talking to the audience with the same words I used when I talked to my friends in a bar.

'I went from respectable laughs to belly laughs. I got more work and made more money.

'After that I even stopped censoring my subject matter and went before every crowd like they were all old drinking buddies, speaking as intimately as I cared to.

'Now I have my own television show and a zillion-dollar book deal.'

Of course, Carey, who turns 40 in May, has had to tidy up his stand-up schtick in the switch to TV.

While he opens every chapter of his book with the sort of crude jokes that drew him huge laughs in American comedy clubs (gags so blue even SBS movie programmers would blush, to say nothing of the chapter titled '101 Big Dick Jokes'), Carey's attempt to transplant his preferred style of profanity to prime-time TV have been largely thwarted by the controversy-shy censors at the US network that screens his show, ABC.

But Carey has come to savour the odd victory and devotes an entire chapter of his book to his daily battles over scripted obscenities with Neil Conrad, the ABC Broadcast Standards and Practices executive assigned to scrutinise his show.

He even details a battle for gross fart noises, 'a big taboo in network television'.

In the particular episode, Drew's gorgeous tomboy buddy, Kate (Christa Miller), secretly dubbed dozens of fart noises over a training video Drew had filmed for his employers.

'It was a big argument to get it on the air at all,' Carey writes.

'Back in the '70s, ABC aired the Mel Brooks comedy, Blazing Saddles, and wouldn't air the fart noises from the campfire scene, one of the funniest sequences in the movie. Their policy still hadn't changed.'

One ABC honcho apparently insisted some of the noises on the sitcom sounded 'too juicy' and officially warned that the sound effects should create 'a funny, exaggerated, whoopee cushion sound.'

As fans will fondly recall, Carey prevailed and that particular episode is regarded by many as the series' funniest - and most outrageously offensive - episode to date.

Carey also scored an unusual victory when the censor balked at a script that had Drew's office nemesis, the garishly adorned Mimi Bobeck (Kathy Kinney), testifying against Drew in court and calling him a 'butt wipe'.

Down came the Broadcast Standards and Practices memo with the stern direction: 'Please substitute "butt wipe" in Mimi's line.'

'We argued and argued, but Neil wouldn't give in,' Carey writes.

'Finally we had Mimi call me a "butt weasel" and it was approved.

'I personally think that "butt weasel" is much more offensive.

I mean, when it comes to your butt, wouldn't you rather have a wipe than a weasel?'

Although NBN and Nine will show the third season of The Drew Carey Show in the same family-friendly Tuesday night timeslot that seasons one and two occupied last year, the series has moved to a later timeslot in the US this year, which means viewers should expect even more cussing.

One upcoming episode spoofs The Full Monty, the hit British comedy about a bunch of sacked steelworkers who stage a strip show, and features a cameo by the stars of the movie (but not Robert Carlyle).

And, yes, Drew and his buddies raunch it up by ripping their gear off.

Carey's co-star, Ryan Stiles (who plays Lewis), told a recent press conference: 'It was the first time I had been totally naked since we originally cast the show.'

Said Carey: 'Sorry. My apologies to everybody in the world who has to see my naked ass. But we weren't totally naked.

We wore a little modesty thing, a little modesty pouch.'

The Drew Carey Show returns to NBN/Nine on Tuesday at 7.30pm.

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