The Sunday Giveaway: Tickets to . . . uh, I can’t say the title.

There’s a super feature article in today’s NY Times about celebrated British playwright Mike Bartlett and his new play (now in previews at The Duke) called . . . um . . . uh . . . oh boy, this is awkward . . . I can’t say it.  See, if I do say it, this blog will probably get tossed in your spam folders with a lot of other emails advertising ways to enlarge your (insert title of play here), and so on.

Let’s call it . . . The Other C-Word, or The Rooster Play or my favorite description because it actually describes the drama on stage . . . “what you do to a gun before you fire it.”

And one of you is going to see it for free!

How do you win?

First, a few interesting tid-bits about this Olivier Award winner from The Royal Court.

The interesting thing about the NY Times article is that they refused to print the title too.  And, if you take a look at the ads for the play running on . . . and appearing in the newspaper as well, you’ll notice that the title doesn’t appear there either.  They won’t print it.

Neither will other pubs, and radio stations, tv stations, etc.

Makes it awfully hard to market the play, don’t you think?

What’s funny about this instance, is that when you see or read the play, it’s not about the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the title.  There’s a whole other  angle to the title that makes the play the unique play that it is.

And if you search NY Times, you’ll find mention of the “other C word” in a lot of other different scenarios.

So here’s my question.  What do you think about publications or tv stations and the like refusing to print (in editorial and advertising) a title of a play because they deem it “vulgar?”  Appropriate?  Censorship?  Is it ok for them to reject an ad but not ok for editorial?  How would you handle it?

Comment below and I’ll pick a winner and you’ll get to go see . . . well . . . click here to see the title in all its glory.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Fran says:

    Actually, not being able to mention the title leads to great marketing!I think it would garner all kinds of interest because of it. Hell, I read worse words in 50 Shades Of Grey. I mean, I know I would buy a ticket out of curiousity! Think about it, people will see that the title is being banned, or that it is risque and want to go. Then, once they have seen it, will go out and tell their friend,”Oh you must see this play with the racy title. No, its not what you think! But you really have to see it!”
    I say leave it alone. Its getting all the attention it needs because of one little word.

  • Rafi Levavy says:

    It’s kind of a tricky subject, but I think that there’s a gray area. For example last year, when The Motherf**ker with the Hat was referred to as The Mother with the Hat it didn’t really much sense, and it makes less sense to me to have an ad for a show without its title. But putting an asterisk or two in the title can (it seems to me) be a happy middle ground – it makes it clear what the word is without saying the word.

  • peg caruso says:

    It is just a word! People relax and get over it!

  • Becca P says:

    Not running the title can be a useful marketing strategy – bringing a level of ‘Wow, I wonder what that’s all about that they can’t even print the title!’ to the show. The key is to provide enough other pertinent and enticing information in the campaign – website URL, review quotes, etc. The people need to know they are looking at an ad for a show. But there is intrigue in a bit of mystery.

  • Nicholous Bailey says:

    I would suggest that they advertise it as the ‘Male Chicken’ play… Okay, maybe not. What about C**k a la The Motherf**ker with the Hat?

  • Doug m says:

    Mystery and intreigue sells! They’d be fools not to take advantage of the pull that it offers. I have no idea what the play is about and now I’m hooked. Brilliant!

  • Morgan M says:

    I got a discount code in my email for this show and it said the title. I didn’t even realize that printing it was an issue. But I must admit, when I emailed my friend to see if she wanted to see it with me I put “Cock” as the subject but then decided against it because I thought maybe she would think it was spam. So there is that element of it that exists. But I think its a bold title and I don’t think the NYT should shy away from printing it. It is just a word, and not a very vulgar one at that. Its not as if its the C word referring to the other gender’s genitals, which is truly a vulgar word. But just a side note, I do always appreciate it when a playwright is bold enough to use that word in a play. It says a lot about a character that they use it freely. And the same goes for the title of this one in my personal opinion.

  • Kristopher Weaver says:

    I guess they figure, “an ad is on somebody else’s name; an article is on ours.”

    Only thing is, they weren’t forced to write an article, right? So if they decide to publish an article about a play, then yes, I believe they SHOULD publish the title unless otherwise agreed upon with the author or the production team.

    Because if you can’t say the word you don’t want to talk about, how will we know not to use it? 😉

  • Karent says:

    I don’t know why they won’t publish or print cock it means many different things. Like “dick”
    could be a man’s name or a rude person or a male body part.
    Cock doesn’t have to mean penis.
    I think MF with the hat had a problem because f**k was in the title and that can get media fined by the FCC

  • Randi says:

    I think if it is in a title, it should be said and marketed with the full title!

  • Danielle V says:

    Ha, how funny! I actually think not running the title is pretty clever, at least on the visual ad. It definitely is thought-provoking, to be staring at that rooster and wondering what this play could possibly be about.
    I do think that referring to the play as anything but its real name is pretty silly though – when it’s written or spoken, it should be the actual title!

  • Jackie says:

    I think we’re plagued by a world of prudish standards and e-mail spam. It’s just a word, and refusing to say the name of a play because, in another context, it might offend someone or be taken the wrong way, seems ridiculous to me.

    I do agree with those above, though, who mentioned that it comes off as a great marketing strategy!

  • liz wollman says:

    I think censoring words is all a bunch of fucking bullshit.

  • Rosie says:

    Refusing to print any title is a lot of “COCK-A-MAMIE” hypocritical, prudish idiocy.

  • Nancy C. says:

    Perhaps a little re-think is in order here–too ridiculous to refuse to print a title that, in this case, could have multiple meanings.

  • Stephanie says:

    I am from the University of South Carolina, which is the fighting Gamecocks, or Cocks, so I really love this play title and can’t wait to see it! I think that advertising should use the title. As someone who works in marketing, the worse thing you can do it have confusion about a show because of the title. I think it should be used in advertising as it is. If the playwright didn’t want that title they wouldn’t have given it that!

  • Jerry Katell says:

    Let’s I agree it is unwarranted censorship. What would all the people who agree with that say if it were the real C word?

  • Jerry Katell says:

    Let’s say I agree it is unwarranted censorship. What would all the people who agree with that say if it were the real C word?

  • EllenFD says:

    This is 2012, not 1912. The title should be out there in ads, editorials, whatever.

    Of course, insertion of a few well-placed asterisks between the C and the K and a phrase such as, “It’s not what you think. We invite you to see your yourself” and the buzz it could create wouldn’t hurt.

  • MattChow says:

    It seems suspect that no one will print the title “Cock”. Because, as you mentioned, there are several meanings for the word. And the poster art is a rooster for God’s sake, so as far as anyone’s concerned the play is about poultry. There’s a movie called “Dick” and “Snatch” so why not “Cock”? My guess is it’s a marketing strategy to add interest to the show.

  • David says:

    Tt’s cock-eyed. A rose by anyother name……

  • Margie says:

    If it is the C word I am thinking of (and how can it NOT be with the rooster in the title?), then you are mistaken — they don’t use the C word in ads but nor do they allow it in editorial except in offbeat, non mainline publications.

  • Katie O'B says:

    I find this really funny. Someone said above and I agree– this is 2012, not 1912. If we can have the shit that’s on tv and in movies *on* tv and in movies, then we can call ‘Cock’ by it’s actual name. Especially since according to its website, ‘cock’ is referring to the rooster (and how they fight, cock fights, by its tagline “a good relationship is worth a good fight”, and not what the media is really assuming. We’re not as innocent and immature as they think we are. It’s kind of insulting to us as well as just plain silly to not call it by its name.

  • Julia F says:

    The Times has what may appear to be an inconsistent track record when it comes to the word in question. In avoiding its use in the article and ads, they are rejecting not the word itself but its use as profanity. Without context, it’s completely unclear which meaning of the word is in play; so it won’t appear in a standalone headline, but they do include the full show URL of Note that there is no issue with using the word penis in the Times when referring to anatomy in context, nor in running the full title of the play ‘Just Sex’ a month ago. Articles about cock fighting abound with the word used to mean rooster without anyone blinking. As recently as 2007, they ran a review of the Cock’s Bar in Trinidad (a BBQ joint in a locale where the word may not carry sexual connotation)- but wouldn’t use the word in a 2005 review of the Cock, a gay bar in the East Village, which, one presumes, intends to invoke the double entendre. And in 1932, the full title of ‘Cock of the Air’ proved no problem, since the movie was clearly not about disembodied flying phalli.

    So, along with context, intent is important. The playwright admits that he chose the title to raise the controversy, to be edgy, to have that level of ambiguity and mystery about what exactly one would find onstage. While the title can refer to the combativeness and environment of the characters, he does also intend for it to refer to a character’s sexual interactions. This intent that at least one meaning of the title be profane makes it acceptable for the Times to decline to use the word.

  • Jackie Dee says:

    I think we are currently participating in the marketing campaign. The poster poses the talking point for us, “and it’s called…”. The question of censorship is an old one. I’m interested to know how provocative the average metropolitan actually finds these titles. For me, a show called “C-ck” illicits a chuckle and a re-tweet.

  • Jim says:

    Clearly a marketer’s dream, and if the play lives up to the initial hype that we’re reading about the stories about the title and the stories about the play, then it’s a real winner for the production. Hopefully the play is as terrific as the campaign. It’s really clever.

    Really, as many have said already, cock is a pretty inoffensive word given its multiple definitions and regular use throughout the English-speaking world. I can’t imagine why the NYT or any other media source thought it controversial enough to ban. It’s clearly not in the same offensiveness league as Motherf****r from last season. That was a play that more than matched its title…I hope this does as well.

  • Jason says:

    Obviously it all depends on the situation. Personally, I don’t see why so many are refusing to print the title of this play. It’s another name for a rooster, and they even show a rooster in the poster so it looks like it could just be a play about chickens 😉

  • John P. says:

    What do I think? Ask Howard Stern: “BLANK a doodle-do.”

  • Lindsay B says:

    Yes, we like to think censorship is wrong because it is really us, the people, who are empowering a word to be considered wrong. Yet, we need censorship for certain words because otherwise people who are afraid of those words will flip and condemn the uncensored word. It’s a horrible Catch-22. So we need to censor, or risk alienating audiences. Besides there is also the group who will see the bleeped material and want to see it all the more because they think it risque; even when it actually is not.

  • Doug Braverman says:

    I was surprised that this is even an issue, because – as others have mentioned above – we went through this last year with THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT. Besides, as you pointed out, the word “COCK” has many other meanings in addition to the sexual one. When the famous Sean O’Casey play was revived on Broadway a few years back, no one thought to call it C**K A DOODLE DANDY. Personally, I see no reason why the play can’t be called by its full name.

  • Tom G says:

    If they showed the pic of a rooster but called the play Pullet ( a female hen and yes a little tongue in cheek ), would that have also been blocked out by the Times? With Regional theatres and podunk towns still having problems with the content of RENT, HAIR and AVENUE Q, I think the playwright must know he is limiting the audience right from the start with that title.

  • Yes, having the word cock in an email’s subject line is obviously a potential problem, but it’s surprising that the word would create such a hubbub in media/reviews today. It’s clear, with this page of dialogue alone, that a little scandal goes a long way. The bottom line: if a controversial title draws attention to important/well-crafted work, then carry on!

  • WC says:

    I wish we could all get over swear words. That bullying documentary got an R rating over a few F-words, but insanely violent movies get a PG-13. That’s ass-backwards. On the other hand, it’s good publicity. But they also run the risk of people talking more about the title than about the actual play.

  • Jean Givan says:

    I think it’s a bunch of unnecessary hoop-la. That particular title is definitely going to pique the interest of would-be theater-goers. Good marketing ploy. People are going to talk about it. Just looking @ some of the subtle reactions from the actors as they spoke about it gives credence to the underlying subtext merely associated with saying the title. It’s like being allowed to say a bad word, then internally some think of their association with the word. One character blushed, laughed and hand to contain himself. Funny. It’s a conversation-starter. Could be a pick-up line. Again, much ado about nothing.

    Yes, some will find it over-the-top, offensive and the like but so what? The play’s doing well. Seems like it will continue to do well. And people will talk about it, no so much (after a while) because of the name but as the first man stated in the interview, it’s a good play.

  • Jeff says:

    I think it’s ridiculous. A lot of the time titling these plays the way they do, playwrights are challenging our perceptions of these words and the power we give language in general. By reacting with censorship, we’re continuing to give this power to language. Maybe that’s the playwright’s intent, and it can certainly have the effect of generating even more publicity, but I think it’s silly.

  • alex De Witt says:

    Based on the number of comments a lot of people want to see this play!

  • Alan B. says:

    Frankly, I don’t give a DAMN Scarlet!

  • J says:

    Since a “Cock” is just another name for a Male Chicken, there really isn’t a problem – and if your offended, then you have no one to blame but your own dirty mind.

    Also, I’m against censorship.

  • Ginger says:

    I think the key point is that many, perhaps most, media aren’t refusing to print the title because they deem it “vulgar,” but because they are afraid that someone else will deem it vulgar and then attack them with complaints, fines, lawsuits, and so on. Or they are concerned that if they do *not* preemptively censor the title that the item itself will be blocked or suppressed by some unknown authority – Ken admits as much as this very blog post. The mistake is thinking that censorship is imposed from without; the real danger is the fear of reprisal which leads to self-censoring to a more severe extent than could ever have been imposed from on high. It effectively stops conversation before it can start – or you end up talking about the title, the meaning of the title, why won’t people print the title, why use THAT title anyway, instead of whatever the play itself is trying to say.

  • John P says:

    Depending on the word used… since Cock is used as a slang term for a penis, then would they sensor shaft, member, tool, package, unit, prick, salami, sausage, rod, bananna, pole, chub, dong, club, staff, joystick…. should I go on?
    So cock is really a bird…. the rooster so to sensor it is just silly. Its all about attention and marketing. I can see sensoring the word F**K since that is just slang… but COCK? cmon… What about Pussy as in cat… where do we draw the line…
    anyhow… i wanna see this play because of all the attention..

  • Nick V says:

    I find it a bit funny that these old school media sources are getting all up in arms about not printing the title. The debate of censoring art has been going on long before this COCK and bull story. How do newspapers and radio stations wish to stay relevant in these changing times if they won’t print anything edgy. I’m sorry but I could find a lot worse with a quick Google search! Then again, they say the PEN IS mightier than the sword. It’s also odd that there wasn’t a problem with The VAGINA Monologues. I’m not one for double standards, but that’s kind of a DICK move if you ask me.

  • Art says:

    I saw this play last week. It’s amazing! Who cares about some people’s false prudery then?

  • Roniel says:

    I think the whole issue points to the fear and assumption that sexuality is only used for a particular purpose in entertainment. People assume that sexually themed plays and films will be inappropriate, crass, harmful, and of no benefit except to the pleasure seeking parts of our brains. I remember watching Kinsey and thinking how refreshing it was to watch a movie tackle the concept of sexuality in such an educational and engaging way that forced audiences into a serious dialogue about the subject. Unfortunately, the more and more our modes of entertainment play up sexuality in a way that fits people’s expectations the longer it will before C*ck can become Cock.

  • Polly says:

    What utter poppycock! Cock is a word. A perfectly good word and it is in NO way the same as using the real c word. (Although, I probably would not have an issue with someone wanting to call a play C*nt). Language is beautiful and wonderful and Mike Bartlett is a genius playwright and deserves to have this clever title in print and shouted from the rooftops! There is something wrong with our society if we have to bleep the f word on a movie on T.V. at 2a.m. but we can show a commercial for erectile dysfunction at 6p.m. I know which I would rather have to explain to children.
    Cock has many meanings (more in the U.K. than here in the U.S.) and it has been chosen as the title for a reason. Let Cock stand proud!

  • Ryan McCurdy says:

    Until I’m paying for the production of a news conglomerate and/or media empire, I have to respectfully stay frustrated at any individual choice of censorship.

  • Lynn A. says:

    I don’t quite understand either. I think its not vulgar and has a picture of a cock/rooster. It never occurred to me that it anyone was considering it that. SO sill really.
    I was wondering what they went through for Vagina Monologues. were people afraid of that? So odd to me.
    and as someone else commented there was Mother F*cker with a Hat.

    I was just wondering if they did it all for press. People will talk about it, and this will provoke people to want to go see it. So perhaps its just great marketing and there really is no issue!!

  • Michael Reed says:

    I think it has to be censored from certain places/publications where children are going to see it. In the end the censorship probably drums up more publicity and might even get you more tickets sales. So, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal for these shows.

  • Jared W says:

    I think it is appropriate in advertising, which can be placed almost anywhere, because some people don’t want to be exposed to that kind of language and they have the right. Those sorts of words probably shouldn’t be plastered where children or other innocents can stumble upon them and start asking questions. But I think that in a printed review of the piece, the full title should be used uncensored. The people who are interested in the play need to be able to handle seeing its title, and hopefully the author chose such a provacative title for more than just shock value.

  • kim armenti says:

    Love the name…for many reasons. Too many people get offended too easily in today’s world for many reasons-let Cock stand tall-I heard it’s amazing!

  • gj says:

    What do you think about publications or tv stations and the like refusing to print a title of a play because they deem it “vulgar?”

    Censorship. Although cock has a slang meaning, it has been in common usage for centuries by farmers for their roosters, and many of these people are in the Moral Majority. If someone has a dirty mind, that’s their problem. As for parents, this is a teachable moment, get out the old encyclopedia.

    Is it ok for them to reject an ad but not ok for editorial? Easiest fix is the old asterisk: C*ck, end of story.

  • Joe says:

    Well without a cock in the barn there are no eggs

    And without tickets there is no audience

    so I guess cock and tickets are the same

  • Andy says:

    It was very confusing how the Times did for the recent production on Broadway “____ on the Hat”. I think at least first 2 letters need to be printed so that people can look up online. So this case would be… “Co**”? But, “Motherfucker…” would be harder, “Motherf*****”, then? How about Suzan-Lori’s “Fu***** A”? Would it attract to audience? But I always great appreciation to the playwrights who took risk of being-not-printed.

  • Jazmyn says:

    I read this play over the summer and absolutely loved it! I would love the chance to see it live (especially given the interesting fact that Mike Bartlett specifically wrote that his vision did not include furniture, props, etc… So I wonder if James MacDonald chose to honor that, or handled it differently…) I suppose Bartlett wanted the primary focus to be on the drama of the dialogue and the tension between the characters. (I loved the writing so much that I used a monologue from the end of the play to audition for several grad programs this past winter.) I must see this! 🙂

  • Helene says:

    It used to be another name for Rooster………Reminds me of what George Carlin used to say – “You are allowed to say “I pricked my finger” but not “I fingered my prick.”

  • Trey K. Blackburn says:

    This is a great marketing opportunity for the production! Now, I know the name of the play, and have for awhile. And I thoroughly enjoy seeing the images of roosters promoting this play with the C and the asterisk.

    As far as current publications, etc rejecting the name, I get it: the Other C-Word is probably one of the more “vulgar” euphemisms for that particular anatomy, and parents are squeamish having to explain things to their children (not that many young children will be reading the Times A&E section, but radio and television, yes).

    If I were a member of the press that had to talk about this play, I believe that in some cases I’d censor. Let’s look at when I worked at a radio station in a small midwestern town: it was a very conservative radio station with programs I was offended by, but I was in high school and I worked in radio (awesome) and in that station, I never would have said the name on the air. I would have found some other way to market the show if it came to my hometown or the surrounding area.

    It’s tricky, but I understand the hubbub.

  • ECP says:

    More C*ck and Bull. People should be more alarmed, offended, and outraged by the frequent use of the word “homeless.” Would love to strut my stuff at a performance.

  • Tanya says:

    I don’t like censorship but I do like good buzz. Just knowing that the very show title is getting the much “controversial” news play makes me what to see it. Yeah, we can get our panties in a bunch about this word and that but with SO many shows to see on this small island I am gonna pay attention to the one’s that get around this issue. I’ll see that play about Cock.

  • Josh says:

    Publications refusing to print a title like COCK only builds up an audience’s interest. It’s suddenly become “naughty” somehow, and that surely catches people’s attention. Seeing COCK is now the adult theater-goer equivalent of reading a banned book.

  • Murphy says:

    I’m thinking, since it was written by a Brit, that the title was meant to make people have that little grin when they say it. You know when you are a kid you look for a reason to talk about a rooster so you can say the word; or want to be friends with Richard so you can call him by his shorter name. It was a way of saying a dirty word but not having to eat a bar of soap.

    I would imagine in England they would print the title. It’s just not that big of a deal. (Do they still call a cigarette a Fag?) In the US there are so many rules, regulations, lawsuits, political correctness, and special interest groups that publications and the like have to censor themselves to a degree to avoid the “possible” backlash.

    I do agree that the attention given to NOT saying the word will only help to generate interest in it which could be used to their advantage. Clever marketers will capitalize on that.. such as the image here of the rooster made out of the text.

    I wonder if they could use the tagline: “___ a doodle doo” ?

    If successful, I look forward to future shows:
    “PU**Y” or Here kitty kitty…
    “D*ck” or Have you met Richard?

  • Dorothy Sanders says:

    I’m a dramaturg in Fort Worth looking for some info. Who has the rights to this show in the US. Talked to the manager at Barrow Street and he didn’t know – other than it’s a Royal Court show. When I noticed that your theatrical group was listed on the Barrow Street website, I sent a message to your “info” address. No answer. I find that’s a problem at with many theatre
    “info” email addresses. Nobody looks at them. I’m still looking and asking. We dramaturgs live to serve!

  • Erin OBrien says:

    The NY Times can be so conservative with stuff like this. I wonder if playwright’s consider this when naming their plays.

  • J says:

    To the Private Business point… Sure they have the RIGHT to censorship, it doesn’t mean that they SHOULD. Let’s all be grown ups and remember that Cock isn’t really a dirty work.

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