I should say right up front that I’m not in any way, shape or form the target demographic for The Talk, CBS’s answer to The View. But I have watched the morning gabfest — which is hosted by a gaggle of semi-famous actresses and the network president’s wife — and I’ll probably watch it again. I do so solely because Sharon Osbourne is a co-host, and any time Sharon Osbourne is on live TV, there’s a chance somebody is going to get slapped, covered in a hot beverage, or called a whore.
This is a woman with a history of sending people Tiffany boxes filled with her own excrement. That’s not gossip, that’s stuff she wrote openly about in her memoir. And as long as we’re sharing her scatological career highlights, she’s also taken a crap on Elton John’s driveway, and urinated in British singer-songwriter Lynsey de Paul’s suitcase. And don’t get her started with the swears. She loves the f-word, and the s-word, and the b-word, and the other b-word that’s only offensive if you live in the U.K. and think “bloody” counts as curse-word. The Talk isn’t electrifying television, but it can be when Osbourne gets that strained look on her face, like she probably does whenever Ozzy bites another head off a bat before dinner and ruins his appetite, when you just know she’s on the verge of a classic cursing rampage, like she’s Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail and she’s just one more idiotic question away from screaming “I am the motherfucking Shore Patrol, motherfucker!”
I called Osbourne to talk about swearing, It was either that or the upcoming season of America’s Got Talent, where she’s a judge or something. At one point during our conversation, she was convinced she heard “two clicks” on the line, which she was convinced was proof that one or both of us had been bugged. “It’s the FBI listening to us!” she howled. “Because we’re talking about fannies and bollocks and titties and they’re a bunch of fucking perverts!” And that is why I love Sharon Osbourne.
Eric Spitznagel: Would you mind if we talked exclusively about curse words?
Sharon Osbourne: Well sure, honey. I fucking love curse words.
Somehow I knew you wouldn’t need a lot of convincing. My goal is to make this the most swear-filled interview in Vanity Fair’s history. Do you think we can fucking do that?
I don’t see why not.
I guess we should start with your favorite curse word. Do you have a favorite?
I love fuck. I know that’s not the most original choice, but I just adore the word. I could say it all day. Fuck, fuck, fuck. You can use it in so many different ways.
It really is the most versatile. You can use it as a noun, a verb, an adjective…
An adverb. It can go anywhere in a sentence. As language goes, it’s so malleable.
Fuck the fucking fucker.
That’s exactly it! Fuck the fucking fucker. Fuck him very much. [Laughs.] Brilliant!
And yet so much of the world still hates and fears the word fuck. Why can’t they love fuck the way you love fuck?
I think people are just accustomed to hearing it in the wrong context. They think of it as a hostile word. But you know what it is for me? It’s an expression. I use it to express an emotion, and it’s not always a negative emotion. In fact, most of the time when I say fuck, I’m not trying to be offensive at all.
You just got something on your fucking mind and you want to fucking share it?
That’s exactly what the fuck I’m saying. [Laughs.] I like you.
That means a fucking lot to me, Sharon. See, we’re doing it now, exactly what you were talking about. We’re using fuck in a friendly, non-hostile way.
It doesn’t have to be an insult, that’s all I’m saying. I think it’s awful when people use fuck only when they’re being angry. Because fuck is such a fun word. I also think it has a lot to do with the tone in your voice when you’re saying it.
So if you said something like, “I hope you get fucked by a near-sighted bull!”
That’s obviously mean-spirited. But if you take some of the edge off, and it’s not so clearly meant as an insult.
“I hope you get fucked by a near-sighted bull. And the two of you have a very happy and meaningful relationship.”
See? That’s nice! It feels like a compliment now. “Good luck to you and the bull.” It’s like when somebody says “Get out of my way, you fucking cunt!” It’s just so ugly and offensive. It demeans not just the person, but the language.
Cunt is a tough word to pull off in a friendly way. I don’t know how you use it so it doesn’t sound ugly and offensive. “Oh you crazy old cunt, I love you.”
You’re right, that word is tricky. I don’t like it in general. It’s a very unattractive word. And I hate saying that, because in most cases, words are only as ugly as the people who use them. But cunt, I don’t know, I just don’t like the way it sounds at all, and I’ll rarely use it. [Pause.] Unless somebody is really asking for it. [Laughs.]
Doing a live TV show like The Talk must be torture for you. Every morning before you walk out on stage, are you giving yourself mental reminders? “Don’t say fuck, don’t say fuck, please don’t say fuck.”
Oh yes, absolutely. I have to make a concerted effort to not say the words I’m constantly thinking. But at the same time, I like to be spontaneous. I don’t want to plan in advance what I’m going to say. So it’s a constant battle between my natural instincts to say the first thing that pops into my head and being well aware that I have to keep it clean for the audience.
CBS must take precautions, right? They’ve got to know you’re a loose canon. Your mouth is a tsunami of expletives waiting to happen.
Well, they have a very good bleeper person on the show.
What’s a bleeper person?
He’s the guy with his finger on the button. Whenever a curse word slips out of my mouth, he hits it and the curse magically disappears. He’s actually quite good at his job. But just knowing he’s there, the child in me wants to test him. If I’m particularly bored by something we’re talking about, I might throw in a couple of fucks, just to see if the bleeper guy is paying attention. I like to keep him on his toes.
That can be an expensive game, can’t it?
I guess so. I never thought about it.
You don’t know what the FCC fine is for saying fuck on live television?
I have no idea.
That’s surprising, given your history. Do you want to know?
Absolutely not! Why, do you know?
I have looked into it, yes. You don’t even want a hint?
No, no, no! Don’t tell me!
I’ll just say it’s got six figures.
Six figures? It’s that much? Is that for one fuck?
I think so. Actually, now that you mention it, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just a flat fee for a curse-filled tirade.
Well, for six figures, I’d certainly hope they weren’t counting fucks. That’d be very greedy.
It definitely adds up. If you’re on The Talk and you can’t stop yourself from saying something like, “Fuck that motherfucker in his cocksucking cunt,” it makes a big difference if you’re paying by the word or just the sentence.
You can’t worry about that. The financing of swearing takes all the fun out of it. I say if you’re going to do it, just do it. Really relish the moment. If I was going to swear on live TV, and I knew it was a situation where I’d be in jeopardy of paying a huge fine, I’d take my time with it. I wouldn’t just throw it away.
So you’d drag it out? “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you.” Like that?
Yeah, yeah. If you’re going to pay for it anyway, you might as well savor the moment.
And when the FCC bill comes in, just have Ozzy do a few benefit shows to pay it off.
[Laughs.] Oh sure. He’s done quite a few concerts to put money in my swear jar.
Y’know, that’d be a much cooler name for Ozzfest. Call it “Sharon’s Swear Jar.”
That’s great. It’s truth in advertising. I’ll mention it to him.
I think my favorite curse word is probably twat. But only if it’s said with a British accent.
See what I mean?
Yeah, it almost sounds classy.
But when I say it with an American accent… You twat.
You’re right, it doesn’t work. And that’s why I think it has very much to do with the tone in your voice. If you swear with less venom, it won’t be as offensive.
You think so? “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you’re being kind of a twat.”
Okay, never mind. [Laughs.]
Twat may be one of those words like cunt. It’s not going to win any popularity contests.
I was back in England around Christmas, and I did a morning show, and I used the word “Bloody.” And they got so upset with me. They were like, “You can’t use that word! It’s offensive!” It was an outrageous to them.
I don’t get it. Were you talking about menstrual cycles?
No, no, not at all. I was just using bloody as a regular adjective. You know, for emphasis. People are just so sensitive about words in such idiotic ways.
Do you have a favorite archaic curse word or phrase? Something that you’re not as likely to hear in everyday conversation?
Hmm. I don’t know. Give me an example.
Fucknuggets is a good one. Twatwaffle. Jism monkey. Captain Fuck Nuts.
I like the word bollocks.
O.K., this is probably my American ignorance, but when you say bollocks, what are you referring to exactly?
In England, it’s slang for testicles. We say bollocks as another word for balls.
That’s weird. I had no idea the Sex Pistols ‘album could be translated as Never Mind the Scrotums.
[Laughs.] Yes, you’re right, I suppose it could.
So it’s a word you might use when you’re talking literally about testicles? Instead of “I slammed my testicles in a desk drawer,” it’d be “I slammed my bollocks in a desk drawer?”
Yes. Or maybe something you’d say as a compliment, like “Honey, you’ve got a huge pair of bollocks.”
And that’s a sentence that comes up often in your everyday conversation?
Well… I don’t want to share too much.
Let’s talk about Ozzy.
[Laughs.] You’re making connections!
I am. You and Ozzy have been married for almost thirty years, making it one of the most improbably enduring marriages in rock music. What’s your secret?
We’ve always been in it for the long haul. I never wanted to be a divorced woman ever. I mean, what were my options? Even before I met Ozzy, there weren’t any other men out that that I liked at all. They were always very boring. So to find somebody that I actually loved and wanted to be with, well, why ruin a good thing? Ozzy is a very complex person, and very layered. People use that term a lot, but it’s true with him. He has so many different layers to him. I’m discovering something new about him every day.
Is that just your romantic way of saying he has a gigantic pair of bollocks?
It is, yes. [Laughs.]
You’ve admitted on The Talk that you and Ozzy have an active sex life. I’m sure I’ll regret asking this, but what’s that like? How do you keep it interesting? Is there role-playing? Does it get freaky?
Not anymore, no. We’re too old for that. We might have been a little more experimental in our youth, but these days it’s actually very normal and unremarkable. Neither of us have the energy for role-playing anymore.
What about foreplay? Ozzy has a reputation for biting things he shouldn’t be biting. Is he allowed anywhere near your lady nether-region?
He only bites my lower lip. It never gets as kinky as you think.
How often during lovemaking does he sing “Crazy Train?”
Only on the weekends.
Really? So you know it’s on when he kicks open the bedroom door and starts singing, “Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay?”
In our house, we call that foreplay. [Laughs.] Oh god, I hope people reading this know I’m not being serious.
Trust me, anybody who thinks the Osbournes are Satanist perverts assumed most of this already.
Yes, I suppose that’s true. Well, fuck ‘em, right? [Laughs.]
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com.)