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ABBAMAIL Columnist: Ryan Cameron

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Do ABBA Fans secretely love those sharp-tongued bitches?

ABBA fans know that Benny Andersson is not exactly the most tactful member of ABBA when it comes to asking him his opinion. The latest uproar caused by Benny's response to the non-appearance of any member of ABBA at the gala in honor of the 50th anniversary of Eurovision is one of many examples of Benny's sharp tongue. The 50th anniversary gala celebration of Eurovision also included a contest to determine the best Eurovision winning song in its 50 years and ABBA's "Waterloo" was selected as the favourite song ever from Eurovision. But no one from ABBA showed up to collect the prize and when asked about it, Benny's response was that he felt the event was just a joke and that he had no desire to be there. While this outraged the European public, ABBA fans know it's just one of many tactless comments from Benny.

Probably the most celebrated tactless comment from Benny comes from one of the documentaries where Benny is asked if he can explain the gay following that ABBA has and his response is a question about whether or not the members of ABBA looked like transvestites or something. Most fans took to fits of giggles because he happened to say it while seated in front of a rainbow colored set of curtains. But what it is about these kind of spur of the moment tactless comments? They're hardly all that shocking, in fact they've been the basis for some of the more celebrated characters on television.

Bea Arthur's has become an icon on the basis of two sharp tongued characters she's played over the years. First there was Maude and probably the real treat has been her role as Dorothy Zbornak on the series, Golden Girls. Whether it was a threat of God going to get Walter for something or brilliantly executed one liner barbs to challenge the dimwitted questions spouted by Rose Nylund, people regularly tuned in to see what would set Bea Arthur off week in and week out for over fourteen years between the respective shows.

Another sharp tongued character that has thrived on television is Vicki Lawrence's portrayal of Thelma "Mama" Harper on both the Carol Burnett Show and as a later spin off of Mama's Family. Vicki is even finding success taking her "two woman" show out on the road where she performs as both herself and as Mama Harper. The appeal here is less the redneck sensibilities of her southern upbringing but the ability to turn from a mild mannered old lady to an exploding volcano within seconds illustrating that words can be sharper than weapon.

While generally these verbal sharp shooters are often women, there are some men who've been able to fill the role as the smartass, such as Gavin MacLeod in the role of Murray Slaughter in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Here Murray was often able to use his wittiness to great comedic effect against Ted Knight's character of Ted Baxter. Even Lou Grant played by Ed Asner was also able to shine but the razor sharp barbs always emanated from Murray.

While Benny Andersson doesn't usually have a comedic dimwit sidekick to drive many of his sharp barbs, he certainly needs no help being the ABBA member most likely to shove his foot down his throat for saying something completely inappropriate at an inappropriate time. And even some of his fans are quite the same when it comes to verbal sparing skills, especially those that call Australia home. It's a fine art and whether or not that's what keeps us still interested in ABBA long after the music has stopped, it's a component of what keeps ABBA afloat here in the 2000s.

Ryan