This is a much more contentious topic then a lot of people realize because there is a pretty great divide between people who write “clean” comedy to people who write “dirty” comedy. There are misconceptions to both and there are best uses for both. I think we should look at all of that.
When someone says they are a “clean” comic (I will stop with the “”s now), what they mean can be different depending on who the audience is. Clean and working a show for a religious group is different from clean and working on TV. What a lot of people mean though when they say they write clean material or are a clean comic is that they write and perform comedy that doesn’t have curse words and does not go into topics like sex and drugs. A common misconception that a lot of people think about these types of comics is that they are not funny. I have worked with many comics that perform without cursing and stuff and they are some of the funniest people on the planet. Kermit Apio is a prime example of a comic that does clean material, and is one of the best comics touring the nation today (this is the first time I have put a comic’s name in my blog and I am nervous about it). Another misconception that is usually held with comics is that if you are a clean comic you will not be able to do well in a rowdy atmosphere. I think that is wrong. I think that if a crowd wants comedy, the subject matter should not be a concern, but rather how funny the joke is.
Dirty comics are the opposite. They will perform with curse words in their act and they will joke about sex and drugs and any other topic that may rub people the wrong way. The biggest misconception of the dirty comic is that people believe it is easier to write dirty than it is to write clean. This is a misconception due, in my view, to the fact that a lot of comics that start out will have a lot of cursing in their material. I think this has more to do with how people are in real life. Personally, I curse a lot more when I am nervous. I think it is a verbal crutch, like say ummm a lot. Writing funny jokes is hard no matter if you put a bunch of fucks in it or not. A lot of comics also think that if they curse and talk about subjects that are a little off putting (like abortion) that that can be a replacement for a punchline. That is not. There are shock comics out there and in my observations, a lot of them kind of sink or swim from performance to performance.
Which one is best? Both of them! If you want to be a successful comedian, you should be able to do more than just one thing. Now, if in real life you don’t curse and talk about banging and stuff then it would be a bad idea to start doing that in your act. What you want is the audience to see the real you so they build a better connection to you and make the comedy experience an even deeper one. If you write nothing, but dick jokes and that is you, then by all means go for it, but be warned that you will not be getting booked at the local bingo parlor. Now, I will admit that a clean comedy will get you in a lot more places. That is natural. You have to be aware that a lot of comedy shows are taking place in establishments that want to sell stuff to the people that walk in the door. They don’t want your dead baby jokes turning people off from buying another bud light. Personally, I write what comes to me, and I perform what is appropriate for that occasion. If they don’t care how dirty I get I can get there (which a lot of people still think isn’t that bad), and when I am needed to be clean I can be that. That is how you maximize the amount of shows you can get booked for. If you are wanting to be a paid comedian, then this is something you should be striving for more than some point. If you want to curse it up then do that. Just know what you are getting into. And if you want to be squeaky clean, just know that you may not get a great response everywhere. If you are in a rowdy bar that wants dick and pussy jokes and you are talking about road trips, they may turn on you. That is why my best advice is to write what comes to you and be prepared with having two sets. One that can be told when you have no restrictions and one that can be told when you have to curtail a lot of subjects and words.
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