Comedy is an art, but it is also a business, if you are not willing to clean up your act then you may not be able to maximize the amount of shows you can get. Now, this is not an article telling you to stop cursing. I like to curse. What I am going to talk about is why having multiple versions of your material, or completely different sets, can help you in the long run.
What I have noticed a lot with newer comics, is that when they start out, they are really heavy handed on the cursing, or trying to gross out the crowd. I know I was! For a lot of people, it is a crutch to help them get over nervous situations, and there are not many things more nerve inducing than getting on stage in front of a bunch of people. After awhile however, you have to be able to see where you material is going and then see if you can cut out language that may irritate the audience. In a perfect word, people would not let words or subject matter get to them, but we are not living in a perfect word, and material of a sensitive nature can turn a show or not get you booked.
Most of you reading this are at a level where you are not a known act, so that means you are at the behest of bookers and promoters. A bookers’ main job is to get comedians on the stage, and they would rather ensure that there is no controversy when they book these shows. This is their business and they want to make sure everyone enjoys themselves and keep coming back. If you send a booker a promo video with you talking about really sensitive subjects or cursing up a storm, then it doesn’t matter if you are funny. If they think you are going to turn people off to returning to comedy, then you may not get the gig. You have to remember that a lot of audience members are not comedy heads, they are not looking at it as a raw art form. They are looking at it as a night out and there are people that don’t want cursing and some subject matter to be a part of that.
Cleaner material can also mean gigs that pay more. Corporate shows are a great place to make a lot of money in a short amount of time, and they are not going to hire the person that will get up there and filth it up. Most companies are all about a clean image and they will even want to show that in the entertainment that they get. Like the paragraph above, the people present may not be comedy fans, just people who came to this conference and are winding down by listening to some yuk yuks. The same goes for cruise ships. I have several friends that do a lot of work on them and they report having to ensure that they have material that is clean because of the people they will be performing for.
That is not to say that you will not be able to make a nickel if you don’t stop saying fuck. This is not what this article is about. It is about understanding that there are a lot of opportunities for people that are willing to shape their material for the moment they are in. Now, there are many ways of doing this. I try to write material that doesn’t rely on cursing to make it funny. I have also rewritten a lot of material that at one point was really dirty and now…not so much. That way if I want to let lose at a show then that means I can still use the same joke just not with the f-bombs.
I hope this helps you when you are sitting down writing. It is not to scare you away from writing about your experiences or how you see the world. If you have a joke that has to have f-words and vagina juice in it then go ahead, but you have to understand that that may be the reason why you are not getting certain bookings. At least until you are famous then do your whole special about vagina juice and fucking under bridges.
Artwork courtesy of: Arani