Working With A Clean Slate

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I have been working with my comedy coach for several years now, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t still be doing comedy.  Instead, I would have burned my bridges badly, alienating and infuriating local comics.  The lessons I have been taught are from a guy who has achieved more than any local comic, in fact we should all hope to have the type of success he has.  So when he preaches something in his classes, it tends to stick because he has the track record to back up his shit.

The lessons he teaches me tend to stay with me.  I don’t actively preach these to the other local comics.  I try to lead by example, which rarely works because nobody wants to be associated with a comedy teacher.

One of the most important lessons I was taught early on, but didn’t really take hold until recently is that of being a clean performer.  Every comic should have a clean set in their back pocket because it opens up many more revenue streams than performing dirty, being offensive or crude.  Especially in the times we live in now, you would think comics would try to be more clean.

Trying to tell a comic to perform clean to be on your show is offensive to them.  They don’t like to be told what to do, when the reality is the booker of the show will have restrictions or parameters on what you can and cannot say.  Writing clean material takes a work ethic that lots don’t have, because it’s low hanging fruit.  Dirty material is the easiest to get laughs from that requires the least amount of effort to write.  A comic that refuses to have at least one clean set in their repertoire tells me they don’t want to work that hard to get better.

Some comics are now beginning to realize that developing clean material opens up many more doors for a person to make money in comedy.  Think about it for a second.  How many vulgar, offensive and dirty acts get on Just For Laughs, one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world?

Being clean takes a work ethic because you have to make the material relatable, and for most it’s difficult to do.  It’s easy to make jokes about sex, drugs and sexual stereotypes because most everyone can relate to them.  Now, this doesn’t make it funny just because it’s relatable.  But clean material may not resonate with the audience in the same way going after the low hanging fruit can.

That’s where the work ethic comes into play, and knowing audience psychology, in addition to knowing how to structure your jokes to manipulate the audience into laughing.  Once you learn how to structure the jokes, along with the laugh triggers and different comedy structures, then you can write on just about anything.  You don’t necessarily need to have clean material relate to the entire audience.  You just need to know about joke structure and audience psychology to make the entire audience relate to your material.  It’s possible.

I am not that respected in the comedy community.  I get that sense because when I had the online open mic, it was a requirement to be clean.  Lots of people bitched and moaned, as a result the next show was poorly attended.  Now that other comics have started clean rooms they are getting the recognition for showing the rest of the comics the way, that clean is better.

It isn’t a knock against the people running clean rooms now.  I’m glad to see comics taking a principled stance and asking their performers to work clean.  While my material may not have been off the charts hilarious, it was clean.  I was doing the right thing for myself at the time, which nobody seemed too interested to follow.

That’s the way it has been for most of my comedy career thus far, on an island of one.  That’s okay though, because I have surrounded myself with mentors in the industry who are clean and well respected.  I’m doing the right thing for myself, and with the new stuff I am creating, it could be the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for.

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