Why Clean Comedy?

A few years ago, a comedian on the Ed Sullivan Show told a joke that I remember to this day.  He said that in looking for some lost article, his mother complained, “It’s always in the last place you look.”  The comic said, “Of course, it’s in the last place you look.  How many people do you know who would find something and then continue to look for it?”

Funny observation.  Funny gag.  Funny enough for me to recall it after all these years.  However, the reason I mention here, though, is because that story is really the basis for my preference for clean comedy.

When we had comedians perform at our Round Table Conventions, I always insisted that their material be “television clean.”  I became known as the “Prude of the Convention.”  However, my insistence on obscenity-free material had little to do with prudery.  It had plenty to do with helping people to grow in comedy.

Humorists have the chore of finding humor.  It’s uncovering the comedy that others don’t see until the comedy writer points it out for them.  Finding humor in unusual places or circumstances produces the creative, unique, inventive comedy that people appreciate.  It takes effort and creativity to search out that sort of humor.

When comedians or comedy writers discover that people will laugh at obscenities, they no longer have to search out the unusual.  People laugh at the shock value of the obscenities.  It’s like the person in the opening story – once you find what you’re looking for, why look in other places?  Aspiring comics and writers abandon the search for clever, witty, unique comedy once they find people will laugh at the language they use.

Once you stop looking for the brilliant humor, you settle for the “easy” comedy.  This can stunt your growth in the comedy profession.  Keep searching for the clever.


Learn the basics of joke writing with Gene Perret in this 12-week email course offered through ROUND TABLE. Whether you are just beginning or need a refresher course, this program is for you. http://bit.ly/2kllh8h www.comedywritersroom.com.

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