Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, other comedians find that 'clean' works for them

By Erica Palmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 8 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

"If you're cursing … it can get in the way. If you're talking about the small stuff … you can't really be that hyperbolic about it. I can't be that angry about a box of doughnuts."

Gaffigan's second book, "Food: A Love Story," will be released this month. His first book, "Dad is Fat," was on the New York Times best-seller list for 17 weeks in 2013, according to Comedy Central. He is currently on tour nationwide and has three shows scheduled in Utah on Oct. 4-5.

Jones, who recently released her debut comedy special, "#SorryNotSorry," on DVD, keeps her act clean because of religious convictions.

"I'm a Mormon," Jones said in a Deseret News interview. "I've chosen to live my life a certain way. I've made commitments to myself and to God. That's such a big role in my whole life. For me, it feels really cool and it makes me feel really confident that I can make people laugh, too. I don't have to be dirty. I can live what I believe every day, and I don't have to put that aside."

The Utah-born Jones went to school at New York University and worked at Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." She was in charge of time coding language so the editors could bleep it out on TV, which earned her the nickname "swearing police." Her story is detailed in an "I'm a Mormon" profile video.

Jones, who recently got married and moved to Los Angeles, where she does stand-up, writes blogs and makes podcasts, said being a clean comedian isn't just a decision she made one day, but rather is a reflection of her lifestyle and something on which she'll never compromise.

Cho and Allen are practicing Christians, but they decided to work clean because it just made sense.

Cho has appeared on NBC's "The Tonight Show" and CBS' "The Late, Late Show," and he has a one-hour Comedy Central special. Allen has appeared in specials on Comedy Central, Showtime and VH1 and is a regular magazine columnist. Both comedians are currently on tours focused in the South, and they said that a good part of their careers is centered on church, corporate and government events. They both said that most of the events they do wouldn't consider hiring a questionable comedian.

Cho, a Korean-American from Tennessee, focused on the business aspect of being clean. He considers himself a "comedian who's a Christian" rather than a "Christian comedian." He has taken the clean route since working with Seinfeld early in his career.

"His attitude was, why work on a (dirty) joke that you can't do on TV? Why put in the effort?" Cho said in an interview with the Deseret News. "Even if I wasn't going to be a clean comedian personally, businesswise it's still a good decision. … I've developed a brand, and the Henry Cho brand is clean comedy. I'm 100 percent clean, and everybody knows that."

Allen, who grew up as an atheist, began his stand-up career performing in casinos and nightclubs. At the same time, he said, he was an alcoholic. He said his comedy was "angry" and he was often run out of clubs for his social commentary. Although his content wasn't filthy, his acts were rife with swearing.

Removing the swearing from his acts opened doors.

"I just took the language out and realized, I'm not a dirty act," he said. "I was just angry. It's night and day (businesswise). If you're looking at it from terms of success, (now) I can work anywhere."

Allen was later introduced to God by a fellow comic who gave him a Bible. Although he didn’t go clean for religious reasons, he said, his Christian faith has softened his heart and made him less angry, which has changed his comedy completely.

Sinbad, who emerged in the 1980s and has appeared in TV and films such as "Necessary Roughness," doesn't shy away from grittier topics such as racial tension, socioeconomics and sexuality. However, he's labeled by Comedy Central as "clean" because early on in his career, he did away with cursing.

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