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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

He remembers performing at a club early in his career and everyone, including himself, was cursing like crazy. He described them all as "bad imitations of Richard Pryor."

But the next night his father, a Baptist reverend, came to watch his routine. Sinbad decided to do the same act, just without the swearing. He found that removing the harsh language allowed him to take some of his jokes even further. He now knows that objectionable material isn't a requirement for good entertainment.

"It's like the new TV shows … unless you show nudity and sex, the show's not real," he said. "But sometimes, the nudity gets in the way of the show. I like my vampire shows. Just give me some vampires."

Outside pressure

Regan, Allen and Cho agreed that although clean comedy isn’t the norm, they never feel tempted to make their comedy more "adult."

"I've always been clean, so it's a no-brainer for me now," Cho said. "If I was ever going to be dirty on stage, it would have been early in my career when I was in Podunk towns working 50 weeks a year and people were cussing me out."

"I don't put pressure on myself, and I don't allow myself to put pressure on the world around me," Regan said. "I've always felt that any performer, and a comedian is included in that, should be pumping out what they like and not what the people like. It's too hard for me to sit back and try to figure out what everybody in the world is looking for. I don't have that big of a brain."

Jones said she has previously been tempted to throw in an edgy joke or swear word if her act isn't going well. But now the only temptation comes from job offers for projects that don't fit in with her values.

"If I can sleep at night and feel good about what I'm doing, then that's way more important to me than making a million dollars telling jokes that I'm not comfortable with," she said.

As a female, clean comedian who is also Mormon, she often jokes that she is like the "unicorn" of the comedy world because nobody believes she exists.

"It's funny how the perception is, if you're too nice you can't be funny," she said. "You have to overcome that obstacle and just prove it to people all the time. That's the real challenge, is proving to people that you can be clean, and be funny, and be a Mormon, and be a girl."

Everyday humor

Gaffigan and Jones like to talk about food. Cho jokes about his unique perspective as an Asian Southerner. Allen pokes fun at parenting and marriage. And Regan talks about everything from airplane rides to food labels to his visits to the doctor.

Regan enjoys how "incredibly mundane" his subject matter purposefully is. He once read a preview of his show that described him as the comedian who talks about "food, travel and doctors."

"I remember thinking, 'Wow, I'm putting myself to sleep reading this,’ ” he said with a laugh. "And I'm thinking, I don't know who is going to read this article and go, 'Honey, we have to check this guy out! He's exploring our favorite topics for comedy!’ ”

His acts contain many true stories. (Yes, he did have to drive himself to the emergency room once.)

Regan said finding comedy in everyday life is a lot like picking the basketball team in a high school gym class and having "that one kid" jumping up and down and shouting, "Pick me!"

"That's what I feel like my jokes are doing," he said. "I'm just walking in a mall and I'll see a funny thing and I feel like it's jumping up and down waving its hands going, 'Hey! I'm kind of funny! I could be in a comedy show!’ ”

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