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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

"What people don't realize about comedians is that they are extremely self-aware," Jones said. "And with that, it drives them a little batty. You notice all these things and you are thinking about them all the time, so you can see the funny in it.”

While many comedians rely on shock value for their jokes, Regan and Gaffigan both said they try to avoid that approach.

"Sometimes I think people who do participate in shock-value comedy or shock-value anything, sometimes the reaction they're getting is just, 'Oh my gosh, I don't believe he said that!’ ” Regan said. "And it's like, I don't want to get that kind of reaction. I want people to go, 'Oh, hey, that was funny. That was funny, and I'm going to laugh.’ ”

"My personality's not really constructed on cursing, and my material's not really constructed on shock," Gaffigan said. "… If you're on stage for an hour and 10 minutes and you have something that's really filthy that gets in the way that's shock-based, then how do you follow that?"

Allen, who has seen both sides of the comedy business, said that truly funny punch lines require a lot more than just shock.

"Bill Cosby said that the F-word is not a punch line," he said. "So if your punch lines are all dirty words, to me that's pretty sophomoric and lazy."

Family support

Family plays a big role in the lives of these comedians.

"How you are raised, what you see and everything around you, all of those influences leave a thumbprint on what you do with your career," Sinbad said. "My father was so prevalent in my life. … Being a preacher's kid, going to church, whatever that did, that also had a part."

Jones said although her parents thought she was crazy for wanting to be a comedian, they always supported her.

"My parents have always been extremely supportive and have always told me to do what I love and try to be good at it,” she said. “Even now, (my mom) gets more nervous than I do when she watches me perform. But they are very supportive, really happy for me."

Allen, a father of two, said he was at the park one day when a little boy from the neighborhood tapped him and said, "Mister, can I tell you something? The funniest man in the whole wide world lives over there." He was pointing to Allen’s house. The boy told Allen that he heard it from his friend who lived there.

Allen went home with a smile on his face and told his wife, "I caught my son being proud of me."

Regan, also a father of two, remembers a time when he was performing at Thanksgiving Point in Utah and noticed his son backstage laughing in the middle of his act.

"As happy as I was to make the thousands of people in the audience laugh, I'm even more amazed that this little boy thinks I'm funny," he said. "I'm proud to say that (my kids) are proud of me. And it just means the world to me."

He said that at the moment his first son was born, he decided that he would only work half the weekends out of the year, and "being a daddy" would be his No. 1 job.

New York resident Gaffigan calls himself an "unlikely father of five." He said it's a difficult task, and he often gets looks and questions when people see him out on the busy New York streets with five kids under the age of 10.

"But I obviously love it," he said. "I don't relish being exhausted and kind of overwhelmed, but the whole parenting thing is just amazing."

The joy of laughter

All of the comedians agreed they love making people laugh.

"Laughter is still the best medicine," Cho said. "When I come offstage and somebody goes, 'Wow, I really needed that; things haven't been going well in my life,’ that's still the coolest thing."

Allen said he once had a U.S. soldier come up to him after one of his shows and say that Allen’s comedy tapes helped him and his fellow soldiers lighten the mood during hard times when they were stationed in Iraq for the Gulf War.

“I think when people are laughing, they feel good,” Regan said. “And it feels good to make other people feel good. And you know, one thing I like about comedy is I can trust the reaction. You know, people can fake a lot of responses in this world, but it’s hard to fake a laugh.”

Contributing: Aaron Shill

Erica Palmer is a writer for the Mormon Times and Features department. Email: epalmer@deseretnews.com

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