You Have to Fucking Work Clean


This past weekend, I had an opportunity to perform at the Sun Ray Casino in Farmington, New Mexico and at The Bridges Gold Club, sponsored by the Canyon Creek Bed & Breakfast in Montrose, Colorado, and I had a blast. I was performing with another fellow comedian from my hometown who works almost as clean as I do , and guess what? The show did not suffer one bit because of it.

Many people starting out in stand-up feel that they have to be edgy or dark to be funny. “That’s just who I am as a comic.” Blah, blah, blah. It is career suicide to think like that. “But you’ve got comedians like Doug Stanhope and Bill Hicks who made a living off of that stuff!” Yeah, well, you’re not Doug Stanhope or Bill Hicks. You’re an open mic’er, who has yet to make a name for themselves. Even the great Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope had to work clean at one point in their careers.

In an interview with Scott King, Doug Stanhope had this to say:

When you were an MC did you ever have to adjust your material or style for a headliner? I can’t picture Doug Stanhope doing that.

I don’t remember a lot of it. I just wouldn’t get booked. If that was going to be the situation, I already had an act that they just wouldn’t have booked me. If I was featuring, I was featuring with someone else dirty. They’d go, “Oh, we can’t work you with any clean guys.” So there’s not a lot of times I remember headliners giving me shit, but I’m sure there were occasions where they said, “Don’t say fuck,” and I’d have to pull different jokes out. I don’t know anyone that’s played by their own rules one hundred percent for their entire careers. I get lots of emails from comics saying, “Dude, take me on the road, nobody will book me cuz I’m too dirty,” and ninety-nine percent of the time… “Click on my link man. Look at my Youtube stuff.” And they’re saying you’re too dirty because no club owner wants to say you’re not funny, you’re not right for the room, if you’re dirty that gives them a perfect excuse, but they’re really saying you’re not funny. Most people aren’t funny, most people that try to do comedy aren’t good at it. That’s why open mics aren’t popular.
For the entire interview, click on this link.

At our gigs this weekend, the majority of the audience approached us to tell us how much they enjoyed the show and how much they appreciated that we worked clean. Keep in mind, neither of us is 100% clean, but our jokes are well structured and have a purpose. We say things that sound dirty, but they’re not. We let the audience’s imagination take it any direction they want to take it; let them take the blame. One audience member said, “We are always so hesitant when we come to these shows. We want to laugh and have a good time but sometimes, the comedians are over the top and we have to sit there while they perform to absolute silence. We’re pulling for them, but they never turn it around.”

If you’re starting out, you won’t get any comedy club bookings without help from another headliner, or some TV or movie credits, so you’re really left with working for booking agencies who book casinos and monthly shows in rural areas starved for entertainment. if you don’t write clean, you won’t be working very long. If you don’t understand comedy structure and what triggers laughter, you will always be an open mic’er. There are a ton of books that teach you stand-up and if you haven’t invested in them or read them, you’re wasting your time and more importantly, the audiences’ time.

Here’s a list of a few terms you should know if you’re pursuing stand-up. If you don’t, quit now and save the embarrassment for your druken family parties.

  1. Incongruity
  2. Specificity
  3. Ambivilance
  4. Bit
  5. Chunk
  6. Release
  7. Configurational
  8. LPM
  9. Hammocking
  10. JOKE (Learn this definition. It’s not what you think)



Published by Omar Tarango

I am a father, company manager, and a stand up comic. Being a stand up comic is the least funniest of the three.

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