Jul 5, 2012
It is sometimes hard to believe that I started doing standup over 20 years ago and the same arguments present themselves still to this day. One of the biggest arguments that occur when you start out is whether you should be a dirty comic or a clean one.
Before I get into the meat of the argument from my perspective, I do remember when I started, older comics would tell me time and time again to keep it clean. Some did it out a sense of superiority to justify their own acts but some said it for a different reason. I never understood the tone of why and how they said it until recently upon reflecting back. Now I know they were telling me to stay clean because it is not an easy road to go down being dirty. There’s less chance of getting on TV when you have a dirty Act and even when you do, your set is so watered down you would rather drink the Kool-Aid in Jonestown then do it again.
Being a dirty comic is not as easy as it seems. From judgment from crowds, the business and finally from family I now realize how hard a road it is. This is not a blog to go “oh woe is me” but just to be truthful to anyone considering diving into the dark side of comedy.
First let’s get the basic argument out of the way that is older than this form of communication I am using. Being dirty is easy. Tell a few dick jokes and make everyone laugh every time. Really? That easy? Well, no it is not that easy. To be any comic to get a laugh with an original joke is hard regardless of clean vs. dirty. For years dirty comics call clean comics lame and clean call us cheap and to be honest both are fair. There are lame clean comics and cheap dirty comics but in both cases there are those that rise above the bullshit and they are called good comedians.
Another point is you just add the word fuck into your act and that’s all you need to be a dirty comic. Once again that is a cheap way into it. If all I did was say fuck a bunch of times I would have not lasted. Yes some of the things I say are shocking… yes I am missing some gene that says “don’t say that Darren”. If you look deeper, a lot of dirty comedy has a deep subtext there that is not as apparent as with clean comedy. Sometimes however, it is just an easy dick joke.
People think due to the nature of my act that I only love dirty comedy. Not true. I love good comedy, period. I could list a ton of comics that are clean and I laugh at but I would have to name a hundred so there isn’t a comic reading this saying “what about me”. I always say for every Carrot Top there has to be a Bill Hicks and I am not hacking on Carrot Top trust me, I’m just pointing out there has to be a variety of styles for people to stand out.
Now let’s get to my experience. I have actually lost more money being dirty then I have made. Please reread that sentence again and let it digest.
Due to the nature of my act and my own stubbornness in refusing to change it, I have actually lost a ton of money. I use to do tons of commercials before Google ruined my chances. I used to be the Listerine bottle guy till they figured out they could not afford to receive a letter like “ Dear Pfizer, your mascot called my drunk wife a cunt tonight”. I have been fired from a lecture that had nothing to do with my stand up. I didn’t even use my real name but people are scared for their jobs. I don’t even tell people about my act till a few days when I am acting because I just don’t want the headache or the explaining that goes with it.
This is all so I can do the kind of comedy I want to do. Oh trust me I didn’t just start 20 years ago and say dirty is the way to go. I did years of sucking off the tit of the comedy game in our country showcasing my bullshit lame material till I woke up and realized something very important: You know what sucks worse than not making commercial money? Doing a version of your act that you have altered to please someone else and bombing with it. Do you understand how soul destroying that is after you just did your shitty math joke to 15 drunk fucks in Grande Prairie and now you are in your hotel room crying because you just wished AIDS on a town and meant it?! What the fuck is wrong with me. I went to Business School and was on my way to be the next Gordon Gekko of Canada with a dream to buy Zellers and sell off the pieces but Target just beat me to it!
Some comics think it is cooler being an edgy comic than a clean one. Trust me, your comics buddies are laughing AT you because you just did your progeria joke and it bombed and they are not paying your rent. I have been fired from shows because of my act. I have had death threats in response to my act. I have been censored on dirty shows because my Act is too dirty for a dirty show! Neither of those situations sound cool to me.
So where is this all going?
I say be yourself and if that means you are dirty, then be dirty. In the beginning you really don’t know who you are yet and it takes time so just try and be you. There is so little money and reward you have to be you and have the wherewithal to do it. If you are clean that is great too. Just please don’t jump on a dirty show and add the word fuck to your act. Nothing is worse than watching a clean comic try and be something they are not.
In the past I have had clean comics tell me they don’t like my act cause of the language and subject matter and I am ok with that because I don’t do my act for comics.
I do it for me.
Writer: Comedian, Darren Frost Comedywhore.com @comedywhore