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  • Jon Matthews

Clean Joke February (part one)


This year, instead of a new years resolution, I have decided to set myself a series of monthly challenges. Last month I completed Dry January with relative ease and it got me thinking about the relationship between alcohol and comedy. This month I will be attempting another comedy related challenge, to only write and perform clean jokes, with no swearing, for a month.

I don't swear a huge amount in my routines and I've managed to perform clean many times before. I mostly only use swear words to create impact and have found that the less I use them the more impact they create. If an act who performs before me swears a lot I try to not swear at all in the first chunk of my act, as I think the contrast can be useful, and means that if and when I do swear it is worth it. The biggest problem, I think, with swearing in comedy is that it suffers from the law of diminishing returns, the first time you swear it might be funny but the more you swear the less funny it becomes. In fact, after a while, even for an audience who aren't opposed to swearing, it probably becomes annoying.

As a comedian who seeks to comment on current affairs, it can perhaps be assumed that it would be easy to eliminate swearing from my act but when an incident like the Donald Trump / Piers Morgan interview occurs it is very difficult to say anything about it without swearing, such are the characters of the two protagonists. "Piers Morgan gave Donald Trump an Arsenal shirt, of course Trump is an Arsenal fan he's always talking about how big his is." The problem here being that not only does the word 'Arsenal' contain a swear word but also, for Tottenham Hotspur fans like my Dad, it also is a swear word in its own right.

I am hoping that this challenge will help me to explore ways of making statements carry an impact and interrupting rhythm without swearing, a useful skill for a comedian to posses. Mostly this month I am going to be working on new material and so the opportunity to ensure that material is clean will also be useful. Whilst my target demographic (men with beards and glasses and women who like men with beards and glasses) are unlikely to be offended by swearing, learning to swear less in my comedy is going to be helpful for me in exploring other ways to create impact, ensuring that when I do swear it is funny and also giving me the opportunity to work clean when necessary – all very useful skills to develop. That said, I don't think this will be easy. I will be sure to let you know how it goes.


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