• Jon Matthews

Clean Joke February (part two)

February's challenge was to only write and perform clean jokes (no swearing) for the whole month. I failed. Here is why.

Performing a clean set is quite easy for me to do, I probably do it more often than I realise. However, having to perform clean set after clean set is far more difficult. I have jokes, both old and new, that contain swearing and where it is difficult to remove or replace the relevant words. The impact the swear word creates and the way it affects they rhythm and pacing of the joke are difficult to replicate. To attempt to replace individual words without upsetting the tempo is awkward and clumsy but possible. Doing this as a one off isn't so bad but to repeatedly censor myself every time I perform for an entire month proved too exacting a task on this occasion.

Part of the problem is certainly habit, there are jokes that I've told so many times that to consciously and deliberately change one word mid-flow is quite demanding. It requires a very intentional inner thought process that is tough to uphold. Whilst I have whole pieces that do not contain any swearing at all, I found that the material I wanted to work on this month did and I was reluctant to abandon some material I am excited about for such a long period.

I don't consider myself to be a 'sweary' comedian, I try to use swear words conservatively. I use them to create a sharp and jarring change of direction at moments the audience are not expecting it. Rarely do I use several swear words in succession and most sets will only contain one or two. I have experimented by performing these pieces without swearing and they are never as successful.

I perhaps need to be more conscious of the language I use, to intentionally generate material that does not contain swearing, so that I am more able to work clean when required. I may also need to explore the idea of capping the number of swear words in a set, in order to ensure I do not reach a point, especially in longer performances, where they no longer carry the desired impact. This is something I may experiment with in future.

Whilst I have failed the challenge I set myself for this month, it has given me food for thought and helped me to think about how I get the best out of the words I use in order to generate laughs from the audience.

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