Last Saturday night, Comedy Parlor presented “Squeaky Clean Stand-Up,” an event aiming to take the sex, drugs and swearing out of stand-up and leave the audience with some pure, wholesome comedy. Despite the child-friendly atmosphere, there was only one child in the audience of about 30 people, most of whom seemed to be between the ages of 40 and 70.
Perhaps this turnout was expected, since most of the material the 5 comedians used in their sets seemed to be aimed toward this older age group. Stories about marriage, children, and church dominated the sets, which began to feel repetitive after hearing about how wacky the comic’s children were for the third time.
This isn’t that the sets were completely devoid of unique features. One comic performed a “magic trick,” another sang a country song about the reality of growing old and another had a pretty funny story about teaching a child with a fake eye. For each unique feature, however, there were three jokes or stories that were completely forgettable.
And just in case you hadn’t heard enough about the recent earthquake from your Facebook friends, the comedians were all too happy to mention it at one point or another.
Comics also had a general problem with set flow. Many of the performers had a lot of stammering or dead space between segments. One performer forgot the next part of their set three times and another had to backtrack to tell a story about their spouse. There were also a fair amount of allusions to ‘edgy’ content that couldn’t be told because it was a clean show, which comedians used to plug their sets at the adult show Comedy Parlor was hosting just a couple hours later. This turned out to be a pet peeve of mine: I don’t want to be watching this forced censorship as much as you don’t want to be doing it, so please stop calling my attention to it.
One act that proved to be a standout, for better or for worse, was Jack Allen. Third in the setlist, Allen’s set was a complete departure from those before and after. The entirety of the set was Allen’s voice pre-recorded, as he acted out and reacted to his disembodied voice on-stage. The format allowed for some creatively structured jokes. One voice began to set up a joke, then a different voice (supposedly recorded a few days later) cut off the first to tell a different joke and explain that the first wasn’t funny.
Unfortunately, the new and improved joke still wasn’t funny. Allen’s humor, instead of focusing on family life, was a series of purposefully awkward bad jokes, followed by self-deprecation. The set felt more like he was just showing off his pre-recording trick instead of doing anything that was actually supposed to make us laugh. Other comedians, however, were not-particularly-funny in a more traditional format, which is even less remarkable.
Overall, the issue with every act boils down to the fact that it wasn’t funny. Maybe I was too young and sober (despite being a clean show, Comedy Parlor was happy to serve alcohol) to really appreciate the jokes, but the whole ordeal felt like pulling teeth. Saying that makes it sound like the other audience members were splitting their sides with laughter, which certainly wasn’t the case.
Without seeing the same comedians in adult shows, it’s impossible to tell how much of the problem was being forced to put together a clean set and how much of it was the comedians themselves. A clean set isn’t inherently bad, but limiting the subject material in this case left the Comedy Parlor with a homogenous mess of pandering to middle-aged suburbia.