It wasn’t long ago when a comedian had to work clean to make his or her way to Johnny Carson’s couch on The Tonight Show set.
Today, even late night mainstays like Jon Stewart curse during their televised routines, even if the “bleep” button accompanies their salty language. The average comedy club features far more adult fare.
Dave Coulier’s act is Carson clean, and he says audiences hunger for jokes the whole family can hear. It’s why the Full House star is behind Clean Guys of Comedy, coming to more than 660 theaters Sept. 19 and 26. Coulier will be joined by Jamie Kennedy (Scream), Ralph Harris, Andy Hendrickson and Chelsea Handler Show regular Heather McDonald.
The comedy showcase, to be broadcast live at 8:30 p.m. EST from the Buell Theatre in Denver Sept. 19, will be rebroadcast at 7:30 p.m. local times Sept. 26. Tickets can be purchased at Fathom Events.
“Two of the most successful comedians, Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan, sell out 6,000-7,000 theaters. It doesn’t take a genius to see people just wanna laugh,” he says. “The market is saturated with F-bomb comics. No one has created that forum for ‘The Tonight Show’s’ audience.”
Coulier was 19 when he ran into the current Tonight Show host, Jay Leno, and the veteran comic paid Coulier a compliment he never forget.
“Clean, too … I like that,” Leno said of young Coulier’s act. The budding stand-up realized if he kept his material clean he wouldn’t have to alter his routine to fit different audiences.
Today, the term “clean comedy” comes with an asterisk–the gags can’t be edgy if they’re rated G.
“[Richard] Pryor and [George] Carlin … they were pushing the envelope [on television] and it was all clean stuff,” he says. “On TV, Lenny Bruce was very cutting edge.”
Coulier, who grew up Catholic, may slip a Catholic joke into his routine but without the intent of offending anyone.
“Some say it’s sacrilegious,” he says. “The Church is just made up of human beings, so I’m gonna make fun of human beings.”
The comedian, also known for his work on America’s Funniest People, isn’t a scold when it comes to bawdy bits. It’s just that R-rated banter has a time and a place, the way he sees it.
“I’m not a prude. I’m a hockey player, and when I’m in the locker room with my buddies I’m right there with them,” he says. “But there’s no kids around. When you’re on TV, you don’t know who’s watching. That was always in my mind’s eye.”
Being clean can be a sound business move in the crowded comedy field. Coulier says he often plays universities that “don’t want the filth,” he says, particularly during Parents Weekends.
Coulier’s early days as a stand-up led him to a long-running show as well as plenty of gigs as a voice-over artist. He says he’s at peace with finding himself back on the road telling jokes for a living.
“Stand up was a means to getting somewhere else,” he says of his former career approach. “Now, it’s getting back to the roots of why I got this into this in the first place.”