“Clean” is not generally an adjective that comedians use to describe their material; it conjures up images of “funny” pastors or children’s entertainers. Even performers like Jim Gaffigan or Brian Regan, who are known for eschewing harsh language and explicit subject matter, aren’t really using “clean” as one of their selling points. But former Full House actor Dave Coulier has embraced “clean” as a brand for his comedy (in contrast to Coulier’s former co-star Bob Saget, known for his vulgarity) and has put together a lineup he calls the Clean Guys of Comedy.
The Clean Guys’ September 19 show at the Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado, was broadcast to movie theaters nationwide (it repeats in theaters today, September 26), but it probably doesn’t herald the arrival of a major new comedy force. Coulier was joined by Jamie Kennedy, Andy Hendrickson, Heather McDonald and Ralph Harris, each of whom performed for about 20 minutes. And although they did keep swear words out of their acts, they didn’t shy away from more adult topics, including sex and drugs (“I’m not allowed to do any drug jokes,” Kennedy said before launching into a lame, dated medical marijuana bit). McDonald in particular seemed like she was constantly on the verge of saying something she wasn’t supposed to, and all of the comedians had their go-to replacements for the naughty words they weren’t allowed to say (Coulier was particularly fond of “flippin’”).
So maybe it was dubiously “clean,” but was it funny? Like any lineup of five comedians, it was hit or miss, with Hendrickson probably delivering the most actual laughs. Harris sweated his way through an opening set full of trite observations about the differences between men and women. That and other tired topics (Starbucks, airports) were common denominators. Harris joked about French people being rude and smelly; Kennedy about how polite the British are, right after a particularly insensitive (and not funny) impression of Japanese flight attendants that involved references to Godzilla and shrimp fried rice.
The whole Clean Guys moniker seemed more constraining than freeing for the performers, who mostly stuck to safe, boring topics instead of seizing the opportunity to explore something completely weird and different in the vast world of the non-profane. Even Hendrickson, whose bits about ostentatious weddings and pretentious foodies (“This chicken tastes like it used to be happy”) were often amusing, tread much of the same ground as his fellow performers.
Coulier opened his headlining set (which was only slightly longer than the others’) with Full House jokes, and his material was, not surprisingly, the most legitimately family-friendly. He spent a lot of time on “kids today”-type jokes about his video game-obsessed son, and trotted out his familiar Bullwinkle and Elmer Fudd impressions. Unlike Saget, who’s done everything possible to distance himself from the image of a sitcom dad, Coulier seemed ready to jump right back into the world of sanitized, hackneyed humor. He even ended with a series of musty one-liners (“What if the hokey pokey really is what it’s all about?”) that could have been right at home on his old show. Sure, they were clean, but that was about all they had going for them.