THE AFFLICTED:Dan Nainan, a Chevy Chase-bred comedian-entrepreneur who’s been performing family-friendly stand-up since 2002.
DIAGNOSIS: Sticks and stoners. According to Nainan, profanity and pot jokes are bringing down the industry instead of the house. “Comedians are picking on people to the point where nobody wants to sit in the front row anymore,” says Nainan. “They’ll say, ‘You’re fat,’ or ‘You’re Asian.’ People are basically being picked on for their physical attributes. It’s not funny. It’s really sad.”
SYMPTOMS: Sneer pressure. Nainan says audiences love his squeaky-clean comedy. (“My mom’s so Japanese, I was born cordless,” goes one gag.) His competition, not so much. “When you have a clean act, you are vilified by comedians left and right,” says Nainan. “A lot of comedians feel like there’s an art to this, and that you shouldn’t try to play to the audience.… They’ll come at you saying you’re not edgy. But the crowd just wants to hear funny.” For Nainan, staying “funny” means cutting out the Carlin words and saying “no” to drugs. “[Older] folks can enjoy comedy, but they’re turned off by the profanity, and by the stoner culture,” he says.
TREATMENT: If you build it, they will be wholesome. Last month, Nainan opened his own 300-seat comedy joint, the Bethesda Comedy Club, to create a safe haven for clean comics. “I’m going to make the comedians sign a waiver that says they won’t say the bad words,” says Nainan. “There will be no ‘F,’ ‘S,’ or ‘C.’” Also outlawed: abuse of drugs or audience members. But Nainan admits he will be offering one common club vice: “We will be selling alcohol,” he says.
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