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At Dry Bar Comedy working clean is the new counterculture

With content that has generated more than 1 billion views across digital platforms, the network is proving family-friendly stand-up can be both hilarious and marketable.

Updated: July 3, 2021 - 11:59am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Comedian Joe DeVito says "clean" stand-ups once worked under a stigma, something he admits to believing himself.

PG-rated material meant "something was missing," DeVito says of cutups who didn't work blue. Not anymore.

Dry Bar Comedy, which delivers family-friendly yuks, is proving clean comedy can be both hilarious and marketable. The platform extends from its web site to YouTube, the VidAngel app and, later this month, a subscription-based Dry Bar app. 

The service offers more than 450 comedians and live shows, content that has generated more than 1 billion views across digital platforms to date.

The company's improbable rise, combined with all-ages comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan, help make clean comedy cool. Sebastian Maniscalco, whose work is overwhelmingly clean, sold out Madison Square Garden four straight shows.

DeVito doesn't always work "clean," but he can tweak his material to meet Dry Bar's standards. That includes no profanity or overtly sexual banter. Working the Dry Bar way gives him an advantage over some funny peers.

"A lot of comics complain they don't get more opportunities," DeVito says. "If you're filthy, you have a niche act."

DeVito, a panelist on Fox News' "Gutfeld!" learned audiences are starving for stand-up they can watch with the whole family without embarrassment.

"I hear it a lot from people," DeVito says. "They're just so happy to hear clean comedy."

Brothers Neal and Jeffrey Harmon, veterans of comic marketing triumphs like the Squatty Potty ad campaign, co-created Dry Bar Comedy in 2017 with director Isaac Halasima from their Provo, Utah base.

The brothers hired Keith Stubbs, a veteran stand-up comic who also worked clean, to book comedians audiences may not have been familiar with prior to their Dry Bar debuts.

The clean concept, plus the location, made Dry Bar Comedy a tough sell at first.

"In the beginning I had to do a lot of dancing and talking [with agents]," Stubbs admits. It helped that Dry Bar comedians benefit if their specials draw a crowd.

"We have a partnership with the comedian based on revenue generated and views," he says.

Today, Dry Bar Comedy boasts more than 7 million Facebook followers (racking up 31 million views each week) to go along with 1.5 million YouTube subscribers. For context, Netflix's Facebook page for its comedy brand, "Netflix Is a Joke," has 451K followers.

Today's increasingly sensitive climate helped push the Dry Bar concept. Social media users can share a Dry Bar routine on Facebook or Twitter without fearing blowback from a colleague or boss for sending inappropriate material.

If a Dry Bar comic has a question as to whether a joke crosses a particular line, Stubbs is happy to offer advice. The brand is of utmost importance.

"If we veer off those [standards], we lose the trust and followers," he says.

"They can make any kind of adjustment to what they do ... that's fine with us," he adds, saying many comedians are surprised to find the cleaner versions of their jokes often get the same laughter, or even more.

K-von learned that lesson when he recorded his Dry Bar comedy special.

"It's really great to be creative and look at your material [from the Dry Bar perspective]," says K-von, who notes even some drinking references may not pass Dry Bar muster. "Most material you don't even need to end on a bad word ... [substitute] a wink, an eyebrow lift, and the crowd can fill in the rest."

The Persian-American comic says many peers are waiting in line to snag the next Netflix comedy special. He wanted that, too, but he noticed more and more people sharing Dry Bar routines online. So he reached out to the company himself.

His Dry Bar special drew 3 million views across various platforms, the comedian says, introducing him to a new wave of fans 15 years into his career.

"I think clean is becoming counterculture based on what the mainstream is offering," says K-von, who saw his bookings jump as a result of the Dry Bar connection.

Dry Bar has a podcast network in the works, and the company plans to reboot its live touring company later this summer. Prior to the pandemic, Dry Bar comedians teamed up to play in mid-sized cities like Jacksonville, Fla., Rochester, N.Y. and Detroit.

"It's rewarding to discover these folks, not only do they wanna watch it on YouTube, but they'll actually buy a ticket for it," says Stubbs, who resumes taping Dry Bar's ninth season in September.

DeVito says some comedians used to bring up Dry Bar Comedy in a dismissive manner.

"The same people who made snide remarks, they're the first ones to call you up for [Dry Bar's] contact information," DeVito says.

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