As with each second Friday of the month, this evening the Carrillo Recreation Center is holding its Carrillo Comedy Night, tonight headlined for the first time by nationally touring comedian Andrew Norelli. Called “one of the best comedians in the country” by event producer Jason Love, Mr. Norelli will present a clean set to tonight’s attendees as per the venue’s requirements. The lineup will also include sets by Mr. Love, Frank Lucero, and Andy Peters.
According to his website, Mr. Norelli has made notable appearances performing on late night TV programs like “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He has also appeared on Comedy Central, Sirius XM, and hosted a TED Talk called “Why Computers Baffle Me.”
For Mr. Norelli, the “clean” requirement at tonight’s show isn’t a problem, as he works clean anyway. Clean humor may carry a stigma of corniness and hokiness, but Mr. Love complimented Mr. Norelli as an example of someone who can do the style well, which he added is “harder” than performing profane comedy. Agreeing that clean humor often gets unfavorably associated with dad jokes and puns, Mr. Norelli told the News-Press that although clean jokes don’t wade into suggestive topics, when done right they are no less adult and require a great deal of effort to craft.
“It’s just humor that is carefully worded and avoids graphic topics,” he said.
Having performed standup on network TV shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” Mr. Norelli is no stranger to working under rules limiting what kinds of words he can use. Citing these shows as examples, Mr. Norelli said people watch clean humor more often than they realize.
“People forget that they’re watching clean humor,” he said.
As for the creative process that produces that humor, Mr. Norelli called it “the hardest part of comedy,” as well as the part that audiences appreciate the least. Crowds are most impressed by the part they see, the courage to get up in front of strangers and entertain them with jokes, but they seldom see the difficulty of not only coming up with jokes, but coming up with jokes that are actually usable for a comedy set.
“It’s a really low ratio of what jokes they write to which jokes are actually good enough to keep,” Mr. Norelli said.
Even when he finds a keeper, the joke doesn’t get left untouched. Likening a funny joke in a comedy set to a well-written paragraph within a larger essay, the comedian explained that once confirmed as funny, it must get reworked to form a larger bit.
“Even when a joke is funny, you have to tinker around with it for a matter of weeks or months until it becomes a whole bit,” he said.
Despite working clean, the comedian did admit that he worries about his jokes possibly running afoul of modern day sensitivities and igniting controversy. He called the process of selecting the right material for a particular audience “tricky,” requiring the comic to take into account not only who he will be performing for, but also how a particular gig is billed. For example, when performing for a corporate gig, the “clean” hurdle that Mr. Norelli has to clear is “very, very high,” so even the slightest move into dark territory would come off as jarring.
“The comic has to really know who they are and what gig they’re doing,” Mr. Norelli said.
Though this is his first time performing at the Carrillo Comedy Night, Mr. Norelli has performed in Santa Barbara several times before. When asked what he thinks of the local scene, the comedian said that standup shows in this town are faced with the challenge of competing with the wineries, beaches, mountains, and numerous other pastimes that Santa Barbara has to offer.
“You gotta win them over from all those other activities in the paradise that is Santa Barbara,” he said.Tickets for the Carrillo Comedy Night are $15 and can either be purchased at the Carrillo Recreation Center or online at www.jasonlove.eventbrite.com. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. and doors open at 7:15 p.m. The Carrillo Recreation Center is located at 100 E Carrillo St