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March 29, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Michael Connell (comedian) – interview

Published March 2011 by Beat magazine

Michael Connell must be a bloody confident guy. The toughest gigs he’s ever done include performing for the army, a pub full of Hell’s Angels, and countless “rowdy backpacker gigs”. If anyone’s got a tough hide, it’s the guy who told inoffensive jokes to a crowd of bikies.

Connell says he had no idea he wanted a comedian, he just wanted to tell jokes for a living. And he does, but they’re so clean even your set-in-stone grandmother would probably crack a smile. Connell specialises in “clean comedy”, a semi-specialist area that highlights just how much comedy has become synonymous with someone getting offended. Since many stand-up comedians have fine-tuned their comedy to adults-only younger crowds, Connell is one of the few comedians on the professional circuit who can perform to anyone, of any age, and not offend even the most upstanding pedant.

Sqeaky Clean Comedy is a gala-style round-up of clean comedians, many of whom are experienced in the clean comedy circuit, including stints on Rove and sold-out comedy shows. Headliner American Dave Wiggins features, as well as interstate comedians Jason Pestell and Mike Klimczac, and Melbourne comedians Magesh, Luke Holt, Beau Stegman, Phil Andrews, Michael Tancredi, Lach Ryan and Cam Semmens.

Connell says he always knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, but he never quite realised that the name for it was “comedian”. Since starting out over ten years ago, Connell has capitalised on the clean joke circuit by performing at conferences and other politically-correct venues, where the blue jokes of fellow comedians might not go down so well. As a former circus performer, Connell is no stranger to the alternating pitfalls and joys of public opinion. But when he first saw stand-up comedy, he realised he could drop the juggling act (literally) and just tell jokes to get the laughs flowing.

Not that getting regular gigs at comedy clubs was a piece of cake. When he started out doing comedy over ten years ago, “There were lots of great comedians and only a handful of rooms”. To accommodate the venues he had available, he kept the jokes clean and started performing at anywhere from school council meetings at his own high school, to hosting dog jumping contests at the local agricultural show. While his first few shows were fairly brutal gigs, they also allowed him to hone his technique and improve his act, and it paid off. When he did finally land a gig at a new comic’s night, he turned out to be a much stronger than other comedians who hadn’t had nearly as tough a training period. And he’s been known as a “clean” comedian the whole time. It’s no small wonder, especially considering that a vast majority of comedians use sexually explicit material to get the crowds giggling, either through embarrassment or shock. So where does his clean material come from?

Undoubtedly used to the scepticism, Connell says that he finds that most people assume comedy has to be smutty because it’s unlikely they’ve seen anything else. He admits the Squeaky Clean Comedy show is a rarity on the comedy circuit. But if it’s comedy, it’s comedy, regardless of how blue it is; Connell makes an excellent point when he points out no audience member has ever said “You were hilarious, but I wish you’d swear more. That’s why I’m always surprised when I see some guy do a ten-minute spot about being constipated.” he adds. “He must have a pretty boring life if he can’t think of anything more important to talk about.”

Staying clean, apparently, is also great for your comedy skills. It simply means that Connell’s jokes are more likely to be a cut-above those that rely on gross-out endings or blue language to lift off. As Connell says, “It’s not so much the blue material I find offensive…it’s the lazy writing that so often goes with it.”

Squeaky Clean Comedy will have three shows only during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For more information, see


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