Dustin Nickerson has a friend who describes his comedy as “clean and mean.”

The 38-year-old Seattle native doesn’t disagree. But there’s context behind each label.

Nickerson accepts the “clean” designator and calls it “a way to identify different types of comedian(s).” But there are varying definitions of “clean,” he says. TV clean is different than corporate clean, and corporate clean is different than church clean. What Nickerson is really going for is “smart” comedy.

“The highest compliment a clean comedian could get is, ‘I didn’t even realize you were clean,’” Nickerson said.

The case for clean comedy

As for the “mean” label, Nickerson admits to being “objectively mean,” but hopefully in a harmless, “not punching down” type of way.

“The agreement of standup is that it’s channeling a thought that I’ve had, but I’m not allowed to say,” Nickerson said.

Yes, clean comedy can have some sharp elbows.

Take, for instance, some shows Nickerson has done in front of Utah crowds. In 2021, Nickerson recorded a Dry Bar Comedy special that was filmed in Provo. (The full special will be available on Dry Bar’s YouTube page on Dec. 21. In May, he kicked off his most recent tour with a show at Wiseguys Comedy Club in Ogden.)

In his Dry Bar special, he skewered the essential oils industry. When he took the stage in Ogden, he had jokes teed up about the Ogden Marathon, the Utah Jazz, Latter-day Saints and the club itself — acknowledging he was at the third best option behind the Wiseguys in Jordan Landing and Salt Lake City.

Nickerson describes Utah as a “very oddly good comedy state” and plans to return in 2024.

“There was no reason to think it would be bad,” he said, while acknowledging distinct aspects about Utah such as cold weather, mountains and Latter-day Saints. “But Utah is surprisingly one of the best comedy states. ... I’ve never had anything but a blast in Utah.”

Nickerson said the state has “fantastic” comedy clubs, and he credits Dry Bar Comedy and its viral clips with some of his success.

Plus, he said, “Mormons have a great sense of humor about themselves.”

Nickerson was debuting new material in Ogden that night to kick off his latest tour. After a break in the fall, Nickerson returned to the road in December and has dates scheduled for The Improv in Pittsburgh and Helium Comedy Clubs in both Buffalo and Indianapolis. He’s also been part of some of Nate Bargatze’s Be Funny Tour dates in 2023.

The moment Nate Bargatze knew Utah loved him

“The drug of standup comedy is the live connection,” said Nickerson, who has two appearances on “The Late Late Show” with James Corden on his resume. “(Building a new set) is so much fun. It’s the best feeling in the world. It has to be worked out in front of a live audience. You have no idea if it’s any good until you perform it in front of a group of people.”

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Nickerson also hosts a weekly podcast called “Don’t Make Me Come Back There” with his wife Melissa and has published a book titled “How to Be Married (To Melissa).” He married young — at age 19 — and has three children. Parenting is the focus of his podcast and a common theme in his comedy.

But he’s not springing those jokes on his wife and kids.

“Everyone in the family has presidential veto power,” Nickerson said. “What I’m doing is not more important than the relationships in your life. If you don’t want me to say it, I won’t.

“I had a family before comedy. Lord willing, I’ll have a family after comedy.”

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