Corporate Comedy Rules

After a fun corporate show I did last Saturday night outside St. Louis.


Contact Scott at for any of your corporate events.

As I’m apt to do here, I want to throw out some guidelines for doing corporates.

1. Don’t accept a corporate gig unless you are ready.

I have done standup f0r 23 years. It took me over a decade until I had the right act to do corporate events. I’ve done 100’s of them since then and more so than in any other type of comedy, corporate standup improves from having experience. I know you will be seduced by making more money, but please don’t try to do a corporate comedy show you are not ready for. You will probably not do well–and you will risk having that company decided to never do it again. Don’t get over your ski’s, PLEASE.

2. Do some research on the company.

Getting some laughs specific to the company generally always loosens things up. It also demonstrates you put some time in before you go there-which they appreciate. You can never have enough material that is on the company. Part of the price I charge depends on how much research you want me to do. The best paying corporate I’ve ever done they wanted me to go out for lunch with them (they were local), so I could hear a bunch of stories about people in their country and also get a better feel for the companies culture. Since they were paying me so much (and paying for a really great lunch) I told them cool. Ended up having a great show because I knew so much about them.

3. Keep the time shorter

If the client contacts you, tell them the best corporate comedy shows last somewhere between 45-60 minutes.  It isn’t a comedy club setting and often the people there are tired from other events earlier that day or just want to focus on power drinking at their company party. Some booking agents tell the client they will give them an 75-90 minute show, I guess figuring the more the time, the more the money. Sometimes I am contractually required to do an hour, which I fulfill, but unless you can afford Frank Caliendo or Brian Regan, doing that long of a clean(er) set starts to drag, especially when it’s in a ballroom or a VFW Hall.

4. Majority doesn’t rule

At a comedy club if most the audience wants you to be dirtier in material, that it is a smart direction to go. Most corporates I do I will mention at least once during my set that (said joke) has more to it, but you won’t hear the rest tonight. I want them to realize that I’m censoring some of my show. I know that sounds alien, but I believe psychologically that makes the tight-asses feel better. Tight-ass: I don’t enjoy life and I don’t want to hear others who do things against my Quaker-lite lifestyle. Most of my corporate shows I have people come up to me afterward and say they wished I would have been a little dirtier.  When I hear that, I know I did my job.  Some clients will tell me to say whatever I want, but I know they don’t really mean that. With the litigious society we live in, doing jokes that are going to offend some old lady or some bible-thumper is not going to work out well in the end. Plus, I don’t want a client reviewing my show to the booking agent and saying I was too dirty. Trust me, that is a scarlet letter you don’t want to wear.

5. Song and Dance your way through corporate gigs.

What I mean is stay positive with your tone and present yourself like you are having a great time, even if you aren’t. I know this is disingenuous, but considering most comics decided to choose the profession because they don’t like (or fit) in the corporate world, you are disingenuous in taking the gig in the first place.  A little more faker-y isn’t going to kill anyone.

6. Dress the Part.

I see corporate comedy as kind of like acting. You should kind of morph into a more fun version of what the people are like that night.  Cue–There’s a new kid in town…Everybody’s talking. To help yourself fit-in, find out how people are going to be dressed. My rule is to try to be a little better dressed than the people at the show. I have found that wearing a nice sports coat with jeans works almost everywhere, except for an event where it’s more formal.  I know this sounds like I’m over-thinking this stuff, but I believe it’s an important element to the gig.

7. Get there early. Eat with the person handing you the check.

Most corporate events have a dinner before you hit the stage. Break bread with the people you are with and be charming. This will put them in a more positive frame of mind about you. If you walk in right before the show starts and then go up you come off more like you are a hired gun. Remember these people all know each other at the corporate event so they have a common bond. You are the only person there who isn’t part of the organization.


8. Shake hands afterward.

I know this sounds more like you are running for office, but you need to thank the people who took a chance on hiring you. Remember that you could have said something(s) that were objectionable to the group and that person who brought you there will have to see the offended the rest of the year.  You don’t, so I recommend that the least you can do is thank the people that hired you. I do this as much so they have a positive opinion of comedians, so they are more apt to hire someone else to do the following year.  As I see it, if more comics took this approach, there would be more gigs for me.

I didn’t get into standup to do corporate events. I’ve developed a good corporate show, though, because I want to work every week and make a decent living doing it. If you don’t have any desire to develop a show that could be done at a corporate event, I don’t begrudge you in anyway. I just ask you not to accept any corporate gigs as you will fuck it up for the rest of us who have a show that works at these events.

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