My past piece on Corporate Comedy was a popular one and I appreciate all the positive feedback I’ve gotten from it. The tone of it was that corporate comedy is a job, first and foremost. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun and there aren’t some good stories that come from it. Here are a couple from the past week.
I did a show last Saturday night in a small-town 45 mins from St. Louis. The group was a manufacturing company’s Xmas party. Mainly blue-collar people, which I feel connected to since I grew up with 2 grandfathers and a Dad who worked in a factory their whole lives.
Before I went onstage, I was sitting with the 2 Human Resource people who had hired me during the dinner portion of the night. One of them, who was very sweet in nature, mentioned that she had some squirrels that had been wrecking her deck so to resolve the problem she got her ’45 out and shot at them, which she seemed to think did the trick. Now some animal lovers might think the woman was nuttier than what the squirrels ate, but I like meeting people like this. It wouldn’t be my way of solving the problem, but I’m sure it’s a lot more cost effective than calling Orkin.
The show I did a couple of nights ago was a really classy gala that I’m not sure most of my comedy friends would even have an outfit to wear to, let alone the material to fit with it. (It isn’t a shot if it isn’t true.) My contact that was ahead of putting on the whole event was a little nervous about having comedy since they had never done it before and she was new to the company. In this situation, I feel very responsible for making her happy since her reputation on some level is on the line. Usually I try to shape my show for the company, but she didn’t want me to make a jokes at any employees expense, as she wasn’t sure how it would go over.
So the setup for the event is taking place in a ballroom of a nice restaurant. I’m standing on a small platform in front of where the band would play afterward. It’s not a perfect way to do comedy, but I’ve definitely had worse. Everyone is eating, which is not optimal because it’s hard to be focused when you are shoveling food, but that is part of the paycheck. So I do my schtick and it’s going over well, until someone at the restaurant decides to crank up the music over the loudspeakers. Not what I would have asked for. I made some quick jokes about how this portion of my show is really helped by a soundtrack in the background. I then asked a couple band members behind me that were setting up before they went on if they could go and find someone to turn it back down. Well, even though they are 10 feet behind me, they are talking to each other and are paying no attention. I continued to ask them, if they could do this for me, which I still get no acknowledgement.
Now I’m sure a lot of comedians would be flustered by this occurrence. Here’s what I’ve learned about unplanned events at comedy shows. They can be your best friend, if you go with them and stay calm. It’s live entertainment. Audiences appreciate someone who goes with the flow and can riff off these setbacks. I continued to press the band members on could they give me some help with the sound, which they still never heard. This went on for a couple of minutes. The longer they didn’t respond, the funnier it got. I mentioned how they were the band and they were probably pissed at me since I didn’t have to split my check 5 ways. How I didn’t have to lug around a bunch of heavy equipment. Finally one of them noticed what was going on and send, “I’m sorry, do you need something.” I told them, “No, why would you think that?” It was fun and finally after the music was turned down again, the woman who was behind the drums even gave me a rimshot after the next joke I told.
So both of these events ended up turning out well and both clients were very happy with the shows. My material is a little darker and more real than what most comedians who do standup at a corporate event offer, but I find people appreciate it as long as it’s not vulgar to their tastes. It’s a fine line that I’ve found a way to tightrope on. I’ve always tried to write material that would push the audience to rethink some of their preconceived notions on life. I have tried to do this while not going too far in making someone feel uncomfortable. I don’t just do this onstage, I do this in life. It’s the way I’m built. My father was a guy who liked pushing people’s buttons and didn’t really care if it costs him friends. My Mom is someone who wants everyone to like and respect her. I’m amalgamation of the 2 of them and it’s my secret weapon for the profession I chose. It’s not something I do in a premeditated fashion, it’s just who I am.
Authors Note: I’m sure some of you read this, especially at the end and felt it was a bit pretentious. Not going to say you are completely wrong with that sentiment. It probably was. I’m sure others felt like it was something better discussed in a diary or a therapy session. Fair enough, but I can’t afford therapy, so this is where I do it. I start writing and see where it takes me.