Breaking Up the Break Room (Comedy for Lunch)

Not exactly Carnegie Hall. More like Canegie Deli.

So I’m contacted last week about doing a corporate show. Specifics were it was in Cincy (2 hours from me) and it would be at 2pm. Since Xmas Eve fell on Saturday it pretty much killed any chance of me doing anything that week, so this was a nice bonus for the stocking.

I show up around 1:15 and the receptionist tells me to go upstairs, that is where the party is happening. As soon as I get up to the top of the stairs I see the party. It’s a small company breakroom with around 25 people sitting around a few white plastic tables. There is some appetizers out and some drinks. People are dressed very casually. My contact greets me and introduces me to the boss. Both of them were really nice. I asked if they wanted me to start at 2pm and the boss said I could start whenever I wanted. I grabbed a soda and hit the stage.

Oh did I say, stage? I meant floor-level area that was 5 feet from the tables, standing right in front of the appetizer table. So I grabbed the mic and began my…oh wait, no mic, either. Not really needed since it was such a small room, but for most comics, being without a mic makes you feel kind of naked onstage. Here’s a little secret. If it’s a small enough room, it can be a better show without a mic. You end projecting more and you sell your material more with your body language.

The group were really cool. Didn’t seem like there was a pretentious soul in the breakroom. The only person who seemed to have any stress was the Human Resource director, as she would be the one to hear about it if someone was offended by something I said. No problem. I know how to do these gigs. Early in my show I told the back table of guys who load trucks for the company that my show would not be dirty enough for them to love it but I told them they would like it. By doing that I feel like subconsciously it states to the rest of the group that I’m really censoring myself to not offend, even though I push the edge more than some corporate comics. Another thing I do is I don’t curse except for one joke and I would NEVER, EVER say Fuck or Goddamn. This strategy has kept me from ever getting a report saying I was too vulgar.

My favorite memory was one guy tried to heckle me with one of my own jokes. I responded by telling him “Did you notice that your response did not go over well? (it didn’t) Now you might be asking yourself why did I get a laugh with what I said, but when you said the same thing it did not? Well that’s because I’m a professional and your an amateur. More importantly, you are creepy.”

Well, the group exploded with laughter on that. He was known around the place for being creepy. The HR woman even piped in with “I have to talk to him on a regular basis.” It was a fun moment.

So I drove a couple hours, walked in front of a bunch of co-workers and told jokes in their breakroom for 50 minutes. No mic, no stage. It sounds like what most people would consider their greatest fear. And I ended up feeling really comfortable. How messed up must I be?

Here’s a little tip if you find yourself in a similar situation. Talk to your audience when it’s a more intimate setting, not at them. A running theme at Fly Over Comedy is how weird this job can be. This was one of those gigs, but it also ended up being a really good time.


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