Corporate comedy open mics

Hey Dave – Last week you talked about ‘what is corporate comedy material.’ I would also like to learn about getting into doing comedy and humorous keynotes at corporate events. – E.M.

Hey E.M. – Okay, let’s pick up where we left off. I talked about the type of material comedians need to develop to get hired as entertainers at corporate events. But how and where do you develop an act for this market? Using material rated G and PG (max!) and jokes relating to the business world don’t always go over with the usual crowd at late night, beer-soaked open mics.

bar fight

Not your audience

But that doesn’t matter because they’re not your audience anyway.

The business owners and event planners that would hire you to speak at a corporate function or conference are the networkers you’ll find at morning, afternoon and evening business or association meetings. Instead of late night bars, put your efforts into finding stage time at morning Rotary breakfasts, Knights of Columbus luncheons, and College Club dinners (to mention just three of many possibilities). Almost every city and town has business and social organizations and need speakers or entertainers.

The usual length of your program would be anywhere from five to twenty minutes between the entrée and desert.

The idea is to grab these opportunities and use them like open-mics. And like open-mics, don’t expect any pay. The key word to obtaining these spots is “FREE.” Offer to do a FREE five minutes of CLEAN comedy before the meeting’s featured speaker and it’s very unlikely you’ll hear the other key word that is so frequent in the comedy biz: “NO.”

In my personal experiences using this method in putting together a corporate program, my FREE offer was only turned down once. And it happened with a Rotary guy in the Midwest who was about 90 years old and didn’t think his membership would want to hear from anyone unless they were selling insurance, fertilizer or both. When I explained my talk was about humor and creativity, he sounded like he wanted to have me arrested for being anti-American. I simply thanked him for his time, called a different Rotary Club, mentioned FREE and was invited to speak at their next meeting.

As you continue to write and test – successfully – corporate material, move into doing longer sets at these types of meetings. As mentioned above, featured programs usually last about 20 minutes. And again from experience, I’ve found the people who volunteer and are involved in planning can be open to offering a variety of programs.

Can't have the same program every week!

Can’t have the same program every week!

After all, you can’t have insurance, fertilizer or a combo of both every week.

After doing this a number of times and eating a number of FREE breakfasts, lunches and dinners (they always feed you) I had put together a corporate program. The next step was to network and do some promoting – and then I started getting paid bookings. There’s no way this would’ve happened if I had tried to develop the material doing late night open-mic bars.

So if you’re interested in the corporate market, I just gave you a great way to get the ball rolling. And it was FREE advice. When you can make an audience laugh and keep them interested during an early morning breakfast meeting, you’ve got a good chance to break into the corporate market.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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What is corporate material?

Hi Dave – You’ve talked about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. What is considered corporate material and what is not? – B.E.

Hey B.E. – You know what? I’ve never been asked that question in such a general way. Usually it’s more specific, such as a comedian or speaker asking if a certain joke or material they’re planning to perform is appropriate for a corporate show.

Working clean is part of your job

Working clean is part of your job

But for right now – as a general answer to your general question – my experiences as both a booking agent and corporate speaker is to work clean. I’ve said that many times before, but I wouldn’t continue to say it if it wasn’t true.

Recently I’ve been following a debate on one of the popular social networks over whether or not the F-Bomb will soon be acceptable at corporate functions. If you ask me, the people spreading that opinion are a little more than F-Bombed themselves.

It’s not happening now and it won’t anytime soon.

Oh yeah, as always in showbiz there might be an isolated instance here or there for an edgy company (think MTV or Comedy Central) but if you want to work regularly in the corporate market, then you work clean.

That means no F-Bombs or any bits where F-Bomb is the focused activity. Got that?

Okay, so now that we know you must work clean in the corporate market let’s get back to the real topic of your question. What type of material are they looking for?

A lot depends on the corporate function. It’s all about the theme…

I’ve found through experience that stand-up comedians get booked more often for holiday parties and special events, like a retirement banquet or an awards ceremony. And yes, there are exceptions. But when I get calls from businesses looking for comedians those are the most often mentioned.

If you’re a comedian, it’s important to know the theme of the event.

Guess the event and win!

Guess the event and win!

I’ve scheduled comedians to perform at corporate Christmas parties where the client wanted at least some mention of the holiday season. The comic can talk about his marriage, kids, sports, news events – whatever – for a lot of his act, then throw in some holiday jokes and the client is ecstatic. Other times the client might complain that he specifically wanted holiday jokes and doesn’t give an F-Bomb about the other material.

I’ve also booked comedians for retirement banquets. The comics don’t even know the person the company is retiring and feeding, but they know the audience wants laughs. The comics for this type of event are usually good at roasting and ad-libbing. But as usual, most companies will demand a clean show.

So it’s always good to know the theme and work that into the act. One way to do that is to talk with the client before the engagement to see what type of material they’re looking for. Again, for comedians it can be most anything because they’re considered entertainment. No business lessons, training or message is required. The job is to make the corporate audience laugh in a way that doesn’t embarrass the CEO or other head honchos (that means clean comedy).

Humorous speakers are different.

They already have a topic that fits into the corporate market. For instance, they may talk about stress relief, communications, networking, tech training, or even proper office attire. Believe me, there are a lot of different topics that can work within the themes of a lot of different corporate events. Humorous speakers with a message can be hired to deliver keynotes, do breakout sessions, and half-day (or full-day) training seminars. With a humorous delivery they’re entertaining and delivering information (infotainment) at the same time.

The material – the speaker’s topic – will be based on their expertise.

For instance, if you’re an expert in communications – that’s what your material will consist of. If you’re an expert in technology, finance, marketing, selling – whatever – that’s what you will talk about.

That should help you determine what is corporate material for a comedian and/or a humorous speaker. As I mentioned earlier that was a pretty general question – but I hope my general answer helped. Now it’s up to you.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Finding stage time

Hey Dave – I have performed terribly at three open-mics in Kentucky. Could you point me in the direction of a “lower-end” establishment in Ohio? I’m looking for a place that does not require you to bring five friends. I don’t know five people. Thanks, J.

Open MicHey J. – Thanks for thinking of me when it comes to “lower end” establishments. Maybe I should start calling this the Blue Collar Column – NOT! But instead of worrying about how to get a “higher end” reputation, I’ll share some thoughts about how to get stage time at open-mics whether you’re in Kentucky, Ohio, or wherever.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about having to bring friends if you want to perform…

Usually if an open-mic (or showcase) night is not offered by a legit comedy club, they tend to be here one minute and gone the next. And to make a general statement, open-mics are usually in bars or nightclubs. Yeah, I know there are open-mics in churches and other places, but I’m talking in broad and wide and general terms right now.

If a “lower end” establishment runs a profitable comedy open-mic (attracts paying customers) chances are it’ll keep going. If not, then the owner needs to find something else that will bring in money, like investing in a giant screen TV for football season.

That’s why there are so many pay-to-play or bringer clubs where you have to bring x-amount of paying customers if you want to get on stage. This is a business deal. Comics get valuable stage experience to work on improving their performances and material so they can eventually move on to paying gigs in “higher end” comedy clubs.

From management’s point of view, that’s what they’re “giving” you.

The trade-off is that the performing comics need to bring in paying customers. Making money is what keeps these clubs in business. From management’s point of view that’s what comics are “giving” them.

By the way, this is proof I didn’t sleep through all my college economics classes.

I can go into some of my stories about open-mics in NYC that always had an audience and comics simply signed up and performed. For the most part, it’s not like that anymore. Now you need x-amount of friends who are willing to drop a few bucks for a cover charge and a couple drinks to help further your career.

There’s some good advice on how to beat the bringer system in my book Comedy FAQs And Answers from my good pal and NYC comedy coach, Chris Murphy. I’d share it with you now, but my NYC publisher wouldn’t be too happy. You can check it out for free at your local library, or drop a few bucks on Amazon.com (it’s in paperback, Kindle, Nook and iBook).

peter-sellers

Searching…

And now that Introduction to Economics 101 is over, let’s get back to your original question – finding open-mics. After all, that’s the direction you want to be pointed in…

As mentioned, open-mics come and go. I used to hand out a long list in my comedy workshops to help everyone find stage time. And since I’ve done these in different states, it was quite a long list. I’d call the major comedy clubs to see what they had going, but for the local open-mic scene I’d rely on info from the current workshop members and add that to the list. But by the time I started the next workshop, that list was already outdated. The open-mics that were hot only a few weeks earlier had stopped and the comics had found new places to perform.

So instead of handing out a road map that sometimes led nowhere (a club that ditched comedy for a big screen TV) there’s a better way. It’s called research and networking.

If you have an eye on a certain area, in your case Ohio, do a Google search for comedy clubs. It’s easy – I do it all the time to see what’s going on and who’s appearing in other cities. If they have an open-mic it’ll be listed on their website. Remember, they’re in business and it’s always good business sense to promote whatever they have going on.

Also, there’s always a phone number. Again, it’s good business sense.

From my experience, rarely will the club owner or manager answer the phone. That’s why they have people working in the box office, telemarketers and other staff. I only mention this because a lot of comics worry about making a lasting bad first impression on the person who ultimately controls who performs and who is banished to comedy hell for bothering them with annoying phone calls. I’ve also learned a lot of people who answer phones in comedy clubs are also aspiring comics.

Hey – if you want to be a plumber, you work with plumbers. If you wanna be a doctor, you intern with doctors. If you wanna be a comedian…

Make sense? And there’s no way you can argue with me about that. Too many of the former door-guys I worked with at the NYC Improv have gone onto successful comedy careers. They got firsthand experience on how this business works by being involved in the comedy scene.

Hint: Read that last sentence again. It’s a road map to where we’re going with this…

Even if you’re not ready to perform at a legit comedy club’s open-mic (trust me, you’ll need a lot more than three times on stage to even think about it) ask the person who answers the phone if they know of any open-mics in the area. Even if they say no, it won’t make a lasting bad first impression on anyone who can give you stage time. It’ll just make you do another Google search and find another club to call.

When you find even ONE “lower end” establishment, call and ask if they’re doing open-mics. Word of warning: I remember two comedians from my workshop that followed through on the fist step, but skipped the second. They didn’t find out the open-mic was history and now a sports bar until after a four hour one-way drive. Even worse, the two comics I’m talking about didn’t like either of the teams on the big screen TV.

If the open-mic is in business – go there.

The deal is, once you find one open-mic you’ll meet other comedians and can start learning about the area comedy scene. It’s called networking. Be supportive and watch the other comics. Do your time on stage and get to know these people. After all, you share the same interest – comedy.

Don’t be a user and don’t be annoying. Both are good ways to keep the number of friends on your list under five. Ask if they know of any other open-mics and make a point to be there. If you know of open-mics in your area, share the info.

The Scene

Be part of the scene!

It’s all about becoming a part of that particular comedy scene.

I know it sounds simple. But you know what? It usually is if you’re serious about doing this. I’ve been waaay involved in the comedy scenes in three major cities and I’ve seen how this works. I don’t just make this stuff up during television commercial breaks.

Comics can be very supportive of each other and it’s a tough business to go at it alone. It can be good to walk into a new club and see a few familiar faces. Ride share with other comics or start a writing group. There are all kinds of ways to get involved and that’s what you need to do.

And yeah, to off-set any emails I might receive about that positive outlook, you’ll also run into others who are complete jerks. But you know what? You’ll find that in any business. Just deal with their negativity the best you can and focus on where you want to go as a comic and how to get there.

Okay, that might have been long-winded, but here’s the business deal.

Once you get involved in a local comedy scene you’ll get to know the other comics. You’ll learn about other open-mics and that’s how you’ll know where to go for stage time. But remember to be supportive. If you can help someone get on stage, there’s a better chance they’ll help you. Simple? From what I’ve seen, it usually is.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Top 10 Networking Jokes for 2015

Another year with more laughs? Sounds good to me. But before we move ahead, let’s take a look back at what made us laugh in 2015. And in case you haven’t caught on yet, that’s a good excuse to list The Top 10 Networking Jokes For 2015.

Though I’ve been doing this newsletter for a lot longer, I didn’t come up with the brilliant idea of sharing your jokes with links to your websites, videos and other marketing sites until the last few months of 2010. Since then there have been 224 jokes shared in this newsletter. If we put them all together (35 pages!) it might make a good Comedy Central special or at least a decent open-mic set – ha!

So to ring out the old and ring in the new, here in no special order are 2015’s Top 10 Networking Jokes for How To Be A Working Comic and Humorous Speaker. We’ll pick up where we left off in 2016, so if you have a website, video, upcoming show, Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn or other site you’d like to promote to your fellow readers, use the CONTACT form below. After all, it’s all about networking…

Thanks for reading and being an important part of this large circle of comedians, humorous speakers, talent reps and talent bookers. I hope you have a very productive and laugh-filled New Year!

Keep Laughing!

Dave Schwensen

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TOP 10 NETWORKING JOKES FOR 2015

1. Three women die together in an accident and go to heaven. When they get there, St. Peter says, “We only have one rule here in heaven. Don’t step on the ducks!”

So they enter heaven and sure enough, there are ducks all over the place. It is almost impossible not to step on a duck, and although they try their best to avoid them, the first woman accidentally steps on one. Along comes St. Peter with the ugliest man she ever saw.

St. Peter chains them together and says, “Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this ugly man!” The next day the second woman steps accidentally on a duck and along comes St. Peter, who doesn’t miss a thing. With him is another extremely ugly man. He chains them together with the same admonishment as for the first woman.

The third woman has observed all this and, not wanting to be chained for all eternity to an ugly man, is very, VERY careful where she steps. She manages to go months without stepping on any ducks, but one day St. Peter comes up to her with the most handsome man she has ever laid eyes on… very tall, long eyelashes, muscular, and thin. St. Peter chains them together without saying a word.

The happy woman says, “I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to you for all of eternity?” The handsome guys says, “I don’t know about you, but I stepped on a duck.” – Brian Luoma

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2. Last night I decided to go out to just hang out and have a beer, then I fell asleep while planning what to wear. This morning I realized, my trash goes out more than I do. – Vernon Davis

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3. I was reading an article last week about Fathers and Daughters, and memories came flooding back of the time I took my Daughter out for her first drink. Off we went to our local Pub, which is only two blocks from the house. I got her a Guinness Stout. She didn’t like it – so I drank it. Then I got her an Old Style – she didn’t like it either, so I drank it. It was the same with the Coors and the Bud. By the time we got down to the Irish whiskey . . . I could hardly push the stroller back home. – Bob Stefani

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4. “It’s not that I’m fat. It’s just that I’m modest and don’t want my bones to show.” – Lynn B. Johnson

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5. A man and a little boy entered a barbershop together. After the man received the full treatment – shave, shampoo, manicure and haircut, he placed the boy in the chair. “I’m going to buy a green tie to wear for the parade,” he said. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

When the boy’s haircut was completed and the man still hadn’t returned, the barber said, “Looks like your daddy’s forgotten all about you.”

“That wasn’t my daddy,” said the boy. “He just walked up, took me by the hand and said, “Come on son, we’re gonna get a free haircut!” – No Name.

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6. “Things are so bad in the world, I just started my own Kickstarter campaign for world peace – and now I owe them money. 42,000,000 dollars and a Get Out Of The USA Free card… Oy!!!” – Dave Weiser

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7. “Middle life is not a crisis. It’s a waterslide to old age.” – Marilyn Mandel

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8. “I went skydiving the other day. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done and the scariest. Like marriage. Except skydiving has a higher success rate.” – Don Cooper

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9. The shark had punched a hole in the bottom of the boat and we started taking on water. With nothing to plug the hole the Captain said, just sit on it. I did but the leak got worst. Remembering JAWS, I yelled “We’re gonna need a bigger Butt!” – Bob Moher

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10. “A guy walking along the beach finds a bottle. He pulls out the cork, and a genie appears and tells him he has three wishes. “But,” the genie says, “I have to warn you, whatever you receive, your worst enemy will get twice as much as you.”

“Okay,” says the guy, “first, I want ten million dollars.” The genie grants the wish and reminds him that his worst enemy now has twenty million dollars.

“Next wish, I want a thirty-room mansion in the Bahamas.” The genie builds the mansion for him, and lets him know that his worst enemy now has a home twice as big.

“Fine. For the last wish,” the guy picks up a big stick and hands it to the genie, “beat me HALF to death.” – Debbie (my wife who thinks she’s funny telling old jokes).

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Have a comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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