Hi Dave – You talked last week about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. What is considered corporate material and what is not? – Johnny
Hey Johnny – 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 certain joke or material they’re planning to perform is appropriate for a corporate show.
Do you have any constructive thoughts or personal experiences about what is regarded as corporate material? Let me know and I’ll share them with everyone in a future FAQ and Answer.
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 work regularly in the corporate market, then you work clean.
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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. For instance, 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 guy 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).
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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 break-out 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 will determine what is corporate material for a humorous speaker. Get it?
Okay, like I said earlier that was a pretty general question – but I hope my general answer helped. Now it’s up to you.
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Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.
For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com
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