Comedy Club Comedy vs. Corporate comedy
Every year I get similar questions from corporate clients looking for live entertainment.
“Is your act clean?”
The client then relays their concern. It’s always a story about a comedian they had hired in the past and the comedy was going well at first and then…well let’s just say, not so well.
As a professional entertainer, I hear this several times a year from clients all over the country.
This is the difference between performing in a comedy club vs performing in a corporate venue.
Stage Comedy in the modern Era...
In terms of comedy-our world’s collective consciousness of what we find humorous has changed by an order of magnitude. Jokes that just a few years ago would get laughs are now greeted with an awkward eerie silence that only an audience afraid to react can elicit. While I’m not ready to address the cultural shifts in humor, I can address the difficulty from the point of view of the comic.
You can blame it on…
Cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical that shoots like venom throughout your body. In the context this cortisol rush in direct reaction to my “jokes not working,” I can proudly say I am familar with this feeling…
Imagine yourself in front of a live crowd.
You have practiced your material, you make sure you are in a good mood before you take the stage, you are ready to kill it! There in front of you is the audience! The audience that you had imagined standing in front of and you are ready to absolutely make them laugh! You finally deliver your humor knowing you are giving a little bit of yourself to the crowd. When it works it feels great. When it doesn’t…
You stand there on stage…
fully expecting the big laugh. Like being hit by a wave when you get a good connection with the crowd. You stand there expecting that wave (it’s really a dopamine rush-live entertainers live for the dopamine rush).
When you don’t get that expected reaction, a chemical rush instantly floods your body. It’s the cortisol. It immediately kicks in causing you to shrink, it makes your body smaller, your face goes blush, you begin to question every decision you’ve made to get you where you are in life.
“Why did I ever think I could do this?” Basically, it’s the fight, flight or freeze instincts kick in.
That’s when a stage entertainer will generally consider anything to get the audience back, often times pulling out the crudest humor because, hey, if I can’t get laughs, I’ll get oohs, and ahhs from the edgy “humor” I dropped.
In other words…I would rather sabotage this place than die in the awkward silence.
“…in that moment a stage entertainer will consider doing most anything to win the crowd back.”
If you aren’t familiar with the loud mouth 80’s comic Sam Kinison. He is pretty much a stand-up legend. The guy was fearless, one of the first real rock star comedians. He was known for his angry, bawdy, raunchy, crude humor. Think Lewis Black, but more Rock and Roll. He was a contemporary of Andrew Dice Clay and other HBO Comics that were making it big.
Sam had become such a big star he got to host SNL. In his opening monologue he felt he wasn’t connecting with the crowd, he, like most comics would relied on his comedy club (READ-NOT SAFE FOR TV) level of humor. This was all despite the fact he assured the producers that his set would be clean.
Sam explained to Lorne and the producers that he felt he was sweating on stage trying to get a laugh from the crowd. He had to find some way to connect even if that meant taking down a level.
“Think Lewis Black, but more Rock and Roll…”
Comedy Club vs. Corporate Club
Most corporate acts are clean, most comedy club acts are not…
Comedy Clubs couldn’t be more different than your typical corporate event. The lighting, the sound system, the seating, the room layout, the podium, the awards tables, the fact the crowd is sitting in the same room as their co-workers, management, and the lack of alcohol all work together to really change the dynamic when it comes to reaching the crowd with humor.
In the comedy club world-presenting a clean act means instead of saying the F-word 40 times, they say it 20 times. I recall a comic telling me years ago, “A joke is either funny or not funny. Adding a swear word won’t change that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are a lot of comics out there that absolutely kill it on stage, in any venue in front of any audience, but it is a skill leap to go from a comedy club to a PG/PG-13 clean act.
People’s #1 fear in all cultures is public speaking, until you get the audience to laugh…
Know your audience and know your speaker!
That is the best piece of advice I could give someone looking to schedule a live entertainer, speaker, or whatever!
You can reach Arthur at firstname.lastname@example.org