5 Benefits of Hiring a Standup Comedian for Your Meeting or Event
Standup Comedian Keith Alberstadt. Photo credit: Michael Cyra, KiawahIslandPhoto.com
For many of us, jokes and standup comedy are the last thing we are thinking about when attending a corporate meeting or event. After all, these events aren’t about “funny business,” but serious business.
But what if you had the opportunity to experience uproarious laughter while attending, say, your company’s sales conference, a tradeshow or an annual company retreat? The corporate standup comedy industry might offer that opportunity, and a wide variety of corporate standup comedians are available to help create a hilarious (but business-appropriate) experience for your attendees.
Corporate vs. Nightclub Standup Comedy
In the corporate world laughter might be few and far between, but for comedian Greg Schwem it’s a daily occurrence. Schwem has been a corporate standup comedian for over 30 years and offers a unique opportunity for meeting and event planners to give a memorable experience to their attendees.
“I started out just as your run-of-the-mill club comedian, doing comedy clubs and so forth,” Schwem said. “And I started writing tradeshow presentations for big fortune 500 companies. And the more I did them, I thought, 'There’s humor here.’”
When most people think of standup comedy, they may imagine dingy nightclubs with raunchy comedians swearing like sailors, which is not what most people want out of a corporate entertainer. But, according to Schwem, corporate standup comedy is very different than traditional nightclub standup and offers a much safer and tamer (but still hilarious) experience. In fact, most corporate comedians tailor their material to the specific company or group of people they are performing for, which further allows companies to get a curated and hilarious performance, rather than a generic standup act or routine.
“I found out the more I did these corporate dates that corporate groups really did enjoy laughing at themselves, if it was done in a way that was not offensive,” Schwem said. “I think there's a very fine line between having fun with a corporate audience and either belittling them or mocking what it is they do for a living. Because the minute you start doing that, you've lost the audience, and rightfully so.”
5 Benefits of a Corporate Comedian
Michael Yoder is a booking agent with Funny Business Agency, a family owned and operated comedy booking agency based out of Ada, Michigan. As someone who books corporate standup comedy events regularly, Yoder noted a few benefits of having a corporate standup comedian at a meeting or event, especially compared to other forms of entertainment.
Some of these benefits include:
1. Lower Production Costs
For many meeting and event planners, budget plays a huge role in deciding what kind of events or live entertainment are possible at the event. And typically, according to Yoder, standup comedians offer lower production, travel and lodging expenses. This is because most standup comedians travel by themselves, and don’t need to haul a lot of heavy equipment like other forms of live entertainment.
A typical corporate comedian might cost anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000 to book. However, just like with everything, you get what you pay for, and a heftier price tag usually brings with it a level of quality assurance.
“There are comedians that will do a performance for $50, or they’ll do it for free. But that’s not what you want to have,” Yoder said. “Because they aren’t going to have corporate-appropriate material, they aren’t going to have [long enough sets]. It’s not going to be a good performance.”
2. Simplified Setup
Setting up a meeting or event is already enough of a hassle. Corporate standup comedians offer simplified event production and require minimal setup to perform. Most standup comedy acts only require a microphone/sound system, a stage, lighting, and possibly a microphone stand and/or stool.
3. Increased Social Bonding and Comradery
According to multiple studies on the subject, laughter promotes social bonding in a group, and can even do so among complete strangers. Having a standup comedian at your event will help your attendees feel more connected with the people around them, and more likely to form professional connections and business relationships as an outcome.
4. Boosts Physical and Mental Health
There are also multiple studies that show the benefits of laughter to a person’s overall health and well-being, including short-term benefits like relieving stress and soothing tension, but also many long-term benefits such as improving your immune system and alleviating pain. As the old adage goes, “laughter is the best medicine.”
5. Creates a Memorable Event
All aspects of a meeting or event are meant to provide value to attendees. And while sitting through breakout sessions on ROI are beneficial, they can also be somewhat boring and forgettable. But according to Schwem, more people seem to resonate with his session than others throughout the day.
“If you were to have somebody go to see five breakout sessions in one day, and I was one of them, and then you asked somebody at the end of the day, 'Which one do you remember most?’ I think I would be on top,” Schwem said. “Because I think humor resonates with people, especially humor that can make people laugh about themselves.”
What to Expect From a Corporate Comedian
Many of the most well-known comedians like Chris Rock, Bill Burr or George Carlin also happen to discuss subject matters that may not be well-suited to an audience of working professionals. After all, humor is very subjective. So how do corporate comedians navigate this minefield of making people laugh while also not making people in the audience feel uncomfortable?
According to Schwem, that responsibility falls on both him and the audience. One of the main ways that Schwem avoids alienating a corporate audience is by avoiding what he calls “trigger words.”
“Let’s suppose I start a joke and I say, ‘I was in church on Sunday’; there's going to be a portion of people who are going to hear the word church and they'd be like ‘We told him, no religion. I told him not to go there.’ And they're going to shut me down. Now the joke could be, ‘[I was in church] and some guy brought his dog,’ but I might not get a chance to deliver that because I might have lost a third of the audience because they heard the word church.”
But while some of the responsibility falls on the comedian to make the audience laugh, Schwem also expressed the need for companies to have a healthy relationship with humor, and to just trust that the comedian is on your side even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.
“You gotta give humor a chance. I will deliver it for you,” he said. “But I tell my clients you have to let me do what I do best. I will make your audience laugh. I will do it without making people angry. But you’ve got to give me a chance to do it my way.”
A lot of Schwem’s jokes tend to revolve around the company that he is speaking in front of, and he will often tailor his jokes to the company or organization he was brought in by. Not only can that result in comedy, it can also result in a new, fresh perspective on how a company presents itself.
Schwem will often do a quick overview of a company’s website or “About Us” page to find things that may not be humorous but appear that way to someone outside the organization, and that can often be a learning experience for the company.
“I think there's a real benefit of bringing in somebody who sees your company from a different perspective,” Schwem said. “And my perspective is everything's amazing. Tell me about it. I'm not the dumb guy, I'm the interested guy, and I might have a comedic take on it. But I still think it's really cool, what it is you do.”