You’re an event planner, and you’ve got a corporate function coming up.

You’ve lined up the venue and the catering, but one big challenge remains: the entertainment.

The not-so-obvious case for comedy

Stand-up comedy adds a nice cherry to the top of your corporate function sundae. Laughter is infectious, and you want happy guests. Whether they’re clients, prospective customers, or employees, you want smiles on faces and people feeling good about the experience they just had.

Aside from the well-documented health benefits of a good belly laugh, there is a mountain of research showing why laughter can make your organization better.

Warm fuzzies

When you laugh with someone, you feel closer to them. You feel more bonded, you trust each other more.

Laughter sparks the release of oxytocin into your system. You’ve probably heard of oxytocin: it’s the hormone that promotes social bonding, increases trust, and speeds up self-disclosure.

Laughing is a fantastic way to get an oxytocin rush with coworkers. The typical methods of boosting oxytocin—giving hugs, saying ‘I love you,’ petting a dog—aren’t ideal at the workplace, but laughter is still legal, so why not give comedy a shot?

Is comedy a good idea for my group?

Comedy isn’t right for every corporate event. There are a two questions you can ask in order to easily answer the question: “Is this a good idea?”

  1. Is senior leadership supportive?

If the bosses aren’t on board with the idea of comedy, your show will fall flat on its face.

In a corporate event, most people look to management to see how to react during the show. The bosses set the tone, and if they’re not enjoying themselves, others will hold back, too. That will be the difference between roaring laughter and dead silence, and it’ll make or break the event.

So, start by ensuring that the people at the top are into comedy.

  1. Is it what the audience wants?

Let me tell you about the two worst functions I’ve ever performed at. The first was your typical business; blue-collar factory, white-collar offices. When I took to the stage, the audience was stone-faced, and angry. I didn’t get much laughter that night.

After the show, the coordinator explained that before I arrived, the employees were informed that instead of giving out bonuses to everyone, the company bought 3 flat screen televisions. They were going to hold a drawing and give them to three lucky winners. Oh, and they also used slush-fund money to hire me, the comedian.

So instead of everyone getting a couple extra bucks at the holiday time, three employees would get lucky, and then everyone else got to stare at me.

As I performed, the entire audience was thinking: “That’s my bonus money standing up there.”

The second show was somewhat similar.

The committee in charge of the party had asked the employees what they wanted for entertainment that year. Some said magician, others said band, and others said comedian. The committee decided comedian, which left many employees feeling as if they had been slighted.

Before I was announced, 2/3 of the audience was already resentful. While I was able to win pockets of the crowd, some just weren’t willing to give it up for the fella they hadn’t voted for.

All systems go

You’ve determined that your event is a good fit for comedy. What comes next?

Before you book your corporate comedian, you’ll need to know the length of show you’re looking for, and when. Let’s talk about what you can do during planning for your event that will make your comedy segment an even bigger success.

Read PART TWO: The Logistics of a Great Corporate Comedy Show

Want to skip ahead? Check out:

Part 3:  How to Find Your Corporate Comedian

Part 4: Final Tips

References:

https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/humor-serious-business

Joel Stein, Humor is Serious Business. Published in Insights, the Stanford Business School magazine, July 2017.

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