I perform stand-up comedy at a lot of corporate events.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that a corporate events/holiday parties are about socialization. People are looking to have a meal, maybe a few drinks, and to chat with friends. Entertainment is a bonus, but not the focus of the night. It’s the cherry on top of your party sundae.
I’m here to tell you: There’s a right and a wrong way to have a corporate comedy show.
So how do you make sure your show is set up for success?
First: consider the length of the show.
Comedy isn’t like live music: more time doesn’t necessarily mean more benefit.
In the case of comedy, the goal is to entertain attendees at the right time and for the right length of time.
At a corporate event, comedy is just part of the proceedings. It’s a nice bonus to the evening, but it’s not the focus of the event. As stated, there’s usually dinner, drinks, and socialization. On top of that are awards, speeches, promotions… at a corporate event, everyone came for some other reason. The comedy is just a bonus, and not everyone is going to be into it.
In contrast, at a comedy club, people have actively made the decision to leave the house and see live comedy. It’s their thing, and they’re ready to sit for two hours and focus on a comedian.
I explain this to my corporate clients, and offer a tiered pricing system, starting at 30 minutes all the way up to 90 minutes.
Word to the wise: it is a rare corporate event that should have a 90-minute show. In all my years of experience, the sweet spot is 30 minutes.
Not everyone likes comedy
I performed at a corporate dinner-and-entertainment event with 200 guests in attendance. But right after dinner was served, 150 people got up and left before the comedy started.
After the show ended, the organizer was apologetic; he explained that they were at the end of a three-day event, people were tired, quite a few were leaving early in the morning and wanted to get back to their hotel rooms… yada-yada-yada.
Personally, I was happy with the event, and I told the organizer so. The 50 who stayed genuinely wanted to be there. I’d rather have an audience of 50 who want to see a show versus a crowd of 200, where 3/4 are disinterested and resentful of having to be there at all.
When should comedy happen in the evening? First, middle, or last?
Sometimes corporate events include giveaways, especially holiday parties. Someone is winning a trip to Hawaii, or crossing their fingers for that 70” flat-screen TV.
If you put the giveaway after the comedy performance, you’re forcing people who might not want to be there to sit through the show.
A few grumpy apples in your crowd can swing the entire “feel” of a performance, and sour the entire show, no matter how funny the comedian is. Do the giveaway, then have the comedy show. It’ll turn out better all the way around.
That time I went up right before a giveaway…
It. Was. Horrible.
Comedy is a nightcap. A way to bid the evening adieu. Put it last in your lineup, and as George Costanza figured out: leave on a high note.
Your must-know tips to planning a corporate comedy show:
- Not too long, not too short. 45 minutes is perfect, or sometimes a bit more. No longer than an hour.
- Have the comedy show at the end of the evening.
Next up, we’ll talk about how to actually find that comedian—and how to vet him or her to ensure you are hiring an inexperienced turd.
Looking for more corporate comedy show planning tips?
Other posts in this series:
- Part 1: Is comedy right for your event?
- Part 3: Finding a corporate comedian
- Part 4: Final tips for a great comedy show
Header image by Kane Reinholdtsen