Tryin’a Be Funny at Work

As the writer for a big company, I’m usually the go-to-guy for presentations. I’ll be asked to draft a speech, craft a video or take the reins on a team building skit.

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I’m a pretty funny (looking) guy (Ha! see what I did there?) and I’m quick with a joke. But writing funny for work is a completely different beast.

There’s a lot to consider with corporate comedy:

  • The company tone
  • The audience
  • The setting
  • How funny the speaker is
  • How funny the speaker thinks he/she is.

Don’t underestimate the difference between those last 2 bullets, please. It can be bigly.

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It’s OK to be Kind Of Mean.

When you present, you can get a little edgy, a little bitey and a little self-deprecating. You strike a 1-for-you, 1-for-them balance. You can rip Sue from staffing as long as you end with something nice about her—or her troll collection. Then you balance it with a crack about yourself to redirect away from terrible Sue.

Sorry, Sue. You’re the worst.

But when you write corporate comedy for others, you can’t knock Sue. Because you can’t knock the presenter. Because that’s 2-for-you (the writer), none-for-them. And you can’t buck the people. But you can buck the system.

Try punching up—take your jabs at the brass above you. Or, at least the ones who won’t fire you for it. Because they’re the ones who created this tyrannical system. And you’re ready to rebel. You deserve a Swingline stapler, too! Death to the capitalist pigs!

…No? Too far? Sorry about that. Maybe just a joke about that time your boss microwaved fish in the break room.

Don’t hate the players.

Unless you go REALLY obscure.

For instance, if you have to recognize someone in a lower rank, make up ridiculous stuff. Like, super ridiculous. Like how Diane got the bug for boxing after punching her grandma in the face. Twice. Or how T.J. sells hats for pot-bellied pigs in his Etsy store.

Ridiculous is ok. You just can’t get real.

Hold on, folks. I just googled that pig hat thing. This is real, y’all.

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Group Comedy For Dummies

Sketches…ugh. Group comedy ain’t easy. So  here’s my advice.

First, and I cannot stress this enough, no singing. Just please, no.

Next, choose a star and let ’em shine. There’s very little chance you’ll have a group of high-caliber performers. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one. Embrace them. Give them the lion’s share of lines. And delicious jolly ranchers. Other people can contribute, sure, but use them in supporting roles.

Focusing on one star will also limit your liabilities. Because stuff happens. Mics cut out. Powerpoint crashes. Kelly’s new face cream turns her face maroon.  But your star will step up—even if it looks like she got slapped by a raisin.

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Don’t Force the Funny, Mmmkay?

Sometimes people ask you for comic assistance because THEY want to be funny. But if they had chops, they wouldn’t be asking YOU for help, would they? So write something great. But don’t make it funny. Go all in with emotion. Make it special. And sprinkle in phrases you’ve heard the requester say so they’ll feel like they own it  — like it’s theirs — and they’ll be flattered that you, an actual writer, used their words.

Now the presenter is happy. the audience is safe and you can watch from the wings without an anxiety-tightened bunghole.

Want a bonus tip? Don’t let presenters read from a smartphone. It looks like they’re hunting Pokemon. So print out your script. Use comic sans for added hilarity.

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I’ve been lucky to work with a very talented comedy director and a wonderful improv training group. They’ve inspired me to learn more. Video is the future of content (said everyone ever) and improv techniques are way more valuable than you might imagine. Not just for comedy. For communication.

So I’m going to learn more about them. You should, too.

Because better is better.

 

 

 

How Playing Hockey With 12-Year-Olds Made Me Want to Be a Better Person

If I promise this is NOT a sports post, will you bear with me for the next 350 words or so?

See, I spend A LOT of time writing. (I know, you’d think I’d be better at it by now, right? Shut up, brain.) And when I’m not writing, I’m researching writing. And after the kids go to bed, I do s’more.

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Except for twice a week.

Twice a week, I play hockey.

I’m a goalie. Have been for 26 years. Pretty competitive, too. These days, it’s just for fun–but it’s more to fun to win. (Stole that little nugget from a bumper sticker.)

Though I’m still quite good, my skills are on the decline. I’m not going to blame this on age. Mostly because this whole “turning 40” bit is getting old –no pun intended. (Ok, sort of intended.)

I’m going to blame this on a lack of practice.

After college, practices aren’t really a thing anymore. So I haven’t had formal training in years.

This summer, I registered for a goalie clinic, even though the average camper was like, 12.

But I gave it a shot.

I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say registration day offered its fair share of awkward moments.

  • They didn’t have a jersey big enough for me
  • Everyone assumed I was an instructor
  • I got called “sir” by another goalie
  • Nobody was quite sure where to look in the locker room (no nudity, but it was still weird)

I took it seriously though–even the skating drills and picking up pucks. And I earned a few middle schooler fist bumps along the way.

After 4 days, I was exhausted, battered and could hardly move. But I was a better goalie. And I played faster. And I was happy. That carried through to my day-to-day.

And as sore as I was, I felt better.

Because I was.

Uh oh, sitcom learning moment coming…

Keep honing your craft. Any craft. Every craft. Build skills for the things you enjoy doing–not just what needs doing.

Because at some point, we (ok, me) put aside those things a little bit before we should.

Sha la la la.

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Next week I’ll write something funnier.

 

 

About the Yelling

Sometimes my kids can be assholes. This is ok for me to say because I love my kids more than anything. But even they have their moments.

Plus, I made it generic, sort of.

I have 2 great kids. Every now and again though, they do something that makes me lose it. Not listening. Kicking each other. Wiping a booger on the dog.

And I yell.

I don’t know where this comes from. Something snaps, my heart rate jumps and a deep, house-trembling BOOM screams from my mouth and slams into my kids. Sometimes it makes them stop, but it usually doesn’t.

Even if it does, it’s not the right way for me to handle it.

Because it’s not their fault.

This is MY problem.

I know it’s wrong the instant it happens. Sometimes I have this little preemptive warning flash. I can’t stop it — it’s just kind of a “buckle up” moment. And then I have to straighten the picture frames when it’s over.

It needs to stop. I’ve been making small steps. Just a little better.

Before, I didn’t even get that quick signal before the explosion.

Honest Abe Moment: This is the reason I started the blog. I need to hold myself accountable for this. So I’ve started reading more about the subject and listening to audiobooks. I think I found one that works! Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, by Laura Markham. (No, not THAT Dr. Laura.)

For the record, I never physically harm anyone. Not my kids. Not my wife. Not my dogs. I would need to do more than blog to fix that. Plus, my wife would take half my stuff.

I’m an otherwise patient and peaceful person.

I won’t get into details, (maybe another time) but as of this posting, I’ve had the first 100% voice-raising-free week I can remember.  And I had great days with my family. Even when my patience was tested. It felt REALLY good. (Especially when I saw 2 other dads lose their cool at T-ball practice. No judgement here. That would have been me a week earlier.)

This is going to take a lot of work. And I’m committing to being as great a dad to my kids as my father was to me. I owe it to him, to them and my wife.

Speaking of my wife, I showed her this blog. So now it’s really real. It’s officially been read by 1 person who isn’t me. And it’s the person I’m doing this for. So, here’s to getting better.

OK, let’s do this.

I just turned 40. And this sounds so. damn. cliche. But I want to get better. Not a lot, because I’m pretty happy with who I am — but not completely happy, ya know?

So the rallying cry for the year is “Just A Little Better.”

When I do things–all the things–I want to do them better. Better than “good” or “meh” or “Hey, way to be just ok!”

Not just “That’ll do, pig.”

So here’s to more effort. More guts. More chutzpah.

More patience. More love. (Yecch. Should’ve stopped at “Chutzpah”)

And here I am. Here we are. Here this is. The worst post I hope to write. Because I want to get better. At everything. Just a little at a time.