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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.