Archive for the 'Corporate Comedy' Category

Apr 26 2013

Do Not Bend

The Internet has made nearly every job on Earth easier. Except mine. Connecting the world through instantaneous communication is all well and good, but it makes it really difficult to tell someone a joke they’ve never heard before.

Some well-meaning clean comedian will come up with a wry observation on, say, breakfast cereals. The punch line hardly has a chance to leave his pen before it’s being forwarded to half the country. I’m not sure how the joke gets out, but I believe it’s absorbed into an e-mail through osmosis. By the time the comedian actually gets onstage to tell his joke, all your relatives have sent it to you multiple times, claiming it’s a legitimate discovery by the Breakfast Council of America and that if you don’t forward it on, you don’t love Jesus. Or kittens.

Fortunately, much of my material comes from my own life experiences, so it tends not to be as susceptible to this phenomenon as more general observations. But still, the Internet is a big place, and sometimes even life experiences aren’t unique.

Case-in-point: The other day, I went to get the mail, and wedged into the mail slot was an enormous brown envelope with the words “Do Not Bend” printed across it in big, authoritative letters. And of course, there’s a giant bend, right down the middle.

It occurs to me there might be a joke there somewhere. It’s not exactly comedy gold, but a comedian learns to look at everything as potential material. So I’m picturing some rogue postal worker who plays by his own rules, refusing to be bound by the tyrannies of mail delivery etiquette. No mere letter is going to tell HIM what to do! I file the joke away to work on later.

The next day I’m browsing Twitter when I come across a post by a friend, another clean comedian like myself. It’s a picture of a big brown envelope, virtually identical to the one I got, unceremoniously bent down the middle and wedged into HIS mail slot. With a quip about a Postal Workers’ Rebellion, subverting the system one bent letter at a time.

Thirty years ago, my friend and I could have toured with our respective jokes and hardly anyone would have noticed. But today, his joke is already being retweeted to thousands of followers while mine sits unfinished in the back of my mind. Guess it’s back to the drawing board….

Blessings,
Jeff

No responses yet

Mar 14 2013

Getting Ready for Tax Time

Published by under Corporate Comedy

Well, it’s that time of year again … tax season is upon us. Even a clean comedian like me has to pay his fair share.  This year my New Year’s resolution was to get my financial matters in order.  I called my accountant, Rocco, to set up an appointment and got a very disturbing message on his answering machine, “Hi, this is Rocco.  I’ve gone to Rome to witness the selection of our new Pope. I’ve never been to a Conclave before. Leave a message. Arrivederci!”

How can Rocco be so unprofessional as to leave myself and his other clients in the lurch while he’s off gallivanting to the Holy See to watch white smoke billow out of a chimney?  Where is his devotion and loyalty to a higher authority…the IRS?  And what if his trip results in a delay of my tax refund?

I wrote him an angry email.  Here is his response:

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for your email.  I understand your concern but there’s no need to worry, I’ll be back in plenty of time to file your extension (God and His Holiness willing).  Please leave your shoebox in a waterproof garbage bag under my porch.  I have to run now – my cappuccino is getting cold.

Ciao!
Rocco

An extension? Is he kidding me? While he is in Italy dining on pasta and pizza perhaps he didn’t take into account that filing an extension could jeopardize our family’s annual “Race for the Postmark” event.  Last year we made it to the post office window at 11:55:023: That’s 1/100th of a second off last year’s record.

Then a brilliant idea came to me and I sat down to furiously write Rocco another email:

Dear Rocco,

Thank you for your prompt response.  I was just thinking that since you are going to be at the Vatican anyway, would you mind stopping by St. Peter’s and lighting a candle in my name and saying a prayer to St. Matthew, the patron saint of taxes?

Grazie,
Jeff
Clean comedian

Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

 

One response so far

Oct 08 2011

Another Corporate SNAFU

Published by under Corporate Comedy

As I said, I pride myself on being the ultimate professional. Companies love having me and I enjoy them. I perform a family-friendly show. I don’t break into any crazy rants. All that said, I am human, and mistakes do happen. Let me share one – I think it’s pretty funny. After reading this, I’d love to know your comments.

Sam’s Club Event, Las Vegas, Nevada
I was the main entertainment at a large sales meeting for Sam’s Club. A lot of top salespeople were present. Now, many folks are committed to their company, it’s image, quality, etc., but no one is more passionate about it than the sales force. And none are more committed to their company than the fine executives at Sam’s Club. And rightly so – it’s a top notch corporation.

Sam’s Club may have a number of competitors, but the only one you probably know about is their biggest competitor, Costco. And they are fierce competitors. Let’s just say, you wouldn’t want to show up at a Sam’s Club meeting bragging about a flat screen you just scooped up for a song at Costco.

I have a bit I do, you might have heard it. I talk about how… “My wife and I hide brownies and muffins in the bedroom to keep them from the kids. We go in the bedroom late at night and lock the door. The boys probably think we’re doing something else, but we’re just under the covers eating brownies and laughing.” Later, after talking about something else, I tell them… “We have three boys, ages 20, 18 and 3. That’s right, 20, 18 and three. Yeah, we ran out of brownies one night. It won’t happen again, though. We get them….”

Let me back up a second. Thus far, the night’s going swimmingly. Everyone’s laughing and engaged. After a hard day’s work, people are enjoying themselves. Everything’s working. I’m the train, comfortably on the rails, with nothing but clear track ahead. However, there’s one person in the room, my manager, Lenny, who can see the train about to wreck. I’m oblivious. This bit I’m doing has worked every time I’ve done it. Without fail.

Later Lenny told me it was like one of those action movies where you see the person in slow motion helplessly trying to intervene yelling (also in slow motion), “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Lenny told me he had sweat dripping down his back and wanted to throw something at me (and he was close enough to do it). Like the old Krazy Kat and Ignatz cartoons.

But it’s too late. Here comes the punch line. The line that was meant to be the last line of my set, and would have been even if I didn’t mean it to be. I said, “Yeah, we ran out of brownies one night. It won’t happen again, though. We get them from Costco by the pallet now.”

That’s right, Costco.

The air went out of the room. At first, you could have heard a pin drop. Then people actually started booing. I hadn’t been booed in 20 years. By the time I realized what I’d done, it was too late to correct my mistake.

It had been a great set and to end on that note was a huge bummer. After I wrapped the set, I apologized to the executive who’d booked me. After a few uncomfortable moments, we were able to see the humor in it and we got a chuckle out of it.

However, I was upset about it for a few days. At least I got a good story out of it. There’s old Mark Twain again, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”

Ironically, we were never a Costco family. We shop at Sam’s Club. I use Costco in my bit because some genius decided (this is true) that words that begin with a “K” sound are funny. I guess that’s why they have “Clowns” not “Lowns.”

Anyhoo… I believe when you lose, you shouldn’t lose the lesson. I’ve gotten really good about scanning my material for anything that might offend any constituent. Nothing like that has happened since and, God willing, it’ll never happen again.

6 responses so far

Sep 21 2011

Corporate SNAFU

I pride myself on being the ultimate professional. Companies love having me and I enjoy them. I perform a family-friendly show.  I don’t break into any crazy rants.  All that said, I am human, and mistakes do happen.  Let me share one – I think it’s pretty funny. After reading this, I’d love to know your comments here or your own tales of woe.

 

Seattle
I was doing a corporate gig in Seattle. Now, let me first explain something. While I’m known as a “Christian Comedian,” the truth is that there’s nothing that would offend a non-Christian in my comedy act.  My topics are purely family-oriented.

Now, if I’m performing in a religious venue, like a church, and they request it, I will passionately talk about my faith. But when you’re in Vegas, or at the Merchants of Business Commerce Industry Conference, nobody really wants to hear about that.  They just want to be entertained.

I’ve worked for everyone from Sam’s Club to the Hamilton Farm Bureau, from Chick-fil-A to Blue Creek Investment Partners, from Amway to General Mills.

But, there I was in Seattle.  I was killing (which, in Comedy terms, is a good thing).  Then I set up a joke by saying, “We’re a praying family, my wife and I. When we were going to have children, we prayed for patience, tolerance, love and understanding… but God has his own way of answering prayers….”

Now, trust me, because I’ve done this literally 1000’s of times.  Something funny really is coming that has nothing to do with God per se.

For the joke to work, we could have been anything that prayed.  We could have been atheists that prayed to telephone poles.  But, these are the words that have been working for me for 20 years.

Before I could get another word out, a woman appeared at the foot of the stage and said, “You’re done.”  I walked over to her.  “But I still have 10 minutes left….” She said, “No, you’re done now, so get off the stage.” So, like Snagglepus, I exited, stage right.

I was flabbergasted (and I don’t flabber easily).  I wasn’t the only one.  Standing in the back of the room, people kept telling me I was great and asking me what happened.  “A woman told me to stop.” They couldn’t believe it any more than I could.  Who?! What woman? Her? Really?!

Later on, I came to learn that she was afraid I was about to launch into some right wing, Christian evangelical, righteous, alienating, politically incorrect sermon.  (It was a joke about while we’d prayed for patience, etc., we were “blessed” with two ADHD children.  OK, maybe this doesn’t sound funny NOW, but she messed up my timing!  If you like, you can watch it here.

A week later I received a letter from the woman apologizing for what she did and telling me I was “welcome to work for the company in the future.”  I was 99% sure she was “asked” to write the letter, but there wasn’t any sincerity in it.  I wanted to lash out (ever write a dozen angry drafts and wisely rip them all up?) but I wrote back simply that I am always extremely careful not to offend.  Preaching to folks has its place, I wrote, and I know that the stage isn’t it and would never do that.  I also mentioned the kinds of things I was up to, including adopting children for World Vision. Turns out she also adopts for World Vision.  Long story short, after a bunch of exchanged missives, we are now mutually respectful email pals!

My comedy makes fun of myself and my family.  Mostly me. Really, if anyone should be offended after one of my shows it should be me.  I can think only of one other corporate SNAFU in my 32 years of doing comedy, and it’s truly hilarious.  I’ll tell you about it next time.

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3 responses so far

Mar 30 2009

Wants and Needs

I remember when my youngest teen stopped me in the hall and asked if we could talk. Not having a whole lot to do, I obliged the lad. Without hesitation, he shoots out, “I think I am old enough to buy my own school clothes.”

I thought about it and replied, “You know, I think you’re right.”

Then we stared at each other for about a minute.  He then broke the silence by saying, “Well?”

To which I replied in kind, “Well, what?” (Scintillating so far, is it not?)

He then says incredulously, as if I am a moron that was missing the obvious, “Well, I need some money!”

I said to him, “I thought you said you wanted to buy your clothes, not run to the mall and pick them out with my money. To be honest you could have done that when you were five.”

He says, “Whatever!”

That is one word that makes the hair on my neck stand up. Every time I hear it, I want to boink him right in the eyes, not hard, you know just like Mo used to do to Larry. I mentioned this because the word “whatever”, is one of the words that he uses that drives me crazy. The other one, and I don’t know why this is, is the word need.

I get tired of hearing that word come out of my children’s’ mouths. I have corrected them a thousand times.  “You don’t neeeeeed the gummy bears, you waaaaant the gummy bears.”

“Whatever!” they reply. And so it goes.

We finally had it out in the mall. We weren’t there five minutes and everything his eyes set upon he needed. The proverbial straw was a pair of gym shoes.

“Oh Dad, I neeeeed these shoes, I really need them!!!! And look, they’re only a hundred dollars.”

“Only?” I said.

“Yeah,” he says.

First of all, let me tell you, I love the word “only,” especially, when it comes from the unemployed.   I also have to tell you there was no way I was spending a hundred dollars for a pair of shoes that this walking hormone would outgrow on the way out of the mall.

So I looked him in the eye and said, “No, let’s go home.” Not thinking for a minute he would accept that.

“But Dad, I neeeeeeed those shoes!”

“You don’t need them, you want them.” I said. “Let me ‘splain’ something to you my little lad. First of all unless your name is Michael Jordan, never in this lifetime will you NEED a hundred dollar pair of gym shoes. But I understand how much you want the shoes, and I have forty dollars for your gym shoes.

Now I can tell you what you neeeeed!” I paused for dramatic effect, and said, “Sixty bucks.”

And for emphasis, I added “only.”

As he melted down in front of me, crying about the unfairness of it all, I strode towards the car and paused just briefly enough to utter,   “Whatever!”

How are all of you holding up against the narcissistic onslaught of teenage needs?  Do you cave in? Have you figured out where to draw the line?

I’d love to know!  Click on the “responses” button and let us all know!

3 responses so far

Jan 14 2009

WELCOME: “Teenagers: God’s Revenge on Mankind”

Hello all!  Welcome to the inaugural (I just looked up “inaugural” and I’m astonished to see that it means just what I intended! Namely: “serving to set in motion”) post of my new blog, Teenagers: God’s Revenge on Mankind.  Anyone who has seen my act knows that I pursue the lighter (and heavier) side of being married with teenagers. It’s true that I’ve been quoted as saying that I believe God created teenagers to punish us so we would know what it felt like to have someone created in our own image that denied our existence.

The purpose of this blog is to explore issues related to being married, raising children, even wandering around in the “empty nest” – that state of grace that many dread, only to come to appreciate, or long for, only to come to dread.

However, I’d like this to be different from my normal gigs – the ones where I do all the talking and you do all the laughing.  I’d like this to be more of a dialogue – a community conversation.  My hope is that we’ll all learn something, and have fun in the process.

Are you in?

12 responses so far