Oct 08 2011

Another Corporate SNAFU

Published by at 12:32 pm 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

6 Responses to “Another Corporate SNAFU”

  1. Peteon 09 Oct 2011 at 8:12 am

    Ouch, a punchline gone bad! Amazing, really! The one business event you don’t want a punchline like that, and it happens.
    Ah well, Jeff, I appreciate you opening up and sharing this.
    God is still good, even when things go wrong.
    Cheers.

  2. Mike Frankon 11 Oct 2011 at 6:51 am

    Jeff,

    I appreciate your sharing the story. We are all human and EVERY speaker/entertainer has made such an error…. sometime in their career. Having been in the business for 44 years and having booked over 15,000 engagements, be assured we have all had something embarrassing happen at presentations…..Mike

  3. Vinny Joyon 11 Oct 2011 at 7:34 am

    Wow, Jeff. I cannot imagine that feeling. Well, I actually can. I’ve done a lot of teaching and preaching as a pastor and prison chaplain and remember those dead spots well. I realize that every time I’m trying to be funny and there is little or no reaction it’s not a good idea to say “That was a joke.” It kinda presses the point too hard that it was probably, well, not funny to almost everyone.
    I also spend time afterwards wondering what the heck I was thinking…or not thinking that I would say something that awkward. I guess I have to remember what God said: “I’ll do the thinnin’ ’round here!” No, wait. That was a cartoon character named El Kabong from my childhood! Oh well. God bless you, my friend.
    Vinny
    Fort Knox, KY

  4. Cindy Pressonon 11 Oct 2011 at 8:13 am

    Jeff, having heard your “brownies under the covers” bit, I was already saying “Oh NO!” in my head when reading about your corporate SNAFU at the Sam’s Club event. But perhaps even funnier was picturing Lenny (even though I’ve never met him in person) with a look of complete horror on his face, trying to get your attention and desperately slashing his hand across his throat repeatedly. Now THAT’S entertainment. :-)
    Keep ‘em laughing.
    Cindy Presson

  5. Tim Cimburaon 11 Oct 2011 at 10:33 am

    During a Christian conference, I worked late on the worship PowerPoint lyric slides.
    The following morning as we were leading worship during a quiet and contemplative moment. The people sang “Lord you are, more precious than silver. Lord you are, more costly than…” and everyone broke into laughter.
    To me…this was not a funny moment. I turned toward the screen to see the slide read “Lord you are more costly than… GOLF.”
    Well, it’s a true statement…at the courses I’ve seen. It’s a good thing that God has a sense of humor.
    (Please note that the “d” and “f” keys are next to each other on the keyboard and spell checkers do not catch the wrong word in context.)

  6. Johnon 13 Oct 2011 at 12:40 am

    A BIG oops! Haven’t had any quite like that one in any speeches I’ve given, yet.

    I did notice that you are prejudiced against coming west to perform! I’m in California and keep looking for dates and times when you will be out this way. We have to learn to laugh at many things here because we have a governor that gives 12 year old girls the right to get vaccinated with that dangerous HPV vaccine that has killed 18 girls so far and damaged 1,000′s. The law he signed says they don’t have to tell their parents!

    It’s things like that we have to contend with to get a laugh. We all wish you would book some time in California so we can get some legitimate laughs that are actually funny!

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