Everybody’s a comedian | Entertainers Go Corporate
By Courtny Lingle, Denver Business Journal
“I was always sort of goofy,” said Brad Montgomery with a genuine smile and a giggle straight from the gut. In his profession, being goofy is an asset.
Montgomery is one of a growing number of people around the country using humor to spice up conventions and the workplace and relay important messages to corporations via jokes, stand-up and improvisational comedy, humorous anecdotes and even magic.
Montgomery, a Denver local and self-proclaimed “funny motivational speaker and humorist,” says these days people seem to need humor more than ever.
“People need to be coached into remembering that life rocks,” said Montgomery, who has been speaking to audiences in Denver, Colorado and across the country for about 15 years.
With a bad economy, massive layoffs and the anniversary of Sept. 11 hanging like a thundercloud over people’s heads, a joker like Montgomery might be just what the doctor ordered – and a creative way for companies to achieve success.
Colorado funny motivational speakers like Montgomery say adding a humor to a meeting, convention or training session can be a phenomenal way to boost morale, get a message across or just lighten the mood to make a long, boring day of meetings a little more bearable.
Chris and Tim O’Shea of Experience Productions said humor and improv can make for better relationships between co-workers.They’ve performed in front of companies as big as Hewlett-Packard and Travelers Express.
“It really helps you to see your colleagues in a different light,” Chris O’Shea said. “It really helps with building morale. You have a different relationship after you’ve laughed together. When you have laughed together, you work together better. You have a common experience that’s based on something positive.”
The husband-and-wife team said humor is sometimes the best way to get a message across. “It helps employee retention,” he said. “People think, ‘This company is fun and sometimes funny, I don’t want to leave.'”
Montgomery said bringing using humor and laughter can also be a good way to soften the blow of problems that affect a company, such as layoffs, and a great way to deal with change.
Montgomery recalled speaking to a group of health care employees in Los Angeles who were facing major changes in leadership coupled with the introduction of a new software.
“I put that change back into perspective,” said Montgomery, who began his program by introducing himself as the new president. “Change is going to happen anyway, so you might as well laugh about it.”
Most of the people doing corporate motivational humor have a background in comedy and or theater. But as Kevin Fitzgerald described it, “Corporate entertaining is very different than club work because of the nature of the beast.” Fitzgerald is a veterinarian for Alameda East Veterinary Hospital and appears frequently on Animal Planet’s reality TV show “Emergency Vets.” He also works as a stand-up comedian and corporate entertainer. Fitzgerald said that diversity of audience is a major difference, because often the only thing people have in common is work. There are other challenges to entertaining in a work environment, such as political correctness and fear of offending someone.
“Can it be funny when the sun’s up?” Fitzgerald asked. “Can it be funny if people don’t have drinks in front of them? Can it be funny if they’re sitting next to their boss?” He said it’s also more difficult because they do not go to a meeting or conference expecting to laugh. “They didn’t ask for comedy, they have to be there,” he said. “They’re not with their friends, they’re with the people they work with. But they’re desperate to laugh.”
The great thing about humor is that when it is done well, it reaches everyone from the 60-year-old veteran about to retire to the 22-year-old newbie starting his first day on the job, Fitzgerald explained. “The best humor touches all of us,” he said. “They both laugh if you do it right.”
Colorado funny motivational speakers and humorists entertainers said that because of a growing awareness of the effectiveness of this approach and the increase in the number of conferences and conventions coming to Denver, the corporate entertainment industry is flourishing.
“I think people are tired of just hearing the boss speaking,” said Fitzgerald, noting that the local demand for corporate entertainment has gone up tremendously. “Denver has really taken off as a nationally recognized destination for conventions,” he said.
The O’Sheas said that while business was down for a short while after Sept. 11, that tragedy seems to have increased people’s desire for this sort of program. “I think there’s certainly a greater appreciation for it,” Chris said. “For us, the demand is going up.” Ireland said she attributes the growth in popularity of her programs over the past 10 years to changes in our society.
“I think that there is more anger out there because we have so many more stressers in life today,” she said. “And I think sometimes [companies] get to a point where they’re having a large turnover and people are going to employers and requesting these kinds of seminars.”
Montgomery said he thinks the future of funny motivational speakers looks bright. “The industry is recession proof,” he said. “Even when things get bad, people want to laugh and need to laugh. Even when the economy is good, people still have problems.”
Montgomery noted that while the industry is growing and business is good for him and many of his colleagues, there are still people in his line of work who are not as busy. However, he said he believes the growth in demand and, therefore, higher expectations on the part of corporations seeking entertainers will “weed out some of the people who aren’t as good.”
While Montgomery, Ireland, the O’Sheas and Fitzgerald have all been speaking and entertaining for several years, the greater demand for programs like theirs has meant more comedians and speakers entering into the industry at the local and national levels. But many say the nature of the industry dictates the more the merrier. “Probably a company is only going to have me in once,” explained Ireland. “So we’re not really competing against each other. It’s not like the world of acting where there is only one part. There’s plenty of work for everybody.”
Tim O’Shea said the network of corporate entertainers in the Denver area is a tight-knit group of people who often share clients and celebrate each other’s successes. “A lot of our ‘quote-unquote’ competitors are our friends,” he said.
Brad Montgomery is a Colorado funny motivational speaker and humorist comedian. He presents his inspirational and motivational keynotes across Colorado and the United States.