Brad's Dinner Table Rule | Brad Montgomery

Brad’s Dinner Table Rule

Brad’s Dinner Table Rule

“How to know if your humor and comedy is crossing the line of propriety”
by Brad Montgomery, CSP

Synopsis: Brad Montgomery, comedian and motivational speaker, is often asked just how far comedians should push the envelope in their jokes and speeches. How clean should they be? Here, Brad outlines a little rule of thumb he uses to decide what is and isn’t appropriate in a professional setting.

Perspective clients nearly always ask me if my show is clean. The answer is, “Crystal. Crystal Clean.” But the question is a good one… how far should we push the envelope? We agree that blue humor is a no no. But when do we tell R-rated joke? As a motivational speaker and corporate comedian, just where can you draw the line at what is too edgy? For years I’ve answered the question about how determine what’s kosher or not in my material. My favorite rule is the “Dinner Rule,” or simply “If your audience likes you enough, and feels comfortable with you enough to want to have dinner with you, then the material you are using must be safe and appropriate. If they don’t like you enough – or if you have made them uncomfortable – and they would not want to share a meal with you, then you must have crossed out of bounds.”

This means that a couple of edgy jokes and some loving teasing might be okay. But once I make anybody uncomfortable; once I am a tiny bit hurtful; once I cross the line away from a loving tease into embarrassing somebody I’ve crossed out of bounds. And nobody gets invited to dinner when they are out of bounds.

This is a great and simple rule. If I’m ever considering if any single joke, gesture, routine, topic – whatever – I ask myself it would even risk revoking my imaginary dinner invitation. If I feel that my imaginary invitation is in jeopardy, I leave it out. Simple!

And I’m not just talking about jokes, stories or material. I’m saying that we like some speakers or comedians more than others. We like their personalities. (Of course the way we perceive their personalities is what they talk about and how they handle those topics.) So when we are speakers or comedians ourselves we should consider whether our audiences like us.

The dinner table rule works because it resonates with me personally; I love comics like Billy Crystal, Ellen DeGeneres, Eddie Izzard, and Bill Cosby because they are hilariously funny and they are nice; after seeing their routine, I want to have dinner with them. Get that? They are funny AND they are nice. I think both of those characteristics are vital.

Some comic speakers and comedians are funny, but not nice. I admit that I’ve laughed at a lot of jokes that I would never tell myself. I’ve seen a lot of comedians that crack me up, but I somehow still don’t like them. I might laugh at their shows, sure, but they don’t seem like the kind of people I would want to share a meal with. When I’m on stage I want to be the type that is both likable and very funny.

(A quick aside… many folks would have dinner with almost anybody who is a celebrity. That isn’t what I’m talking about. For this Dinner Rule, I mean that you should consider people who you would want to dine with because their personalities seem likeable… whether or not they might be famous.)

The Dinner Rule answers all the questions about what you can and can’t say. How far can you push a heckler, or an audience helper? Can you make fun of the boss, or company? Can you mention the boss’s spouse? Can you tease the industry for which you are working? The company? Their corporate history? The simple answer to all of these topics is: if –after you did any of those things – they would still want to have dinner with you, then yes! If you’d make them uncomfortable, angry, or… you get the idea… just lay off.

This Dinner Rule applies to nearly every question of speaker or comedian etiquette. For example, a speaker recently asked me whether it was okay to physically touch people in our audiences, and if so, under what conditions? That was an easy one for me. I told her that if it was the type of touch that would prevent the dinner invitation, then she had her answer. If, on the other hand, she was talking about something harmless that would be appropriate for a dinner guest… voila! You’re safe.

I’m convinced that sometimes we can come close to the line; that sometimes we can push the envelope a tiny bit. We need to be clean, sure, but that isn’t to say that you can’t have any fun or tease at all. Some teasing is all right at the dinner table; I know my family or friends will tease me occasionally, and it’s fun. It can even feel like a compliment – they’re just lovin’ on me. That’s a safe area to stay in, because some teasing can still follow the dinner rule – just don’t go past the line. But if it changes from the type if teasing you might inflict on your pals to the hurtful stuff that can make people feel bad, you’ve gone too far.

Where is that “line” that we don’t want to cross? Be nice. Be polite. Be charming. If you do it really well, and are nice enough that your audience takes a liking to you, who knows – you might even get a meal out of it!

By Brad Montgomery, CSP Hilarious Motivational Speaker and Business Keynote Humorist. Using his own blend of Hilarious Humor, as well as his Award-Winning magic, Brad teaches, motivates and entertains. Great for opening or closing the convention, or even for the after-dinner entertainment. Believing that, “Life is Fun & Funny. And Filled with Magic,” Brad motivates his audiences using magic and humor to illustrate universal secrets for success. Keynotes, Breakouts, and Entertainment.

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