Here I am at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce event. . .I’m hanging with the Capitol City bank logo at a party!

So I’ve been doing comedy for convention crowds – corporations and associations – for over 14 years now, and I keep getting asked about what is appropriate humor.

Soooo, I’m going to focus this series on appropriate humor: what is not appropriate, topics to stay away from, how to craft it, rules for using humor, why it fails and what to do when the humor doesn’t hit. This should take me well into 2012! Yeah, no more trying to figure out my blog topics. My first entry, today, will begin with. . . drum roll please. . . what is not appropriate humor for business events. I’ve got half a dozen things that are not appropriate. I’ll address a couple today, a couple later in the week, etc. . .you get the idea.

I started out doing comedy clubs and bar gigs. I realized it was time to stop doing bar gigs (clubs are still fun) when I walked into a bar gig 10 years ago, and the owner took one look at me and blurted out “you ain’t got any of them thinking jokes do ya? My jokes were not appropriate for his room. Time to move to a more appropriate venue. . . the convention market!

With that said, jokes for business groups (whether you’re a comedian or just want to sprinkle your talk with some funny) are a different animal, and you need to make sure your humor is appropriate. And sometimes, the reason a joke is NOT appropriate for the convention group may not be obvious. I did a show for 500 blind merchants once, and what’s the first thing as a comedian you want to say when you’re standing up in front of 500 blind people. “HEY, I’M NAKED.” Well, they didn’t want me to say that, and not for the reasons that you think – Most people think you shouldn’t say it because it brings up a ghastly visual for them – even if they can’t see me, there really are very few people you want to see naked. And some people may think you shouldn’t say it because it seems a little mean spirited. Actually they didn’t want me to say it because They’ve heard it all! The client said there is not one single blind joke you can tell or think up, that we have not heard. Don’t say it. Which meant even if I thought of the wittyiest, cleanest blind joke on the planet, it would not have been appropriate for this group. Sometimes the reason the joke is not appropriate is not apparently obvious.

First off, remember that corporate humor is more than just “taking the F word out.” You shouldn’t cuss EVER. I don’t even say the word “crap” because I don’t want to go there. You must at least do that. But also, in my opinion (which all of this is, by the way), I’d stay away from the three hot beds, Religion, politics & sex – pun intended, unless that’s what they hired you to speak on, and/or they know you incorporate those subjects. Even if you cover all sides of politics and you have fun with all of the religions on the planet, unless the group specifically hired you knowing that that’s what you’ll joke about, I’d stay away.

AND, even if it’s a group that you think you can get a little racier with, like “good ole boys, ” don’t. I did a show for contractors and it didn’t go well (I’ve had a lot of shows for contractors that DID go well. . this one  just didn’t). Afterwards the president leaned over to me and said “these are contractors, you should’ve done some D__ jokes.” Ironically I was following a speaker who talked for an hour on how contractors need to change their image from good ole boys to professionals. I told the president that I don’t want to offend anyone in the room and if I bomb doing clean humor I can tell the client (and the agent who booked me) that it wasn’t a good match. If I kill (meaning rock the room) doing even a couple dirty jokes, but just one person complained about the humor, then I can’t defend myself.So be wary of doing jokes about sex, religion and politics in the corporate setting.

So watch the racey humor and you’ll be off to the races with some good jokes.