09/27/2012 12:09 EDT | Updated 11/27/2012 05:12 EST

How Stand-Up Comedy Can Help Your Company


Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Facebook is made of sappy quotes, kittens and bacon. Why? People love that stuff and feel comfortable sharing it with their friends, so it goes viral. Is your business as interesting as bacon? As cute as puppies? As inspiring as Nelson Mandela? If not, you're in trouble. Facebook is a different world: George Takei is more powerful than Coca Cola, BMW beats Ford, and Samsung Mobile outperforms Apple.

By the end of this article, I'm going to tell you the world's funniest joke, how to be happy forever, and how to get rich in just 7 days by working a 4-minute week. But right now I'm competing with everything else for your attention. You could go watch grumpy goats on YouTube or eat a jelly donut or look out the window, but instead you're going to read this entire article like it's the most important thing you'll read all year, because it is. Let me explain...

Every week I drive 90 minutes to do just five minutes of stand up comedy. Sometimes I'm the funniest guy on earth. Sometimes nobody laughs. Sometimes I yell at drunk people. Then I drive back home. Three hours to do five minutes. Crazy? No, it's the most important thing I do all week. Why?

Stand up comedy is Navy Seal training for becoming more interesting. Being interesting is critical to marketing and staying alive as a business. Being funny gives you and edge over your competitors.


It's nuts that I do stand up, because I was a painfully nerdy child. I was a trekkie who created his own fonts and listened to Asia. Bullies sprayed me with shaving cream while I was riding my bicycle. I'm still socially phobic, but in 1999, Toastmasters of La Jolla (San Diego) taught me cutting-edge speaking techniques from the 1980's. It exposed me to improv comedy and humorous speaking. A few years later, I discovered a group of comedians who wanted to cooperate (this never happens, but these guys were able to stay on their meds). I was given an unheard of 25 minutes a week on stage in my first nine months and gave birth to a beautiful eight pound, 30-minute set. That's fast. Usually it takes a comedian five years to come up with your first 60 minutes of funniness.

I had to throw away half that material later, because if you want to keep business clients, if you want corporate keynote gigs, and if you want the Huffington Post to publish your new humor column, you need squeaky-clean humour. All new comics create lame jokes about midgets, drugs and hookers. These hack jokes are your defense against a hostile audience. Maybe we don't all grow past it, but you do learn to be funny without these crutches. Probably the most widely acknowledged comedian right now, Louis CK, still talks about farts, but he spent two decades learning other fundamental skills. He can also be funny about death or parenting (maybe those are the same thing).

If you want to use humour in your business, make sure you're past your hack phase. If you let just any intern write social media jokes for your company, you're courting a PR disaster. Get a clean comedian to spice up your social marketing, and your brand becomes a social media superpower. If you want your humour on Facebook to go viral and your audience is older than 13, it has to be both clean and funny.

Yes, you'll find plenty of edgy material on Reddit, because Reddit has 10x as many 13-18 year-old fans than the Huffington Post does. And HuffPost has five times as many fans overall, so Reddit is 50x less mature than HuffPost. What if you're a business like a medical supply company? Then, your humour needs to be grown up.

I love to show companies this example post the American Heart Association (AHA) posted in June 2012, not because it's hilarious -- but because it worked, and it's in a modern format (a custom-made someecard). It got major interaction on Facebook: 236 people shared it with their friends. Most organizations don't have the guts to attempt humour. But the AHA does, and continues to innovate: they recently posted a music video for a song promoting their Heart Walks -- six cardiologists singing, playing music and dancing -- it's goofy but very touching, and it's effective social media, because it was shared by 150 people. You can also check out my public Facebook posts, because I'm always experimenting with funny and inspirational posts.


So maybe you have some comedian larva at your company. Send them to open mic's. Let them experiment. Figure out what your social media content policy is. What level of humor are you comfortable with? You may not know it until you see it. Develop it over time. Create an editorial review process so that you never post anything too crazy. Don't committee this to death, though. If you do, expect a lot of jokes from these same comic butterflies making fun of your committees. If you don't get that kind of guff from them, you don't really have anyone funny working for you. Oh, and all those promises at the beginning of the article were just a joke. HA ha.