How to Corporate

Here’s a “how to” I’ve been umming and arring over (like a tone deaf pirate) for a while. Corporate gigs are an excellent way to earn money for good comedians however they’re not to be taken lightly. This is the very part of comedy where it meets the business world and it can be tough.


(It’s much easier with interpretive dance, this guy is explaining this year’s profits in relation to the economy)

I would recommend getting a couple of years under your belt before you even attempt a corporate gig, just so your confidence level is at the highest it can be plus you have a large stock of material to fall back on. IF you’re thinking about jumping right into it then here’s my top ten things to do when doing a corporate:

1.React to your client – You are going to be working directly for someone which is very different to your average comedy gig. You can normally get up in front of the audience and talk about whatever you want but with corporate gigs you have to follow a brief from your client. They might want you to do more MCing than actual material, they may want you to constantly reference specific staff in their company or they may not want you to talk about the current economic climate as they are directly responsible for the terrible state it’s in and you’re there to stop the majority of their middle management from committing suicide. Whatever it is that they ask for you need to be ready to accommodate them.

2. Take direction but take control – As above you need to make sure you’re accommodating your client however they are not comedy promoters nor are they comedians themselves. You’re probably going to be either the host or the main entertainment for the event so don’t be afraid to give advice on how it should go. A talk about banking followed by an hour long story on how a friend died from a terminal illness then ten minutes of comedy finished up with another story of personal tragedy with no breaks is going to result in the event being a bust. If you step in and help the organisers make the event run smoothly you’re going to look a lot more professional.

3. Stay positive – Whatever happens through the event you need to stay positive. You may be shaking like Michael J Fox’s home videos but to them you need to appear calm and at ease. They’ve hired you because they want their event to go perfectly so telling them you’re nervous or that you’re worried about performing isn’t going to fill them with confidence and may end up with them asking you not to go on. Your job is to make people happy so do that, they’ll be looking to you to reassure them that they’re spending their money wisely. In this way you’re like an investment banker but with more morals and less blood sacrifices to false gods.


(Yes put all your money into rubber animal heads, no it’s the internet they fucking love a rubber animal head)

4. Dress appropriately – Yep this again. If it’s a black tie event dress in black tie, if it’s a casual event dress casual. You need to do everything you can to ingratiate yourself with the crowd as unless you’re Michael Mcintyre they’re going to be unsure of you. Obviously if you’re a character act or have a costume this isn’t that relevant.

5. Don’t discuss payment at the event – Really with corporates it’s often the case that you’ll have been paid prior to arriving, this is quite common, however sometimes you’ll get your money afterwards or even on the night (rarely). You must not talk about money on the night. It needs to be all tied up prior to you arriving. Before you even set off to the event you need to know how much and when you’re going to be paid and it needs to be set in stone. What you don’t want is to be talking about it to the organisers at the event as it’ll look like you’re disorganised and amateur.

6. Be early – This isn’t an open mic night in central London, chances are this is a fairly large company and you’ll be their sole entertainment. You need to be there at least 40 minutes before you’re due to go on but I’d recommend getting their when they’re setting up so you can run through a sound check. You’re not going to be able to ask for specific lighting or sound requirements when the event is in full flow.


(So I’m going to be sharing the stage with two pigs and I have to scream “Ride the lightning!” every time one of them oinks? Can I at least get a microphone?)

7. Make friends – You’re a comedian! Making people like you is what you do! So do it! This is a corporate event and a lot of the people you’ll be performing to will have a say in who the company books for events. You need to make sure you get business cards and come across as a lovely person to work with (I mean do this all the time but especially now) so that when someone asks “who shall we pay £2000 to host our Christmas party?” the resounding response is you. Also they are people in business who will know other people in business, you want them to be recommending you to their businessy friends.

8. Be the energy – In this situation more so than any other you need to be the energy in the room. Think of the event as this giant machine and you’re the battery, you want to put as much into it as you can so you get the most back. The thing to remember is that they’re not at a comedy night they’re at an event put on by a company so they will probably need a lot more encouragement to get on board. A good idea is to do some crowd work to break some boundaries, get them shaking each other’s hands or making silly animal noises, just so they’re a bit more comfortable laughing at you.

9. Write and use bespoke material – I can not stress this enough. When doing corporate work you should write jokes about the industry, the company/companies are in or about the company/organisation itself. It’s great if you can get information on specific people and work with that. Don’t ever be nasty but little in jokes that everyone can get on board with are fantastic. Material you’ve written specifically for the event will come across as you being incredibly professional AND will go down better than most of your usual set.


(That went down like the hooker you buried in the desert! “Oh James he’s got you there! This guy is amazing!”)

10. Know your contact – Over the course of being booked for, planning and running the event there are going to be a lot of different people involved. You need to be very clear on who you are taking your orders from. In every company there are a hundred people who think they’re in charge and one person who actually makes the decisions, make sure you know exactly who it is you’ll be answering to. If David the Finance Manager asks you to do jokes about Deidre’s divorce and you find out Deidre is the woman who’s organising the event afterwards you’ll never work for them or anyone they know ever again. Tell the jokes about David vomiting on Deidre at the Christmas Party and suddenly you’re the greatest comedian in the Western Hemisphere.

So there you have it my top ten tips for doing well at a corporate gig. I hope you’ve found these useful and if you have any feedback I look forward to hearing from you.

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