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Arment Dietrich

Laughing to the Bank: Stand-Up Comedy Helps Win More Clients

By: Arment Dietrich | September 21, 2010 | 
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Guest post by Steve Cody, co-founder and managing partner of Peppercom.

This may sound crazy, but stand-up comedy has helped win more clients for my business.

Humor is a powerful differentiator in life. Think about it. You choose your friends, business “buddies,” and significant other based upon how much you like them. So, it should come as no surprise that humor, when properly leveraged, can provide a communications firm with a distinct competitive advantage and boost in workplace morale.

I stumbled across this revelation five years ago while suffering through an endless PR industry awards dinner. I started a conversation with the guy next to me and, when the chatter turned to hobbies, was stunned to hear he performed stand-up comedy. How cool, I thought.

He provided me with the details and, within a short period of time, I was enrolled in an intense five-day training course at the New York-based American Comedy Institute. The course ended with a live performance at Manhattan’s Stand-Up New York.

I became addicted to stand-up comedy and began to perform regularly. I even created a persona, the midlife crisis comic. As my performing matured, I noticed my business presentation techniques were improving dramatically. I was becoming much more attuned to reading non-verbal clues, filling uncomfortable conversation gaps, and, critically, using comedy to create a more immediate rapport with clients and prospects.

The proverbial light bulb went on and I realized the implications for my business. So, about two years ago, we began incorporating stand-up comedy training as part of our Peppercom State management development program.

Our employees are trained level by level (all of our account executives are trained on one day, account supervisors on another, etc.). We provide an overview on the connections between humor and business, the four different “types” of comedy, and examples of each. We then ask the employees to collect their thoughts, write down a few things from their personal or professional lives that “bug” them, and then ask each to perform a few minutes of stand-up in front of the group.

The results have been nothing short of amazing. Everyone succeeds. And everyone is “funny” to one degree or another. Each group bonds in amazing ways. They pull for one another, laugh at one another’s jokes, and, critically, learn new things about the person they’d been sitting next to for the past several years.

As a manager, I’ve been able to identify a few previously overlooked “diamonds in the rough.” Several have been asked to join major new business presentations as a direct result of their “stage presence.”

Comedy’s hip, irreverent nature plays well within our culture and has helped us maintain morale during a difficult economic period. Clients and prospects alike have warmed to it. Some have even said it factored into their decision to retain Peppercom. In fact, our largest client says exactly that.

Last, but not least, we’ve been retained by various organizations to lead humor workshops for them. So, one could say we’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Stand-up comedy isn’t appropriate for every organization. It needs to reflect the culture and be driven by senior management. It works well for us because, as we like to say: “We take our client’s business and our business very seriously. But, we don’t take ourselves seriously at all.”

Comedy can work for your business. That’s no joke.

Steve Cody is co-founder and managing partner of Peppercom. He can also be found blogging at www.RepManBlog.com and performing professionally as a comedian at the New York Comedy Club.

7 comments
Randy Clark
Randy Clark

Thank you for the post. I have dabbled in stand up from time to time (I currently front a rock band and get to use some of those techniques when a string breaks) and agree it has added an edge to my presentation and sales skills. I love the idea of stand up training for our organization - what sites to do you recommend? Thanks.

Sally G.
Sally G.

Comedy (or audible sense of humour) is an under-valued quality for sure. Shared laughter relaxes people which can lead to enriched synergy and collaboration. As well, creative ideas are more likely to be shared in an environment where you feel comfortable than one that is very very serious.

It's worked for me countless times - few things beat that moment where you trigger an unexpected laugh from others, and then they look at you with a 'Wow, you're funny' expression.

It's a critical parenting tool too.

Great post Steve! I'll see Joey's gold star and toss in a bejeweled crown.

Joey Strawn
Joey Strawn

Steve, I love this post because it calls directly to my heart. I've been a fan of stand-up comedy all my life and for five years I performed and traveled across the Southeast. In recent years I've seen more beneficial aspects to the "training" I got on stage in my own personal business than almost any course or sales class I've ever attended.

I think what you are doing at your company is brilliant and I comment you for taking a clever, funny approach to loosening up your team.

Awesome post! You get a gold star.

Dawn Hopkins
Dawn Hopkins

Stars and crowns, oh yeah! But can't pass up the opportunity to wave a flag too - so here's suggesting you add Brave New Workshop Creative Outreach to your list of comedy-based training possibilities, Steven. We love what we do too!

steven cody
steven cody

Hi Randy. Second City has a great training corporate training that specializes in this sort of work. So, too, does the Upright Citizens Brigade in Manhattan. And, I'd be remiss not to give my comedy coach, Clayton Fletcher a shoutout. He can be reached at (fletch@claytonfletcher.com). Let me know if you need more help.

steven cody
steven cody

I love bejeweled crowns and will add yours to my rapidly-growing collection. Thanks so much, Sally.

steven cody
steven cody

Hey Thanks, Joey. I really appreciate the comment. Comedy/humor is definitely a game-changer for an organization IF it fits the culture.

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  1. […] Steve Cody, the co-founder of the marketing firm Peppercom. Cody wrote an article in which he said he used stand-up comedy to transform his business. He started getting lots of experience on stage, and now he has all of his employees learn […]