Category Archives: Humor

Greg Schwem: A VIRTUAL COMEDIAN CAN STILL HEAR YOU LAUGHING

This column originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune syndicate and Medium.

For 30 years I’ve made my living as a standup comedian. I’ve stood on iconic stages including the Grand Ole Opry and the Chicago Theatre. I’ve gazed out at crowds as large as 10,000 and as small as six. We won’t talk about the six.

My moods following my performances have run the gamut from elation to despair. From feeling like I’m the first person to set foot on an uncharted planet to wanting to jump into a recently dug grave and instructing the backhoe operator to “just bury me now.”

The one commonality to all these shows was a live audience. The coronavirus has, for the immediate future, taken away my ability to perform.

Or has it?

Enter the concept of virtual entertainment, an idea that has never really taken off considering that, despite the available technology, most people ultimately think it’s weird to watch a hologram of Prince or another deceased rock star “playing” live on stage. The connection a performer feels to an audience works in reverse too; the audience must feel that same connection.

So when a show I was scheduled to perform for 1,200 members of the dairy industry in Madison, Wisconsin, joined the scrap heap of cancellations on my calendar, I was not hesitant, rather overjoyed, when the organizers said they wanted to me to perform virtually.

Of course, that would mean performing standup comedy to a camera, without a crowd. The audience, I was told, would watch from bedrooms, hotel rooms and home offices, surrounded, most likely, by nobody.

Not exactly the ideal audience for a comedian. Still, the show must go on.

At 8 p.m., I entered a conference room that looked as if preparations were in place for some sort of invasion. A half-eaten takeout pizza sat on a round table big enough to seat 10. Snacks, drinks and sandwiches purchased from an attached hotel represented lunch for the staff tasked with running the virtual operation. Dinner too.

A few IT personnel stared intently at laptops as another virtual presenter, speaking from God only knows where, gave a speech entitled “Practical Proven Systems for More Profitable Innovation.” I heard his voice and saw the PowerPoint slides he had assembled for his talk, but I didn’t see him.

Instead I saw an empty stage and a single camera pointed at it.

“That’s where you’ll be,” the conference organizer told me.

When the previous speaker had concluded, another member of the organizational team grabbed a mic and said, “We have some questions.” These questions, I assume, were submitted by attendees watching virtually. Of the 10 people in the conference room, nobody raised a hand.

The unseen presenter answered several questions and then it was time for me. Like a normal show, a tech clipped a lavalier microphone to my shirt; like a normal show I stood slightly offstage awaiting my introduction. And, like a normal show, I bounded onstage when I heard my name.

The next 45 minutes were left to my imagination.

The conference room participants — seven staff members and three techs — did their best to laugh at my jokes, which, naturally, included a few references to the massive elephant in the room.

“I’m staying in a very nice hotel here in Madison,” I said. “I only live two hours from here, so I don’t really need a hotel. But I was out of toilet paper and the hotel had some.”

Strangely, the longer I performed, the more confident I was that somebody was laughing somewhere. A few laughs from the 10 people in the room were all I needed to keep going. Yes, there were some uncomfortable moments, but it’s also uncomfortable doing standup at a party in the hull of a Catamaran. OK, I brought up the audience of six. Sorry.

I hope there will be no more virtual shows in my career. I hope to be back on stage soon, where I can see and converse with real audience members.

But COVID-19 has taught me one thing: Laughter cannot be quarantined.

Greg Schwem’s comedic take on the 21st century workplace and work/life balance has landed him on SIRIUS RadioFOX News, Comedy Central,pages of Parents Magazine, and as a Keynote Speaker for many business audiences. More than just a business humorist, Greg is also an author and nationally syndicated humor columnist. Whether Onstage or Online: Book Greg Schwem today: https://bit.ly/3dQ1BDL

Event Planning And The Scourge Of Round Banquet Tables

Event Planning And The Scourge Of Round Banquet Tables

By David Deeble

Let’s be serious for a moment: audiences should be seated facing the speaker.

Imagine a photographer going from round banquet table to round banquet table taking pictures of people without asking anyone to turn around and face the camera. To do so would be absurd. But it’s no more absurd than introducing a speaker or entertainer when much of the audience – by virtue of the fact that they’re sitting at round banquet tables – still have their backs squarely facing the podium or stage.

Before introducing an entertainer or speaker to the stage, take a page from the photographer playbook and request that those whose backs are to the stage to at least offer the presenter their profile.

This and a few other simple changes very often make the difference between an audience which is engaged and one that is not.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or learn how a head injury forced me to reinvent myself from a conventional to a comedic juggler.

David Deeble’s career in comedy began at the age of 8 when he joined the Long Beach Mystics, a now-legendary magic club in Long Beach, California. There, he was schooled relentless
ly in the importance of being a polished entertainer – not just a magic act. After opening for such comedians as Ray Romano and Kevin James, David made his debut as the variety star in “Bare Essence” at Harrah’s, Lake Tahoe. From there, he began making numerous appearances on American television including “America’s Got Talent,” “Last Comic Standing,” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on which he performed his trademark grocery-sack juggling routine. To Hire David as your next Entertainer, click here or call 888-766-3155 to book him!

How To Ruin Your Event

How To Ruin Your Event

By David Deeble

There’s lots of ways to ruin an event. Let’s talk about ruining the entertainment portion, especially if you have gone with comedy.

With any type of live entertainment there is a relationship between the audience and the performer. Nowhere is this more pronounced than with comedy entertainment which, when performed at the highest level, is much more like a dialogue than a monologue. The audience might be able to chat amongst themselves and still enjoy a rock band, but not so with, say stand-up: to be successful the craft requires an audience that is totally engaged.

A professional, experienced and talented comedian knows when an audience isn’t with her and will prattle, prod and engage an audience until she knows they are focused and only then will he get to the heart of her act and the business of making them laugh.

But how, you may ask, can I make a comedy entertainer’s job as difficult as possible?

Let’s say you’re a professional event planner or someone who is otherwise responsible for planning an event for your company. You’ve done your homework and found a comedian who is accomplished, a pleasure to work with and perfectly suits your needs. Now the question is, what can you do to thwart this his remarkable talents and years of experience and make everyone in attendance uncomfortable at the same time?

Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure that the delicate, essential bond between an audience and a comedian is tenuous at best or, better yet, never established in the first place.

• Schedule The Entertainer Immediately After A Break

The room is pumped. The most-popular, hardest-working guy or gal in the company has just received his well-deserved award from the CEO and the energy in the room is at its peak. Whatever you do, don’t harness the audience’s energy by immediately introducing to the stage the entertainer you’ve budgeted a sizable sum to procure. Instead, have the CEO, emcee or whoever has the floor to announce a break “of about 15 minutes”. That should be enough time for the room to deflate, the energy vanish and allow the stragglers to head back into the room and settle into their seats while chatting with their fellow fellow employees about golf plans for the following weekend.

• Seat The Audience At Round Banquet Tables

For the love of God, you’re not going to ensure that all the seats in the audience are facing the stage, are you? No, no, no. When an entertainer walks on stage you want roughly half the audience facing the back of the room. That way more people will be able to tell when the line for the open bar is down to only a few people. You might also consider leaving the doors in the back of the room open, allowing those seated with their backs to the stage to “people watch” the smokers, stragglers and maybe even catch a glimpse of that woman from the coat check with the ineffable aura about her. Ideally, you want these people who face the back of the room to be completely unaware of what is going on on the stage. Think muzak.

• Serve Food During The Show

When a world-class comedy entertainer and a mediocre salad go head to head, the salad wins every time. Anything requiring utensils is best – after all, people are capable of enjoying a comedian with finger food like popcorn just as they are capable of enjoying a movie. Of course, it never hurts to have hard-working servers bustling from table to table pouring water, grinding pepper and sending that steak back to the kitchen until it’s done right.

• Arrange For A Large, Empty Space Between The Stage And The Front Row

Nothing is more conducive to an attentive, engaged audience like seating them as close to the stage as possible. There’s an intimacy to this seating arrangement that mimics the openness and rapport of an private conversation. This is why you want a large empty space surrounding the stage. Many venues place a small stage against the wall of a large banquet hall and surround it with a large, empty dance floor: this is the ideal way to ensure your money and reputation go to waste. Nothing sends the the audience the signal “You have nothing to do with this performance” quite like seating everyone no less than a metric mile of the edge of the stage. This way audience members can chat with each other throughout the show while feeling – wrongly – that it has no impact on the overall performance.

The above are just a few basic, feng-shui examples of how to ruin the entertainment portion of your event. The truth is, there are almost as many ways to ruin it as there are second-rate entertainers to ruin it for you.

Do you know other ways to ensure that entertaining at your event is as uphill a battle as possible?

David Deeble’s career in comedy began at the age of 8 when he joined the Long Beach Mystics, a now-legendary magic club in Long Beach, California. There, he was schooled relentless
ly in the importance of being a polished entertainer – not just a magic act. After opening for such comedians as Ray Romano and Kevin James, David made his debut as the variety star in “Bare Essence” at Harrah’s, Lake Tahoe. From there, he began making numerous appearances on American television including “America’s Got Talent,” “Last Comic Standing,” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on which he performed his trademark grocery-sack juggling routine. To Hire David as your next Entertainer, click here or call 888-766-3155 to book him!

Can You Be Focused and Have Fun Too?

Dale CarnegiefunPeople often ask me, don’t you have to be serious and focused to attract clients to do business with you?  Really? Wonder why Dale Carnegie said this: “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing!”

Can’t you be focused and have fun too? When I mention the word ‘fun” I’ve learned that not everyone thinks of it in the same way! To me being positive, communicating and really listening to people, being energized and wanting to serve first instead of being served demonstrates FUN! Throwing in laughing at yourself and the situations doesn’t hurt either!

Fun can manifest itself in many ways, but the bottom line is wanting others to see you as real, authentic, transparent, and genuinely concerned about them without feeling you are using or want and need something from them!  It’s an art and skill that can be learned without giving up who you are.

Today are you having fun at what you do? Are you successful at doing it your way? I challenge you to expand your reach and see how fun needs to be a part of your business model and core values!

Have fun!  Sue Falcone

Is Hope and Humor a Part of Your Business?

funfridayMany say hope and humor are those things that we don’t need to learn more about; and certainly not something you should pay to hear and learn about!

I consider myself a hopeful and fun person, but how did I get that attitude, and how can I keep it going in the world we now live in?  Many are learning that those who have applied hope and humor in their lives: live longer, have better relationships, are healthier, and have better results in their work and companies they own.

What key things do we need to put into our minds and daily living that will keep us hopeful and having fun? Dale Carnegie said: “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” Oh, “WOW” that means we should have fun at work?  I know someone you will want to have as your next speaker who will help you do just that!

Award-winning Kelly Swanson travels the country bringing a powerful message and is “outrageously” Funny! Businesses and the lives of people are being changed! Some of her topics include: “6 Secrets to Connecting with People-that Help you Sell, Lead, and Impact Better”, “Help You Move from Creating Lists, to Creating Habits and Attitudes, which are More Valuable than Lists”, “Help You from Where You are Stuck, to Where You Want to Be.”  Kelly can also custom design topics you have in mind. To book Kelly for your upcoming event contact us here at www.simplysuespeaks.com/contact or email me at sue@simplysuespeaks.com.

Have a great fun week!

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“Simply” Sue Falcone
Owner: “Simply” Sue Speaks! Global Booking Agency