You don’t want a comedian. I know as a comedian and someone who owns a talent agency that makes comedians available to restaurants, corporations, and private people I am not supposed to say that. It is counter-intuitive and it hurts my wallet. Still, I think it best I save us all a bit of trouble and heartache.
You saw a comedian on tv or their video clip or in a club or have a vague concept of what stand up comedy is from the opening scene of old Seinfeld episodes and it looks like a good time. You are correct, it is a good time. The audience in front of that performer knew they were seeing a comedian, wanted to see a comedian, and were doing so in an environment conducive to seeing a comedian. When you have those elements comedy can be magical. It is a good time. You want to bring that to the people you care or about or are tasked with entertaining. I get that. You are a good person and you just want to spread joy.
You contact a comedian or an agency and are eager to put this together. However, a lot of the people at the event do not know a comedian will be part of the festivities. Surprise comedy is never a good idea. Tell the people that you are bringing in a comedian. That way the people who want to see it will be excited and those who do not can excuse themselves while the comedian is performing. The comedian you saw was hilarious but they curse too much. There are some people attending your event who are sensitive to some expletives. You would like comedian X but can they refrain from cursing you ask. Some of them can. Some of them can’t. You saw a video or them in person and they cursed a lot and you enjoyed that show and you would like that show but different. Does that really make sense? Do you go to a play and ask them to alter the dialogue?
Maybe cursing is not an issue. Maybe they don’t curse at all. However, you really enjoyed the show but their joke about race or religion or politics or Brussel sprouts or lawn chairs may offend some people. Can the comedian not talk about those topics? And while we’re at it let’s not talk about sex, gender identity, or Lady Gaga…just to be safe. But you definitely want to create the exact some feel and enjoyment that you experienced when you saw Comedian X…just none of those things he talks about. Does that make sense? Do you have your favorite restaurant cater your party but tell them not to serve the food that you enjoyed so much. If they could just do a more bland version of everything or have a menu of nothing you tasted and enjoyed that would be wonderful.
Why am I bringing this up? Because every day we are reading headlines of people or colleges or organizations hiring comedians who do exactly what they always do…their act and then being outraged that the comedian did their act. There are plenty of comedians that can work without cursing or without taboo topics or even vaguely provocative material. You will find many of them on cruise ships. Hire them. You will pay a lot for them but they will be very safe. Don’t hire the comedian who has a Netflix special that you love, for your office party, give, them no idea what is off limits until 5 minutes before the show and expect it to go well. I know good comedians make our performance look effortless. News flash…it takes a lot of effort to make it look effortless. When you change the rules of engagement right before the show bad things will happen. A lengthy conversation before contracts are signed can save everyone a lot of disappointment.
Colleges think they want comedians…you don’t. Comedians talk a lot of shit. We look at the world differently than you. We see humor in everything. It is why we are good comedians. A comedy show should never be a safe space. Even if nothing “offensive” happens part of the allure of live stand up is that something naughty could happen at any moment. It is the titillation. Comedians need that edge…even if we never approach it. If everything is off limits and everything is too much then maybe let’s agree that college is no longer a “safe space” to exchange ideas. Standup is an exchange of ideas. If our ideas are too much for you that is fine. Just don’t ask us to stand up there and talk about nothing. If I talk about Nike someone will be offended because they use poor child laborers or Colin Kaepernick and now we are into the abyss of some one is offended. We really were just talking about how hard it is to get the new Jordans and when we were growing up we went to the supermarket for our shoes. Even when we are not making a political statement to someone we may be making a statement. And we can’t have that in college these days.
Don’t get me wrong. Stand up comedy is great in comedy clubs, firehouses, Elks lodges, restaurants, etc. Go see it! It is fun. It can be nice for birthday parties or corporate events. Just make sure everyone is on the same page way before the gig starts.
If you are unsure if comedy is right or you are unwilling to let the comedian be the comedian they are than I suggest, magicians, jugglers, pianists, face painters, palm readers, djs, etc. There is much less chance one of these performers will say something that is “offensive.” Please support comedy. See it live in the venues I mentioned. Bring your friends to see us in those venues. If you really want us for your special event we will do it but keep in mind stand-up comedians are much closer to tigers than we are to tabbies. We are a bit dangerous and unpredictable. Please see us in our natural habitat. If you invite us into your habitat don’t be surprised if everyone leaves with a few scratches and bite marks. (I charge extra for the bite marks).