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Putting the funny into business

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We know that comedy is big business, but did you know that comedy is big in business?

The parallels between performing comedy and performance in business are endlessly fascinating and they were highlighted this week by two intriguing news items.

The first was a piece in The Independent on ‘Laughology’ the creation of former stand up, and now behavioural expert, Stephanie Davies. Davies studied with Patch Adams, aka “medical doctor, clown, performer, social activist”, and the eponymous subject of the Robin Williams movie. Like Adams, Davies’ ‘Laughology’ uses humour as a facilitator in social situations and as a kind of healthy lifestyle lubricant, if you will.

Her methods are particularly in demand in the boardroom. She told The Independent: “Some executives use lingo, acronyms and corporate bullshit, which are all inaccessible to normal people. One of the most important aspects of leadership is connecting with people and to achieve this you need to reframe the language you use. It is archaic to be talking to people in old-style leadership speak. Look at Barack Obama, he’ll often use humour and the common touch to get a message across.”

Getting the message across is the raison d’etre of communications firm GolinHarris, and this week’s second ‘comedy as currency’ news story was their decision to take on a group of comedy performers, writers and producers – known collectively as ‘The Rubber Chicken’ – to give the company “a powerful edge when it comes to real time marketing.”

“Comedians possess an intriguing mix of acute observational skills and an ability to improvise” said Charlie Coney, head of creative at GolinHarris for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “They produce highly engaging content on the back of entertaining and accurate insights – clear parallels to what we do as an agency.”

[pullquote]Mixing comedy and the corporate world is nothing new[/pullquote]

Mixing comedy and the corporate world is nothing new. The parallels have already been illustrated by various analogous studies and also by performers such as Comedy Store player Neil Mullarkey. Mullarkey not only carved a character from the link (L. Vaughan Spencer) but also goes into the workplace armed with various comedy skills to tool up the employees – or ‘Improv Your Biz’ as he calls it.

Certainly the key areas of business seem to have genuine comedic pairings; crafting a punchline to crafting a soundbite, tricks to make public speaking easier, reinventing a persona as branding, improvisation as ‘out of the box thinking’ and so on.

Perhaps comedy’s utility, and indeed, utilitarian nature is evidence, were it needed, that it is a distinct genre. If we measure art by how much it enables, then comedy has a tradable USP.

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