Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen

Fewer comedians at corporate gigs

Marketplace Staff Jan 29, 2010

Fewer comedians at corporate gigs

Marketplace Staff Jan 29, 2010


Steve Chiotakis: A lot of surveys show that more Americans are dissatisfied at work. But, if laughter is the best medicine, why are we seeing fewer comedians at corporate gigs? Cash Peters steps up to the mic to explain.

Cash Peters: OK, here’s what we know for sure. We’re in a recession…

BRIAN PINCUS: All you see in the news is depressing and it’s horrible, and people are scaling back and no one’s immune from this situation.

Well, exactly, Brian Pincus of the Bob Gail events company. And we also know — and this would be — that everyone needs a good laugh, especially now, especially in the corporate world, right?

PINCUS: From my perspective of events, I feel like it’s too risky.

Laughing’s too risky? Gail Stocker is an agent and comedy consultant. She… just accept it. She books comics for corporate clients.

GAIL STOCKER: People always want to laugh.

Well yes. So why are corporations reluctant to hire comedians for corporate events, Gail?

STOCKER: For all sorts of reasons. One: they don’t want to be seen as spending money frivolously.

And two: because even when they do go crazy frivolous and hire a comedian, it’s a worry. I mean, what if they offend someone?

Comedian Chipper Lowell knows this well.

CHIPPER LOWELL: In this day and age, you never talk about hiring, firing, where I could in the past. I could make jokes about replacing the president of a company and things like that; that is all taboo right now.

PETERS: What happens if you do?

LOWELL: Oh, just don’t. You want the next gig.

Chipper. But clearly it’s all become so boring and, you know, corporate.

LOWELL: There are times, right before a show, they will say, “By the way, here’s a list of things we don’t want you to talk about.” Downsizing. “This division, this is their last Christmas party that they’re going to, and they already know they’ve gotten the ax, so enjoy and they put you on stage. And you’re on.

All right. So if events organizers aren’t using as many comics, what would I have to be to get hired? Something harmless like a magician maybe. Or a ventriloquist?

PINCUS: From my perspective it hasn’t been that in for a while.

PETERS: Aw, I’m so disappointed.

I guess I won’t bother building a doll, then. In the end, hiring a band is the safest answer. As a result, some comics are down 20 percent on their usual bookings. Not our best friend Chipper, of course, but some.

LOWELL: Even if I have the gig itself, I’m negotiating 20 percent, 30 percent off what I normally make.

PETERS: At what point do you go off and quit and get a real job?

LOWELL: Oh, no, the money’s still really good.

Of course it is.

In Los Angeles, I’m Cash Peters for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.