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Hacking Media Production Podcast: Tricks to Producing Corporate Comedy

on March 6, 2013

Interview with Jamie Wright. (Time 31 min)

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Jamie Wright (@lekkermedia) is the Founder and Creative Director of Lekker Media. Wright has a long history in comedy. He’s formerly the video director for Boom Chicago and currently the executive producer of the San Francisco Improv Festival. Check out some examples of Wright’s work:

Wright offered up some advice on producing corporate comedy.

Tips for corporate comedy production

Bring client in as co-producer: You need to know what’s appropriate and funny to their audience that wouldn’t be funny  to anyone else. The client will be able to guide that.

Work with one point of contact: One fear is too many cooks in the kitchen all giving you different notes. It’s fine and preferable to have a brainstorming session with lots of people. But when it comes down to production and editing, one point of contact is key so the project doesn’t spin out of control.

They need to communicate something: While the client wants to do something funny, there’s an underlying purpose. They either want to get the word out, or they just released a new product, or have to approach a sensitive subject. Corporate comedy is like any communications effort. You have to get the message across and humor can help make it stick.

Improv directing skills are key: In almost all cases the actors in the video will be the employees of the company. You’ll need to use improv techniques to loosen these actors up and make them feel comfortable being themselves and silly in the video. But at the same time you need to let them know that this is serious and you have a job to get done.

Non-actors can only be themselves: Since Wright most often is working with employees at the company, their acting skills are all over the map. For this reason you can’t ask non-actors to play any other part than themselves.

Easiest laugh is the recognition laugh: Big secret in corporate comedy is you can get laughs simply by acknowledging people within the company, especially people of power. One example I used from my corporate comedy writing at Second City is we could just acknowledge someone in a scene and that’s all we would have to do. For example, if the client told us the CEO is a big golfer, we would have some golf scene and have one of the characters say, “Well, at least I’m not going to slice it like [SAY CEO’S NAME].” There’s no joke there but it would consistently get huge laughs. People love to see each other on stage or in a video. The recognition joke will do half your work for you in corporate comedy, said Wright.

Make them look like rock stars: One of the ethos of improv is to make the person you’re on stage with look awesome and thereby you look great. More importantly, this mantra makes it more entertaining, watchable, and enjoyable, said Wright.

Map corporate lingo to dialogue of scenario: For a “Top Gun” parody for a client that had a Software as a Service solution, Wright would pepper in their corporate lingo or sales terms into what would sound like scripted dialogue from the movie (e.g. “The Bogie’s going SaaS. He’s on me. I can’t shake him.” or “Let’s settle this in the cloud.”). May sound dorky to some, but it’s completely appropriate for this audience and they loved it.

All that matters is the reaction: This goes back to knowing your audience and bringing your client in as a co-producer. Remember the piece doesn’t have to be funny to everybody, just the people who will be watching it.

Jump on a meme when you can: On rare occasions you’ll have the opportunity to jump on a general news trend, meme, or industry theme or concern. When you can, do it, and do it quickly.

Keep it simple: Don’t try to do too much. Conserve your resources. Don’t go overboard unless you can benefit from it. Keep it short to the point. Almost all of Wright’s videos are under five minutes. Go in, get your laughs, and get out.

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