What is a Comedy Emcee?
A Comedy Emcee is a comedian who emcees your event. Whether it’s 3 hours or 3 days, you’ll want someone who can not only pronounce people’s names correctly, but who can keep the program interesting… even for the people who aren’t winning awards… that means using humor. A great Comedy Emcee will kick off the program with some laughs to grab everyone’s attention, make funny observations about the events taking place during the program to keep people engaged, and then wrap-up with some humorous thoughts about the event to end on an upbeat note. The Comedy Emcee will also keep the program running on-time and make people look forward to it for the next year.
Emcee Squared: The Formula for a Great Event!
By Jan McInnis
“Welcome to our convention! We have a great agenda, but first, I’ve got a few dozen announcements. . . “ And you’re off to the races with a great event hosted by a not-so-great emcee. As a corporate and association comedian who has mastered the art of keeping a conference moving, I can show you how to grab the audience’s attention and keep it for the entire event.
“Take the bullet.” This is ancient comedy club wisdom. The emcee is not hired JUST to be funny, she’s also there to sacrifice herself by going first, or “taking the bullet”. As important as being entertaining, she has to also focus the cold, chatty, drink-ordering crowd, so that the OTHER acts/speakers do well. If you’re not comfortable with jokes, or you’re not hired to do jokes, then don’t do them at first (after you’ve done more emceeing, you can work on joke skills). Instead focus on your first few tasks, which are to welcome your guests, tell them about the great experience they’re in for, and what’s on the agenda. Sure, slip in some housekeeping details, but don’t focus on the bathroom locations first, unless that’s the highlight.
Come Prepared. “Nevaeh” is one of the top one thousand popular names for girls in the U.S. You may have to pronounce it. Practice the speaker’s name out loud several times fast, so it rolls off your tongue, and write it out phonetically. The same goes for titles and intros. I do office humor as “The Work Lady,” but have been introduced as “The Working Girl.” That’s not good. (FYI, spell Nevaeh backwards!)
Tie It Together. Thanking the last speaker is a dismissal, not a wrap-up. Transition by mentioning something you learned, repeating a website, giving a personal fact about the speaker, or taking a silly survey. You should tie the event together, not run speakers through on a conveyor belt. I once polled the audience, after the president gave a long analogy between the Super Bowl and life, by asking “how many people hope, during next year’s game, Bill does like the rest of us and just drinks a beer?” Of course I had permission to be funny. Don’t get yourself in trouble!
Plan To Stall. There are a million things that can interrupt your perfectly arranged session, but you still have to keep things moving. Have a plan for power points crashing or the group next door setting up a petting zoo. You can stall like a pro by highlighting a sponsor, taking a few questions, listing five great area restaurants, asking people to shout out one thing they’ve learned, or inviting everyone to go pet the goat next door. “Plan B” shouldn’t include staring at the banquet manager until she fixes the problem.
Change The Energy. In comedy clubs, if the first act dies, the emcee tells a couple jokes to change the mood so the next act has a fighting chance. You, too, need to help the audience switch gears from funny to serious, serious to high energy, and so on. One quick line can do it. I once followed a CEO whose depressing speech focused on how the company was, quote, “toning down the glitz & glamour.” I came back with “great, you’re toning down the glitz & glamour. . .and then I’m introduced! Like I’m the blandest speaker you could find!” It gave the crowd a license to laugh and helped them to move on.
Make Them Want To Listen. People will listen if they like you – just ask Oprah! Be personable by sharing details about your family, hobbies, hometown, or pets. You can even have a recurring theme, such as mentioning your cat frequently. Every time you go back on stage, the crowd will think “I wonder what she’ll say about Rover now?”
Have fun. It’s YOUR party. If you have fun, they will too. Use top ten lists, funny quizzes, and silly slide shows to keep things moving. And close with something memorable like an anecdote from the conference or a challenge for next year. Then take a bow, you’ve just given the event some “glitz and glamour!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR. . .
Jan McInnis is a corporate comedian/emcee, comedy writer, and the author of the 2 book s “Finding the Funny FAST” and “Convention Comedian”. Her jokes have been featured on The Tonight Show, and on hundreds of radio stations. She has spoken to thousands of groups and she was featured in the Wall Street Journal as one of the most popular convention comedians whose act is clean, and in the Washington Post for her clean comedy writing.