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21 August 2014

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Party Trend - Comedy

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With a host of quirky new acts springing up, finding ways to get your guests chuckling has never been so
easy. Jessica Holland does the circuit


The British have always prided themselves on their keen sense of humour – yet comedy at corporate events suffers from a bit of an image problem. There’s nothing worse than half an hour of painful puns, hackneyed generalisations and audience humiliation.

But in recent years, London’s live comedy scene has experienced a revival, and never before has it been as fresh and exciting, or as rock’n’roll, as it is now. Take Russell Brand, for example, whose shows are as anarchic as any punk gig, or the eccentric Noel Fielding with his hugely popular off-the-wall performances. The comedy circuit is ‘hip’ right now, and with similarly kooky acts springing up at an ever-increasing pace, the trend looks set to continue.

Ruby Lyall, sales and marketing manager for The Congress Centre, which has put on comedy events for corporate groups, would urge anyone to make comedy part of their event. ‘Getting everyone laughing together is a really good bonding session, especially if it’s a new team,’ she says. ‘You know what they say: laughter is the best medicine.’
So what should organisers be looking for? The cabaret and burlesque trend is currently massive in London’s clubs, and there are plenty of comedians who provide a bit of vaudeville-style glam. Meanwhile, acts which combine magic with comedy also bring a bit of cabaret cool to an event. Look up ex-Footlights rising star Nick Mohammed, wise-cracking mind-reader Marc Salem, and Nigel Mead, who’s starred in T4’s Freaky magic show.

Sketch groups are another fresh alternative to the standard set-up, and the young quartet of Pappy’s Fun Club offer a great surreal act. Their combination of singing, stand-up and character sketches got them nominated for the prestigious if.comedy ‘best comedy act’ award last year. Other hot London sketch acts include Idiots of Ants, The Sunday Defensive and The Penny Dreadfuls, who set their jokes in Victorian England and dress in period costume.
Nina Conti, meanwhile, is accompanied on stage by a monkey sock-puppet and combines her stand-up with a ventriloquism routine.

The ideal performers for a corporate event are often the ones who have been honing their craft on the live circuit. ‘They’re fresh and can play to any group of people,’ says Ian Franklin, managing director of The Comedy Club. ‘They can talk about anything from the product to what’s been happening with the company.’

Of course, traditional-style stand-up comedians are always popular, and it’s possible to book big TV names such as Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Carr to host events or perform an after-dinner set. But for something special, look at the showreels of lesser-known performers and quirky acts who mix up their comedy with something new.

‘When everyone’s laughing and joking to begin with, it really adds to the event,’ says Kelly Turner, who books entertainment for Bauer Consumer Media events. She attended the Emap Consumer Media awards last year, and said that comedian Rob Brydon really helped the atmosphere. ‘He’d done his research. We had people there from Peterborough and he was making a few jokes about the Peterborough-London divide. It made everyone laugh even more because it was so personal.’


This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.


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