Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for high velocity radio.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here, another episode of High Velocity Radio, and this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Adam Christing with Clean Comedians. Welcome, Adam.
Adam Christing: Hey. Great to be with you.
LK: Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Clean Comedians. How you serving folks?
AC: Yeah. Well, you know, if you’re planning an event like let’s say you’re planning an after dinner program or a sales award meeting or a fundraiser, and you want everybody to laugh, but you can’t risk embarrassing or offending your audience or making your company or nonprofit look bad.
And so people are reaching out to us at Clean Comedians.com and we provide entertainers, speakers, stand up comedians who get big laughs without getting dirty or offensive.
LK: So what was the genesis of the idea? How did you get started?
AC: Well, you know, I was as a kid, I grew up in Los Angeles, California, and there’s a really fun club. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s called The Magic Castle. It’s a private club in Hollywood. And so I grew up exposed to comedy and magic and variety and juggling and ventriloquism and sketch comedy and standup comedy.
And people kept coming up to me as a young man and saying, Hey, thank you for keeping it clean. Thank you for keeping it clean. That was refreshing. So we started Clean Comedians and it just really exploded in the last – it’s been three decades now.
We’ve been offering this service. And even through the pandemic, we were doing hundreds of Zoom shows. And so it’s a resource for people who – are our motto is it doesn’t have to be filthy to be funny.
LK: And then so as your career always been kind of on the clean side, is that how you you started and then your comedy career just kind of stayed along that line?
AC: Yeah, my career has taken a number of different turns. I, at one point, I made a movie like a mockumentary film, and I was the the actor, lead actor and co-director, and my acting was so [bad], I got cut out of my own picture. So that was kind of embarrassing. I go over acting.
So all these years, though, I’ve worked as a comedian, as an emcee, as a keynote speaker, and then [I’ve] also been working with many talented people who do comedy in different ways. Sometimes I think people think, mistakenly, that comedy is just a man or a woman standing in front of a red brick wall telling you no body part jokes.
But the history of comedy in the US is much broader than that with really anything that’s funny is comedy, and our niche is avoiding three P’s. We don’t do politics, no prejudice and no profanity. And so it forces our entertainers to be more more creative and more connected to to the live audience.
LK: Now, are your performers, they have to be in there when they’re not with you. They’re still clean or you’re just looking for them to be clean at the events that you work with them on.
AC: That’s a great question. You know, we’re not trying to police people and totally believe in free speech and expression. And there’s a time and a place for everything. But in terms of our engagements, we actually have this no gross policy that our performers subscribe to, which is an acronym. Gross.
No gender bashing, no racist humor, obscenity, sexual innuendo or swearing. And so that eliminates probably 90% of the comedians in North America. And so we do have to keep an eye [out] because of social media. So, for example, let’s say we were plugging an entertainer into, let’s just say a a high school assembly program.
And if that performer does racial material or sexually explicit material that’s out there, it could make the school look bad if we’re putting him or her up for a for a red ribbon week assembly or a multicultural assembly.
And then later, in other contexts, they’re doing, you know, material that would be into discrimination. So we do have to be more careful than we were prior to the age of social media.
LK: Now, how do you find your comedians? Because, like you said, most don’t go this direction.
AC: Yeah. Well, you know, what’s interesting is we’re getting sometimes 3 to 5, sometimes more submissions a week. Sometimes we’ll get that many in a day. And so there’s an old saying in comedy, you know, funny is money.
And so I don’t know how word gets out, but we’re booking so many events that many comedians and funny speakers and some who are not so funny and and not so clean, they reach out to us, “Hey, can you get me work?” And sometimes they’ll add a note in their email like “I can take out the F bombs if you want.”
And so we’re really selective about who we who we book because it’s sort of like, if in doubt, leave it out if you think it’s going to offend. I’ve never had somebody come up after an engagement and say, you know, I really wish that could have been been raunchy. I’ve just never had it happen.
LK: Now, when you’re working with your clients who have never hired a comedian before, how do you kind of educate them to, you know, because they probably have a bias based on what they’ve seen and heard about. How do you kind of explain how they’re this is another way to do this. You can communicate the message you want. You can stay true to your brand and you don’t have to worry.
AC: Right. You know, probably my favorite quotation that connects to this is the great Mark Twain said, “It takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” And so what we’ve discovered is that we want the audience to experience something fresh and exciting, but it takes a lot of prep before the event ever happens.
We call that pre show work. And so we send out a questionnaire. We want to know, do you have inside acronyms, buzzwords? Is there a VIP that we could lightly toast or roast and – always in an in an appropriate way – but maybe you know, Jim is a wears crazy socks or is a terrible golfer and he loves to joke about it.
So we do a lot of work like that to help the client feel at ease, knowing it’s – we call it laughter you can trust. But we found that if you just have a comedian, show up and do his or her regular shtick, it’s probably not going to – it might go over really well if they’re great.
It might. But chances are it’s more effective if you can customize the humor around the event, around the theme, around the meeting planners vision for the for the event.
LK: So you’re not just, you know, kind of hiring someone saying show up at this day and time and then go at it. You got an hour for 45 minutes here. This is kind of an orchestrated event where you’re trying to give that client a great experience. And one of your tools is your comedian, who you’re helping to give them as much resources to be successful in that environment.
AC: That’s exactly right. We want to be an extension. Like, the best compliment I get when I work myself as a comic presenter is they come up and they say, “Well, how long have you worked for? For us?” They think many times, if we’re doing it right, that we’re an extension of the company or the nonprofit.
And that’s probably the best compliment we can get because that means we’ve done our homework and have learned their jargon and their their culture. Last week I was with an awesome company that just went public called the Porch Group, and they’re in the home home buying, home improvement arena and they’re just exploding with growth.
And so I did a lot of customized humor for them that would not be funny for a different company and certainly would not be funny in a nightclub. But for them it was very funny because you want to talk about everybody’s favorite subject, which is them.
LK: Right. So you want to get kind of that inside baseball. You want to be kind of in on the joke and then you craft the kind of the speech or the talk to that audience like it’s meant for them. It’s not meant for next week to do the same thing somewhere else necessarily. Maybe parts of it, but not all of it.
AC: Right. That’s exactly it. You want to let the audience know, “Oh, he or she understands us.” Like, a new thing I’ve been doing is acronyms are so big that I joke about how everything’s an acronym. I flew Delta the other day.
It turns out Delta stands for Don’t Expect Luggage to Arrive, but I think you guys – Porch Group – need the ultimate acronym. And then I will unpack a 26 letter acronym from A to Z. That’s all about them. It’s about their unique offering or their people, and they just light up. And that would obviously not be funny for a different group.
But for a particular audience, you’re sending the message like, “Hey, we care about this meeting, not just getting a laugh, but making a difference.” And so the feedback we got was, “This was the perfect kickoff for a meeting because we were all laughing together and you made it about us.”
LK: Now, when you’re talking to a meeting planner or a corporation that’s thinking about, you know, hiring you, how do you kind of move them? I don’t know, necessarily away from music or musician or band to to even consider comedy as a choice.
Because a lot of these events have a musician or they have music as kind of the entertainment, because that seems like, oh, everybody likes that band. So that’s an easy choice where comedy, you know, they get a little, like you said, nervous because they have this preconception of, “Oh, well, I don’t want this to go off the rails.” So how do you even open their mind to comedy as a choice?
AC: Well, you’d be surprised. Sometimes people are having just as difficult a time with music because there’s so many genres. It’s very hard unless you’re going to pick, I don’t know, like have a seventies disco kind of a theme or something like that where it feels like a retro thing. It’s hard to find music or just about anything that appeals to everyone.
But you’re right, comedy, because it’s become so vulgar in our culture over the years. It’s like a red flag, like, “Oh, we wish we could do that.” And so we have to help people see with video clips, with what we call pre decision calls, with a client where we’ll have a Zoom meeting with the client and the comedian or the comic magician or the comic juggler.
And they get to know them and build that trust and they realize, “Wow, you really are going to make us look good.” But the appeal of laughter is so strong, especially post COVID now people are anxious to laugh. And I always tell people the same root word for comedy is the root word for community.
And so I think it was Mother Teresa who said, “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.” So when you get people laughing and smiling, it just builds these instant bridges of rapport, which feels so good at a live event.
I can’t remember a time when I have had more people come up and my material is not funnier than it was pre-COVID, but people are laughing harder and they’re laughing longer because we’re just wired to want to laugh together.
LK: Now, I think an advantage that comedy has over music is that you can educate also through the humor. Do you also have your comedians do training or work with training to do kind of lunch and learns or to kind of teach something rather than just perform and entertain?
AC: Yes. And by the way, I’ll tell you a little insider secret in terms of the way comedians and speakers understand it. The ones in the know is – there’s a funny saying like, “The difference between a comedian and a speaker is a speaker has an extra zero at the end of her check.”
And that’s because companies value training and empowerment more than just entertainment. But to your point, yes, precisely. Comedy’s a great way to hook and hook an audience’s attention and also to convey sometimes difficult concepts or challenging concepts like diversity or even sales. Training can be enhanced. So we had a company one time hire us.
In fact, it was HP hired us to create five funny spoof videos that were kind of like parody videos. So we would do parodies of commercials. Like, I think at that time, the most interesting man in the world was really hot.
So we did a spoof on that, but we used it to take their material and present it in a funny way that would be memorable for their employees.
LK: So are you finding that that’s a bigger part of your business now of doing those kind of custom videos for training? Or is that just that happens just periodically now?
AC: It is a growing thing. I think more and more people understand and I think TED Talks have had a big piece in this, like a TED talk is what is it, 14 to 18 minutes long. So the days of the 60 minute talking head seminar, people are so burnt out on that.
And so they’re looking for – I’ll give you an example. We book a comedy juggling act called The Passing Zone. That’s just unbelievable. And so they have two different talks. They have one of their talks is on team building, for example. So when you’re seeing it and not just hearing it, but you’re seeing two guys who are collaborating and partnering and doing astonishing things together.
And then you hear that, hey, whatever the company is, Chevron can do this, too. You know, with your workforce, it just feels like, “Wow, we’re getting entertained and we’re also feeling empowered.” So what we try to do is when a client comes to us or a potential client is is, we take the time to find out what are you trying to accomplish at this meeting?
And then we can help you reverse engineer it. And, sometimes they pass. Just because it’s expensive to get a real pro is going to take maybe 10 hours of prep before they ever get to the stage.
It’s not like just finding a birthday party entertainer and hoping for the best.
LK: So what do you need more of? How can we help you?
AC: Well, we’re always looking for more more clients and more entertainers. And so if anybody is funny and clean, we’re looking for more diversity. We’re looking for younger and younger talent.
And we’re also wanting to serve more clients. We have entertainers all over North America. And so we can plug people in to various events if they just go to Clean Comedians.
We want to be your resource for great entertainment and motivational speaking.
LK: Now, do you get most of your work through meeting planners? Is that your kind of main channel to get new clients or companies just kind of find you and they just talk to you directly?
AC: You know, there’s no one way. I do think the best work, of course, for any business is repeat business. And so if a company hires one of our emcees, for example, a comic host, and if they do a good job, that man or woman becomes sort of the face of the conference.
And so, like we’re doing one in Orlando, 4000 attendees. It’s called Work Wave. They’re trying to they are bringing new companies under their umbrella. They’re growing. And so they’re trusting our emcee to delight them year after year. In this case, it’s the second year we’ve had some companies literally ten years in a row hire us.
But to answer your question more specifically, there’s no one way. For example, sometimes the person in charge of entertainment doesn’t even want to be in charge of entertainment. It’s like, “Hey, Julie, you’re the executive assistant to the Vice President of Sales” or “Hey, Mike, it’s your turn to be in charge of the entertainment this year,” and they’re not sure what to do.
So when they hear about Clean Comedians like, “Well, this sounds like if it’s funny, it sounds like something that would would help us” and we actually offer a money back guarantee. If it isn’t funny, we’ll refund your money.
LK: Wow. Has anyone ever taken you up on that?
AC: You know, I think two times. And, you know, when you hear the comedian’s perspective, it’s very different than, you know, comedy is very subjective. But I think we’ve done well over 5000 events. I think we’ve two times where there wasn’t a good fit and we just refunded the money.
LK: Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the success. One more time, the website.
AC: The website is CleanComedians.com. And it’s just been a lot of fun. You asked great questions. Thanks for having me on.
LK: You got it. And that’s clean comedians with an S dot.
AC: Com, correct?
LK: Well, Adam, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
AC: Oh, thank you. You, too. I appreciate you.
LK: All right. There’s Lee Kantor all next time on High Velocity Radio.
Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speaker. To hear this podcast with Lee Kantor, visit BusinessRadioX.com.