Sharing a joke is like giving someone a little gift. Taken the right way, and under the right circumstances, it can momentarily distract us from the mundane, the gloom and doom, the terror, with something very simple. A smile. When someone has entrusted you with a good gag, you feel like you’re in the possession of something great—you can’t wait to share it with someone else. And we don’t need to explain how this plays out within and across offices around the globe. We all know the doldrums of cube life, and how valuable an amusing three minutes out of an eight hour day can be.
Comedy is also intrinsically memorable. Our minds run back to it whenever levity is required. So it’s not surprising that a majority of our television ads use comedy as a vehicle for selling a product, and it’s no wonder that many businesses and organizations getting into online video follow suit. We know that, if successful, the joke will be passed around, along with the message or brand identification we have tucked between the punchlines. The degree of comedy, from outright edgy to just cute and fuzzy, will of course depend on the organization and message, but many can benefit from this tried and tested medium.
But as with any performance, there comes the peril of that henchman, stage left, armed with a hook to whisk us out of the spotlight if we’re tanking. We’re not all funny. We’re not always willing to admit that, and we’re certainly reluctant to tell others when their kneeslappers are just plain showstoppers. (So who’s gonna be the one to tell the CEO that he’s not as funny as he thinks he is?)
There are, however, a number of creative solutions to make comedy work for your organization, without seeking the aid of trained actors and large video production firms. The first step is identifying the players. (This is actually one of the first steps in developing any successful video communication. Some are just more camera-ready than others. Make use of your in-house talent). Identify staff who are not only enthusiastic but also comfortable in front of a camera. Sometimes the office jester freezes up when moved away from the safety of the watercooler. Do some casual screentesting up front.
But say your CEO is committed to telling that joke. What do you do then? Well, with some clever video editing, it’s possible that even a dud can become a doozy. Comic delivery is about timing. Ever listen to a friend try to repeat something funny they heard from a professional comedian, and all you can think is “guess I had to be there”? If the timing and rhythm are fumbled, then so is the joke. The beauty of video editing is that you can correct bad timing. A skilled video editor can actually shape comic delivery.
And we’d be jesters ourselves if we failed to mention one of the most alluring benefits of using comedy. The term “cheap gag” lives up to its name in more ways than one. Comedy doesn’t require effects. It doesn’t demand props. Comedy just needs people and can be inexpensive to produce.
Let’s face it. These days we all give The New York Times or CNN.com the obligatory click in morning, just to make sure the world hasn’t blown up while we were getting our coffee. And while we’re usually not greeted with anything that extreme, it’s pretty rare that the news gives the kind of smile we’d want to share with someone else. We need that laugh now, more than ever.