The Colgate Scene
March 1999
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Make 'em laugh
From comedy clubs to corporate conferences, Mark Klein has made humor a way of life
by Mark Klein '76
[IMAGE] "Please give a nice Women's Prison welcome to Mark Klein."

     A week before it was Tallapoosa County, Alabama Realtors; four days later it will be a distillers national meeting in Lake Tahoe. Bankers in Ohio, a diesel engine manufacturer in Indiana, a charcoal packager in Summer Shade, Kentucky: they all expect the same thing -- to be entertained with humor. Often the show is custom-written for their industry. Sometimes it is ordered by a meeting planner or ad agency. The Human Resource V.P. may want the CEO to be part of the show, or decide that after three days of eye-glazing techno-seminars all his people need is to sit back and laugh. What prepares you for this? What educational and professional background yields a business card that says: "CorpJester -- Have Humor, Will Travel?"

     The recipe is easy to guess but hard to duplicate. Twenty years on the comedy club circuit, multiple TV appearances (Showtime, A&E, CBS), a liberal arts education (B.A. in English) and a business goal of being well paid to do work you love. I love being in front of audiences and hearing them laugh.

     Three years ago, after a rewarding comedy club career, I began to find my contemporaries in boardrooms instead of nightclubs. So, at 41, with a wife and new baby requiring my attention, I began to explore ways to reach my natural audience without having to be on the road 40 weeks a year. The result is the CorpJester, a corporate comedian. I deliver a stand-up comedy presentation to corporate events. It's not motivational speaking, or a weepy survivors tale of dysfunction and redemption. It's a funny, tasteful and appropriate way to entertain one's company and/or clients.

[IMAGE]      So what am I doing in a womens' prison? Well, the money was right, the routing fit, and how often does a guy get the chance to spend the night with 150 tatooed women? Sure, they're felony offenders, remorseless criminals and three-time losers but still . . .

     Amazingly enough, my Colgate education prepared me quite well for this kind of work (entertainment, not prison). My corporate clients vary in field from Alabama mortage bankers to Alaskan tour operators. Fairbanks in February? Well, the money was right, the routing fit, etc. Each client likes to hear humor specific to his or her industry, as well as first-rate stand-up, so a wide range of general knowledge is a necessity. The customer also needs to feel confident that the presentation will leave everyone in the room smiling and comfortable. The comedy reflects the changing corporate culture of the times. Long gone is the rowdy all-male dais and off-color atmosphere. The CorpJester performs to a diverse audience of men and women who expect a show with universal appeal. The Ohio Bowling Proprietors Association? Well, the money was right, the routing fit, etc.

     Life on the road still exerts its magnetic draw. The trips offer ample variety and adventure. My 73-year-old father, a retired WWII vet, widower and comic inspiration, often travels with me. Recently, I was booked to do a show at one of the casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi. Dad took his Army basic training there in 1944, and hadn't been back since. He asked to join me, so together we drove to the Gulf Coast. After the show, Dad finds himself being chatted up by the Bud Light Girls, who were there as part of the show's sponsorship. My father was in his usual form, regaling an audience of a dozen or so pretty girls with stories of boot camp and soldiering.

     At 2:00 a.m., exhausted after a 14-hour drive and two shows, I said, "Dad, do you know what time it is?"

     "Yes," he replied, "It's 1944, get the hell out of here!"

     So it's on to the next gig. A tractor distributor in Iowa, a West Virginia Financial Holding Company, Shriners' wives in Lexington. The money is right, the routing fits, you know the rest.

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