How To Ruin Your Event

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Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.21.34 AMThere’s lots of ways to ruin an event. Let’s talk about ruining the entertainment portion, especially if you have gone with comedy.

With any type of live entertainment there is a relationship between the audience and the performer. And nowhere is this more pronounced than with comedy entertainment which, when performed at the highest level, is much more like a dialogue than a monologue. The audience might be able to chat amongst themselves and still enjoy a rock band, but not so with, say stand-up: to be successful the craft requires an audience that is totally engaged.

A professional, experienced and talented comedian knows when an audience isn’t with her and will prattle, prod and engage an audience until she knows they are focused and only then will he get to the heart of her act and the business of making them laugh.

But how, you may ask, can I make a comedy entertainer’s job as difficult as possible?

Let’s say you’re a professional event planner or someone who is otherwise responsible for planning an event for your company. You’ve done your homework and found an comedian who is accomplished, a pleasure to work with and perfectly suits your needs. Now the question is, what can you do to thwart this his remarkable talents and years of experience and make everyone in attendance uncomfortable at the same time?

Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure that the delicate, essential bond between an audience and a comedian is tenuous at best or, better yet, never established in the first place.

Schedule The Entertainer Immediately After A Break

The room is pumped. The most-popular, hardest-working guy or gal in the company has just received his well-deserved award from the CEO and the energy in the room is at its peak. Whatever you do, don’t harness the audience’s energy by immediately introducing to the stage the entertainer you’ve budgeted a sizable sum to procure. Instead, have the CEO, emcee or whoever has the floor to announce a break “of about 15 minutes”. That should be enough time for the room to deflate, the energy vanish and allow the stragglers to head back into the room and settle into their seats while chatting with their fellow fellow employees about golf plans for the following weekend.

Seat The Audience At Round Banquet Tables

For the love of God, you’re not going to ensure that all the seats in the audience are facing the stage, are you? No, no, no. When an entertainer walks on stage you want roughly half the audience facing the back of the room. That way more people will be able to tell when the line for the open bar is down to only a few people. You might also consider leaving the doors in the back of the room open, allowing those seated with their backs to the stage to “people watch” the smokers, stragglers and maybe even catch a glimpse of that woman from the coat check with the ineffable aura about her. Ideally, you want these people who face the back of the room to be completely unaware of what is going on on the stage. Think muzak.

Serve Food During The Show

When a world-class comedy entertainer and a mediocre salad go head to head, the salad wins every time. Anything requiring utensils is best – after all, people are capable of enjoying a comedian with finger food like popcorn just as they are capable of enjoying a movie. Of course, it never hurts to have hard-working servers bustling from table to table pouring water, grinding pepper and sending that steak back to the kitchen until it’s done right.

Arrange For A Large, Empty Space Between The Stage And The Front Row

Nothing is more conducive to an attentive, engaged audience like seating them as close to the stage as possible. There’s an intimacy to this seating arrangement that mimics the openness and rapport of an private conversation. This is why you want a large empty space surrounding the stage. Many venues place a small stage against the wall of a large banquet hall and surround it with a large, empty dance floor: this is the ideal way to ensure your money and reputation go to waste. Nothing sends the the audience the signal “You have nothing to do with this performance” quite like seating everyone no less than a metric mile of the edge of the stage. This way audience members can chat with each other throughout the show while feeling – wrongly – that it has no impact on the overall performance.

The above are just a few basic, feng-shui examples of how to ruin the entertainment portion of your event. The truth is, there are almost as many ways to ruin it as there are second-rate entertainers to ruin it for you.

Do you know other ways to ensure that entertaining at your event is as uphill a battle as possible?

My Statements About Trans Fats Were Wrong And Hurtful

Recently I wrote a (since deleted) blogpost about my experience on the “keto” diet. In it, I wrote that a diet rich in fats was both healthful and useful for weight loss. However, I also made a distinction between “healthy fats such as those found in nuts and fish” and so-called “trans fats, which raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.”

These words were not merely clinically inaccurate but hurtful acts of violence. It pains me terribly to think of the danger in which I put the readers of my reckless words. That I am an older man who grew up in a much fitter and more active era than today’s slackers and 24/7 social-media users is no excuse. I now know that my words constituted an act of violence against tater tots, nondairy creamer, women, pre-prepared cake frosting, microwave popcorn, people of color, vegetable shortening, fried fast food, the undocumented, frozen pizza, stick margarin, Muslims, pie crusts, fried chicken, the differently abled, cookie dough, onion rings, and the gays.

My thoughtless words were not only wrong from a scientific perspective but from a moral one. Oprah, Rosie O’Donnell, the director of the Food and Drug Administration, the leadership at the National Association To Advance Fat Acceptance and more than two-hundred thousand (and counting) Twitter users have helped me to understand what should have been obvious to me at the time: trans fats are fats, full-stop.

I am also learning that apologizing and promising to do better, while necessary, is not sufficient. That is why I am going on an “listening tour” of the United States. No, I won’t be performing my standup comedy or dispensing hateful nutritional facts. In fact, I won’t be speaking at all, but listening to those whose lives will never be the same after reading my irresponsible words.

Some in Hollywood have privately suggested that I ignore what they call the “clinically-insane mob” for the approximately 72 hours it takes for them to get bored and move onto new and easier targets, like Seth Rogen. I reject this. Instead, I will be taking time to stay quiet, away from social media, and refraining from all press interviews. If and when I return to public life it will only be after I have listened, learned and atoned.

Some will say that I don’t deserve the opportunity at redemption, let alone resumption of my weekly gig emceeing New Material Mondays at the Chuckle Hut in Garden Grove.

To such people I can only say “I feel your pain.”

Sometimes A Strip Poker Invite Is Just A Strip Poker Invite

Even Freud recognized that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

As embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) fights off allegations ranging from the unserious (covering up the number of Covid deaths in state nursing homes) to the very serious (complimenting a woman’s haircut), it’s time our culture readdressed power dynamics, sexual harassment, and the #MeToo movement. 

According to an AP report, a former member of the governor’s administration said that Cuomo suggested that they should play strip poker. Many readers, including myself, are asking the question has that ever worked?

Our era is one in which everything is fraught with a hidden meaning, usually of a sexual nature. Long gone are the days when a man can innocently invite an unpaid female intern who’s young enough to be his daughter to play strip poker without it being interpreted as something inappropriate. Men have been reminded repeatedly that No means no. This is as it should be. But shouldn’t it be equally clear that “Would you like to play a form of poker with me in which the player with the losing hand forfeits an item of clothing until we’re both naked?” means exactly that and nothing else? Why does everything have to be seen through a sexual lens? 

Frankly I don’t even see the connection. What – is the idea that proposing to a subordinate that repairing to a cozy place where we can enjoy little privacy and play some cards in the nude somehow has sexual overtones? I honestly don’t get it. 

Now don’t get me wrong: one should never make such a proposal. Not because of any alleged sexual connotation but because it’s a cliché. What could be more hackneyed than me, a 50-year old man living on a juggler’s salary trying to earn a little a few bucks off the new hire with an all-night round of strip poker? 

If the people of New York believe Cuomo should resign, then he should do so. I have nothing personal against him. In fact, some of my best friends have made utterly counterintuitive decisions which cost the lives of thousands of people and then attempted to cover it up. 

This just in: Cuomo has received a special Granny Award™ for his handling of the Covid crisis.