Making light of
BUSINESS OF THE MONTH/ COMEDIAN FINDS NICHE
Oct 29, 2003
Mitchell Brown - YorkRegion.com
Just to be on the safe
side, I ask to see his driver's licence before we begin
It's nothing personal, but when someone has the words
"corporate impostor" embossed on their business
cards, you can't take anything for granted.
For all I know, my editor
could be playing a prank on me.
But no, stand-up comic
Russell Roy appears to be on the up and up, with his own
website and everything (www.russellroy.com) and he's quite
upfront about the lying and deception involved in his
"I used to work for
a large telecommunications company and you would see the
hypocrisy and doubletalk all the time," he said,
explaining how he got into his line of work.
"If anyone's worked
in a big bureaucracy, it's just unavoidable. You know,
someone is giving you one story, but you know the true
story is something completely different."
It was during that time
in the corporate jungle he met Mike Bullard, who would
later turn his own knack for humour into a successful
stand-up and late-night TV career.
With his encouragement
and a few lessons from The Second City, Mr. Roy set out
to make his own mark as an entertainer in 1995.
Again, his friend Mike
was there was a bit of advice.
"He told me very early
on the only real way of being a professional comedian
is to work the corporate market and you need some kind
of product that's suitable for that market," he said.
"Club comedy is generally
very shocking, very dirty and foul-mouthed, so you can't
really do that in a group of accountants or wherever.
I needed some kind of hook and this just seemed to work."
His "hook" is appearing on stage as, say, the
long-lost son of the company's president or a recently
transferred overseas manager or the new guy brought in
to take over the senior position that everyone assumed
was going to someone else in the company.
At first, the audience
thinks they're about to hear another stuffy presentation,
but as his speech becomes more and more ludicrous -- he's
been known to call the company accountants "penny-pinching,
misguided egomaniacs" -- the listeners slowly realize
he just might be kidding.
It's an approach that works because, let's face it, few
people expect a hearty laugh at a corporate function.
presentations are not standup comedy, but the pace of
the whole thing can be just ... so ... slow," he
"I've been through
bad business presentations and everyone just falls asleep.
The presenters are not professional presenters, so they
don't understand the nuances of how to keep the attention
of the the audience."
Timing is important and
even the driest material can be perked up with personal
references or the occasional joke, he said.
But until that day when
every CEO and senior manager is a regular comedian, Mr.
Roy expects enough steady business to keep him out of
a corporate cubicle for now.
"That was my only
goal, to just support myself and earn what I was earning
before, so I'm pretty happy with that," he said.
There's just one problem
with his product he hasn't quite figured out yet.
"The nice thing about most businesses is that you
can get repeat customers from your client base and keep
them in the fold," he said.
"But me, I can do
it once, maybe twice before they're on to me and then
I need a new customer. It's a little daunting that way."
To that end, he has developed
a few other acts, including "the world's most motivational
speaker", with his "seven secrets to effective
"There are just three,
really, and for steps four through seven, I just repeat
them until they become second nature," he said.