Nora, along with her co-workers at a leading advertising company were notified, by email, of an upcoming team building day happing Friday and how it was mandatory to show up at 9:00 am and wear comfortable, casual Friday clothes. No one knew what was going to happen, but it was quite a buzz at the water cooler and break room. The twenty-five employees speculated what it could be or shared apprehension leading up to Friday.
Friday came. Nora, a reliable hard working administrative assistance and her co-workers, including the CEO, were in various huddles in front of the building, per instructions of the company wide emails. Right on cue, at 9:00 a.m. a standard yellow school bus rolled up to the front of the building and the CEO stepped forward to make an announcement.
"Good morning, my friends and colleagues of Dynamic Marketing and happy Friday," shouted Brad Finely, the CEO of Dynamic Marketing. With some enthusiasm, the crowd cheered back. "I am sure you all are wondering what is going on? What will we be doing on this team building day. I can say we are not, repeat NOT, doing trust falls!"
With a lot more enthusiasm, there were big cheers, with whoops and whistles too. James, from sales, raised his hand and asked hesitantly , "Will there be walking on hot coals?"
"No, oh God no," Brad replied. "Take all those crappy team building exercises out of your mind because.... Today I want you all to put your creative hats on. I have taken the liberty of renting out the LOL Lounge for the day. Together we will be attending two workshops given by two local comedians on how to write jokes and be given techniques to deliver stand up. Following a catered lunch, you will put that knowledge to the test where everyone will be given three minutes on stage for a good old fashioned Roast... of me!"
The employees go wild with applause. It was all over their faces. The apprehension from the worried employees from earlier in the week melted into smiles and excitement.
"What are you waiting for? Let's pile in," suggested the CEO and one by one all the employees piled into the school bus. Once all were accounted for the bus pulled off, out of the parking lot, down the road and proceeded to the stand up comedy club, The LOL Lounge.
After a twenty minute drive, everyone arrived and exited the bus. From outside the building, all were lead through the front entrance where the owner of LOL Lounge greeting everyone and gave a small tour of the whole venue - including the backstage. After the tour the employees settled in filling all the seats to four top tables located at the front of the house. Each table had notebooks and pens for note taking. Brad takes the stage, with the owner who was thanked for the lovely tour and then left to tend his daily business duties.
Brad then directed his attention to his employees, "I also want to thank you all for being here. A lot of team building excursions often never relate to their work or truly actually build relationships but often creates more division. And with more and more concerns about mental health awareness, I thought why not laugh - at my expense! This is not a contest about who can get the most laughs or who has the best jokes, but to have fun, support each other, and hopefully learn a new skill - comedy." The audience nodded and smiled at his introduction. "So as I mentioned prior to getting on the bus, together we are going to get some basic comedy lessons with two local comedians on the fine art of making jokes, as well as how to deliver them. This way everyone will be on the same page - from accounting to sales. As a reminder, I do have a catered lunch planned here starting at noon. Following lunch you will have roughly two hours to work on your new material and practice delivering. Our teachers will be sticking around if you need help. The Roast will begin at 3:00 and go until 5:00 so we have time to get back to the office. Remember the purpose is to have fun and yes roast me."
"So, anything goes, providing we don't loose our jobs," asked one of the employees?
"Ah yes, there are two rules. Be creative. This means if you would rather do impressions instead of traditional jokes, go for it. My caveat, is be respectful but don't be afraid to push the envelope. If you are not sure if what you write crosses a line - run it by a fellow colleague or by our professional comedians on hand. If you want to do something with one or two people together, that is ok, but that also means your time is combined together. Questions?"
The audience shakes their head no or mumbles no. Since there were no questions, a petite woman, with a big smile walked onto the stage from behind the curtain and took the mic from Brad. She introduced herself as Heather and gave a little bio of herself and accomplishments and went right into a 45 minute talk on the elements of a joke and the four building blocks of a good joke: content, pace, delivery and expectations. One tip, on setting up a joke, was instead of the traditional a guy walks into a bar, what about a girl walks into an ad agency. By the end of the lecture, everyone in the audience was full of energy writing down notes, starting to create their own ideas for jokes.
Following Heather was Randy, an energetic, bouncy, tall man in jeans and a flannel shirt. He picked up where Heather left off and gave suggestions about timing in delivering jokes and even more so the different between roasting verses doing a simple stand up set. Randy, with a little more time at the end his lecture, shared a few of his favorite jokes from the famous Friar Club Roasts from years back. When his time was up, Brad joined Randy on the stage and thanked both comedians and invited them to stick around for lunch to which he announced it was lunch time. All got up from their seats and proceeded down a buffet line that consisted of hummus and pitas, two types of salads, chicken wings, sandwich wraps, brownies and cookies and pitchers of soda and water.
As the hungry audience made their way back to their seats to eat, a young Administrative Assistant, Nora, sat with her friends, an intern, Bryce, and two women, Molly and Kennedy, who work in social media/content marketing. "So what you do you think so far," asked Nora.
"It's a lot to take in, but I am having fun. I had no idea there was so much that goes into being a stand up comic," revealed Molly.
"Me too. I mean I am glad we are doing this over trust falls and that garbage. Granted I am super nervous about getting up in front of people," shared Bryce.
"Oddly, I thought being a content writer would make doing this exercise easy, but content marketing is nothing like writing a joke. I don’t even know the CEO well so I don't know where to start," said Kennedy.
"Seriously, Kennedy? I think that can work to your advantage. Think about it. I could picture you saying something like, ‘I am sure we all can agree Brad is a pretty smart and business savvy guy, but not so much in the social media department. There is a reason he hired me to do content marketing. Once I asked him to send me a tweet he liked, and he texted me a picture of Tweety bird.'," shared Nora.
The four at table busted out laughing. "I like that! Very clever, Nora. May I steal it," she asked.
The rest of the time they ate and shared ideas about jokes and laughable work moments. As the afternoon went on, Bryce found out he had a good knack of doing impersonations of Brad. And Molly toyed with ideas about how Brad never understood website terms like misunderstanding what a mobile website is thinking it involved wheeling a computer around on a cart. Nora simply worked on her own relying on her skills as a gatekeeper to the boss and having a pretty good knowledge about her co-workers quirks.
The afternoon flew by and as people finished their last thoughts, eager to let the Roast start and deliver their bits. One by one random volunteers went up on a lit stage with employees cheering in the audience as each one gave their three minute routines. Nearly all got at least one good chuckle or laugh and Brad noted how each and every person was super supportive of each other. He smiled and laughed with them.
Then it was Nora's turn. She casually walked up onto the stage, picked up the microphone that twas sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage, smiled to the audience, then started her routine. "Hello! I have to say this has to be one of the most enjoyable days at any job I have ever been employed. Thank you, Mr. Finely and to all for making us laugh. It's even a bigger relief that we don’t have to hide our jokes today and am even more thankful I do not have to be the one to keep watch for when the boss is about to come around the corner. Which reminds me, I have to ask... was I the only one who thought when Brad said we would be doing stand up today that it was code for we are having a meeting without chairs? (The audience warmly chuckled.) Good so it wasn't me. So, what can I say about a man who is admired, amazingly creative, and is well liked by all? I can say he is not the man here we are honoring tonight."
The entire crowd busts out laughing and then simmers, eager to hear more.
"As the Administrative assistant, I know a lot of things, but did you know Brad is not the kind of man who takes work home with him. It's true! How can he? We do all the work. In turn though, we are lucky to have Brand as our boss, otherwise who would want to be the ring leader of this disfunctional circus we call co-workers. (There's another pause for laughter to die down). But seriously, your success is something to truly be admired. You started with a dream and now have all these employees working for you. And look at you! You even look like a million bucks, all green and wrinkly. Wow, three minutes sure zips by fast. But want to leave you all with one piece of advice. Keep laughing, I mean it! Laugh at his jokes as if your paycheck depends on it."
Nora put the microphone down admits cheers and applause. She did a little curtsy and then returned to her seat with people still standing and applauding. It was a real ego boost, but the cherry on top was when Brad went up to her and personally congratulated when they were on the school bus ride back to the office. He made it known that if she ever wanted to move to a more creative position in the company, he would be happy to make that happen. Nora beamed the rest of the ride home and couldn't wait to tell her family about her day.