Make no mistake: Meetings are serious business. In between all the networking, learning, and deal making, however, there's always room for a little levity. Here are five comedic speakers whose humor will make your audience laugh, chuckle, giggle, and guffaw -- and in the process, maybe even inspire them.
Four Day Weekend
Four Day Weekend isn't just what you wish for in earnest every Monday and Friday. It's also the name of a critically-acclaimed comedy group from Fort Worth, TX. Established in 1997 by a group of stand-up comedians, the group improvises a one-hour and a 45-minute show in downtown Fort Worth every Friday and Saturday night, based entirely on audience suggestions and participation. For corporate and association groups, founders David Ahearn, David Wilk, and Frank Ford take their show on the road in the form of keynotes and workshops during which they demonstrate and teach the improvisational techniques they use in their shows. Most notably, the "Yes, and" technique, which helps improv performers maximize creativity and communication by removing the word "no" from their vocabulary. Audiences will laugh while they learn, and learn while they laugh. (Speak Inc., 1-800-677-3324, www.speakinc.com)
"Oh, no, a ventriloquist." That was judge David Hasselhoff's initial reaction when Terry Fator arrived on stage in 2007 during NBC's "America's Got Talent." And it might be your initial reaction, too. If past audiences are any indicator, however, your scowl will quickly give way to a smile when Fator -- winner of the televised talent show's second season -- launches into his act, which is a mix of ventriloquism, celebrity impressions, comedy, and music. During his puppet-powered keynote, Fator will impersonate the likes of Dean Martin, Gnarls Barkley, Black Sabbath, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, Cher, Etta James, and Guns N' Roses, just to name a few -- all without moving his lips. Having performed on "The Today Show," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and "The Late Show with David Letterman," among others, Fator currently is celebrating seven years as a Las Vegas headliner at The Mirage, where audiences vacillate nightly between amusement and amazement. (Speak Inc., 1-800-677-3324, www.speakinc.com)
Technology at various times can be helpful, innovative, cool, distracting, frustrating, or failing. In the hands of comedian Bob Hirschfeld, however, it also can be extremely funny. A self-described "cybersatirist," Hirschfeld specializes in comic relief for business and technology conferences, where he tailors his keynotes to match his audience's interests and expertise. His "stand-up with a laptop" routine, for instance, has made punch lines out of staid business topics such as social media, cloud and mobile computing, time management, technology, and sustainability. A keynote speaker for more than 12 years, Hirschfeld has performed at meetings for Microsoft, Forbes, SAS, Oracle, Gartner, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association, and hundreds of others whose attendees came to their meetings for business but stayed for belly laughs. (Speak Inc., 1-800-677-3324, www.speakinc.com)
Sometimes, serious meetings need a shot of silly. Bonkers comedian Tom Green is just the man to give it to them. Best known for hosting his own show, "The Tom Green Show," on MTV from 1994 until 2000, as well as his outrageous roles in movies like "Road Trip" and "Freddy Got Fingered," Green most recently was host of "Tom Green Live," a weekly one-hour talk show on Marc Cuban's AXS TV, and currently is host of "The Tom Green Radio Show," a weekly podcast featuring his signature brand of ridiculous humor. Green, a testicular cancer survivor, has matured since his early days, but remains one of comedy's most entertaining -- and surprising -- stars. (The Feldman Agency, 1-416-598-0067, www.feldman-agency.com)
Most comedians thrive on the sound of their audience laughing. Kathy Buckley isn't one of them. That's because when people in Buckley's audience burst out laughing, she can't hear them. Billed as "America's First Hearing Impaired Comedienne," Buckley is a five-time American Comedy Award nominee in the category of "Best Stand-Up Female Comedienne." Author of "If You Could Hear What I See," Buckley uses the numerous challenges she's encountered in her life -- including hearing loss, an accident that nearly paralyzed her, and cervical cancer -- as a launching pad for her humor, which is a mix of laughs, education, and inspiration. "My comedy disarms people," said Buckley, who is a featured motivational speaker for Tony Robbins' "Life Mastery" classes. "I love to make people laugh, but I love it even more if I can teach them something at the same time." (Eagles Talent, 1-800-345-5607, www.eaglestalent.com)