Al Prodgers Comedy
18 February 2016Social Media: To the burners of art at UCT  1 December 2015 INFOGRAPHIC: Is Your MC really experienced?  9th September 2015 BLOG: Speaking Volumes: Simple audibility tips 7th August 2014 BLOG: Trench Humour: Why laughter in the workplace is vital  27th June 2014 BLOG: Blogging the Blue Moon Company 25th Birthday
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Business often sees corporate comedy as an option only to be deployed at celebrations like product launches, golf days and gala dinners. Of course a good stand-up comedian/MC can add plenty of value to such an occasion, but companies are missing an opportunity to shape the underlying energy that is present in any organisation under tougher circumstances. This energy often manifests as “trench humour” a way of lightening the load of experience between people who have shared the trials of working together at the sharp end of any organisation. August 2014 marks one hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, and it was during this conflict that the term, “trench humour” became widely known. Famously, soldiers found an abandoned printing press in the village of Ypres and informally published The Wipers Times, a satirical look at battlefield conditions. An extract from the first front page reads: “Are you a Victim to optimism? Do you Suffer from Cheerfulness? We Can cure You.” I don’t mean to trivialise the hell of wartime experiences by comparing them to a tough day at the office, but the lessons of trench humour now have much wider application than the military. This type of wit is a manifestation of courage and defiance in the face of adversity. You may recall the famous cartoon of a bird about to eat a frog. The poor frog’s head has already disappeared down the gullet and it looks like it’s all over for Kermit… BUT the frog has his hands outside the bird’s beak, around its throat and is relentlessly choking him, preventing him from swallowing. The caption is simply: “Never EVER Give Up!” Humour like this acknowledges our feelings and fears. It has the honesty, the courage, to admit that everything is not perfect and that the outlook may not be entirely rosy, but it’s not defeatist. It encourages its participants to keep on fighting. For me, the iconic Blackadder Goes Forth comedy series still sums up trench humour at its best. “BOB: I just wanted to be like my brothers, I wanted to see how a war is fought. So badly! BLACKADDER:  Well, you've come to the right place, Bob. A war hasn't been fought this badly since Olaf the Hairy, high chief of all the Vikings, accidentally ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside!” It’s easy to spot the irreverent element that scares many a leader group. After all, if the underlings understood the gravity of the situation, might they not mutiny? But you can bet that your employees are already well aware of the reality within your company. They may not have access to the grand battle plan, but, like the common soldier, they have a well honed “feel” for what is happening. If their intuition is ignored by the leadership, it can sour into mistrust, affecting morale and leading to an every man for himself mentality, rampant office politics or devastating gossip that can have a significant negative impact on results. However, a bold team can capitalise on the opportunities presented by such a situation. “Esprit de corps”, the feeling of devotion shared by a tight knit group, originated in the military. The benefits of binding members together more tightly only come from encountering and overcoming a certain amount of difficulty. By creating a group of insiders who are “all in it together” for a common goal, it’s possible to mobilise the co-operative spirit of a company. As an MC or guest comedian at corporate events, I’ve noticed that there is often a reluctance on the part of executives to acknowledge how tough the work environment has been for a while, perhaps for fear of triggering other uncomfortable issues. While I’m not suggesting a sentimental “woe is us” attitude that can be used as an excuse for underperformance, a simple acknowledgement of circumstances coupled with light-hearted banter, sharing of anecdotes and funny moments can work wonders to foster a sense of belonging and loyalty. That’s the hidden power of trench humour.  Obviously this type of humour needs to come from a common experience. It can’t be dictated from on high by a remote management.  There’s a reason it’s called trench humour, not headquarters hilarity. But once you make the effort to establish a feeling of common experiences, once you have laughed together, it’s so much easier to act with confidence and optimism. As a leader, you can channel that energy into exceptional results. And this positive effect is not a “warm fuzzy” that dissipates within a few days, but the foundation of a virtuous circle of results creating even better results. So why not consider using authentic humour to serve your organisation in a new way? You have the option of live performance, interactive workshops or even an improvised production to reinforce your company’s messaging. The strategic goals can be determined beforehand and easily achieved without casualties. After all, trench humour is happening in your organisation right now and you may as well use it to your advantage. Your choice is simple. Be the leader… or be the punchline.
7th August 2014
BLOG: TRENCH HUMOUR: Why laughter in the workplace is vital in tough times as well as good
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Business often sees corporate comedy as an option only to be deployed at celebrations like product launches, golf days and gala dinners. Of course a good stand-up comedian/MC can add plenty of value to such an occasion, but companies are missing an opportunity to shape the underlying energy that is present in any organisation under tougher circumstances. This energy often manifests as “trench humour” a way of lightening the load of experience between people who have shared the trials of working together at the sharp end of any organisation. August 2014 marks one hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, and it was during this conflict that the term, “trench humour” became widely known. Famously, soldiers found an abandoned printing press in the village of Ypres and informally published The Wipers Times, a satirical look at battlefield conditions. An extract from the first front page reads: “Are you a Victim to optimism? Do you Suffer from Cheerfulness? We Can cure You.” I don’t mean to trivialise the hell of wartime experiences by comparing them to a tough day at the office, but the lessons of trench humour now have much wider application than the military. This type of wit is a manifestation of courage and defiance in the face of adversity. You may recall the famous cartoon of a bird about to eat a frog. The poor frog’s head has already disappeared down the gullet and it looks like it’s all over for Kermit… BUT the frog has his hands outside the bird’s beak, around its throat and is relentlessly choking him, preventing him from swallowing. The caption is simply: “Never EVER Give Up!” Humour like this acknowledges our feelings and fears. It has the honesty, the courage, to admit that everything is not perfect and that the outlook may not be entirely rosy, but it’s not defeatist. It encourages its participants to keep on fighting. For me, the iconic Blackadder Goes Forth comedy series still sums up trench humour at its best. “BOB: I just wanted to be like my brothers, I wanted to see how a war is fought. So badly! BLACKADDER:  Well, you've come to the right place, Bob. A war hasn't been fought this badly since Olaf the Hairy, high chief of all the Vikings, accidentally ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside!” It’s easy to spot the irreverent element that scares many a leader group. After all, if the underlings understood the gravity of the situation, might they not mutiny? But you can bet that your employees are already well aware of the reality within your company. They may not have access to the grand battle plan, but, like the common soldier, they have a well honed “feel” for what is happening. If their intuition is ignored by the leadership, it can sour into mistrust, affecting morale and leading to an every man for himself mentality, rampant office politics or devastating gossip that can have a significant negative impact on results. However, a bold team can capitalise on the opportunities presented by such a situation. “Esprit de corps”, the feeling of devotion shared by a tight knit group, originated in the military. The benefits of binding members together more tightly only come from encountering and overcoming a certain amount of difficulty. By creating a group of insiders who are “all in it together” for a common goal, it’s possible to mobilise the co-operative spirit of a company. As an MC or guest comedian at corporate events, I’ve noticed that there is often a reluctance on the part of executives to acknowledge how tough the work environment has been for a while, perhaps for fear of triggering other uncomfortable issues. While I’m not suggesting a sentimental “woe is us” attitude that can be used as an excuse for underperformance, a simple acknowledgement of circumstances coupled with light- hearted banter, sharing of anecdotes and funny moments can work wonders to foster a sense of belonging and loyalty. That’s the hidden power of trench humour.  Obviously this type of humour needs to come from a common experience. It can’t be dictated from on high by a remote management.  There’s a reason it’s called trench humour, not headquarters hilarity. But once you make the effort to establish a feeling of common experiences, once you have laughed together, it’s so much easier to act with confidence and optimism. As a leader, you can channel that energy into exceptional results. And this positive effect is not a “warm fuzzy” that dissipates within a few days, but the foundation of a virtuous circle of results creating even better results. So why not consider using authentic humour to serve your organisation in a new way? You have the option of live performance, interactive workshops or even an improvised production to reinforce your company’s messaging. The strategic goals can be determined beforehand and easily achieved without casualties. After all, trench humour is happening in your organisation right now and you may as well use it to your advantage. Your choice is simple. Be the leader… or be the punchline.
7th August 2014
BLOG: TRENCH HUMOUR: Why laughter in the workplace is vital in tough times as well as good
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