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IABC NJ Spring Social Shows How Comedy Can Enable Standout Communications

Comedy can enable standout communications... it comes with risk, but can bring great rewards.

That’s how Chip Ambrogio characterizes the use of humor in strategic communications, both inside and outside an organization. The award-winning communicator, comedian and comedy writer provided insights on leveraging the power of the laugh to educate and inspire during IABC New Jersey’s recent Spring Social. The social brought together nearly 50 New Jersey communications professionals, both IABC members and beyond, May 17 at the Basking Ridge Country Club. ??Chip’s background as a stand-up comedian and comedy writer includes writing for the Friars Club Roast, TV and film, and many of today's top performers. He has successfully used that experience to add appropriate humor and fun to a diverse corporate communications. He showed how appealing to an audience’s funny bone can raise awareness, create a sense of community, enhance performance and align with an organization’s corporate mission.

But, first, about those risks, which are office politics and egos, the chance of stepping on toes, navigating areas of diversity and inclusion, to name a few. Comedy is subjective, and some people are literal. Balance those with the rewards – using humor can stand out from traditional tactics. It can also create connection on multiple levels – whether it’s great writing, great performance or a strong emotional appeal. Great comedians – Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and George Carlin – mastered each of these, respectively, Chip shared.

Chip’s own comedic journey began nearly a quarter century ago when he was in a job he hated. An advertisement for a comedy class in the Village Voice caught his eye, and he entered the world of stand up. At the same time, he began a new job in communications.

“For the last 23 years, I’ve been dealing with difficult audiences, prima donnas and with hecklers, and then of course there was the stand-up,” Chip says. “But the more I did stand-up at night and communications during the day, the more I saw the connection – the cross-over skills – where comedy could help me with my day job.” Chip’s takeaways included:

  • Write for the stage, not for the page. Be conversational, be engaging and humanize the perspective.
  • Get to the point, and do it fast. Writing a great joke is about getting from the set-up to the punch line as fast as possible. The approach also applies to communications tactics.
  • Make the core message clear. Great communication and great comedy is stripping down to the connection … to what the audience can take home with them.
  • Comedy lets you create characters and tell a story. “By putting the characters in similar situation as the audience, we build empathy and understanding, and get them to laugh,” says Chip. “It’s less parental and more organic way to get the word out.”
  • Take risks, and enjoy success.
  • All you really need is that first one to work. You need someone to believe and then deliver on it.

According to Chip, learning to use humor appropriately in a corporate situation is an art, but if you're willing to take a chance the benefits are many. After all, comedy can elicit an emotional reaction much more than any email can. Seinfeld would say if an audience does not laugh at a joke, it means they do not like the joke. It does not mean they do not like me. Chip adds: “That fearlessness allows you to open doors, get buy-in on projects other people may be afraid to pitch, and open up new ways to connect with your audience.” Thank you to IABC New Jersey Spring Social cocktail opening hour sponsor Davis & Company, as well as IABC sponsors Spi Group, Monmouth University, Fairleigh Hickinson University, BMW Morristown and HomeAdvisor. Find out more about IABC New Jersey, join and get involved at the IABC New Jersey website.

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