by Frank King
Everything I need to know about making a living in the speaking business, I learned at meetings of the Association Executives of North Carolina.
I hold the record for the longest non-stop comedy club tour, 2,629 nights in a row, no home, just a Post Office Box, and an answering service. Every now and then an Association Executive will say to me, “We’re paying you all that money for a 45-60 minute keynote?” And I tell them, “You’re not paying me for a 45-60 minute keynote, you’re paying me for 7 years of beer bars, and pool halls, and honkytonks, and drunk knuckleheads screaming, ‘Tell us some jokes we can dance to!’ You’re not paying me for the jokes I tell, you’re paying all that dough for the jokes I don’t tell. What you’re really paying me for, as a humorist, is to make sure that when I’m done with my job joking, you still have a job executive directing. Think of it as comedy job insurance.”
On day 2,630, I came back to Raleigh (my home town), and went to work at WRDU 106, “The Home of Rock and Roll,” and was half of “Kevin and King,” the worst morning show in the history of Raleigh radio. There are two kinds of people in radio, people who have been fired, and people who are going to be fired. The axe fell 18 months after I started.
By then the comedy club boom was over, and if I was going to make a living being funny, I had to reinvent myself. I made the move from the barroom to the board room, and from club to corporate comedy. I joined the Chamber of Commerce, the National Speakers Association, and most importantly as it turned out, the Association Executives of North Carolina. The AENC was the best membership dues money I ever spent on networking group.
I did my first “Speaker Showcase” and had a great time. I did what I always advise other humorists is Lesson One, I got there early, met a lot of the people, asked a lot of questions, made a note of what they did, and worked their businesses into my routine. One of the questions I always ask is “What’s your industry’s favorite inside joke?” And then I do those jokes. Lesson Two for speakers, it’s not about you, it’s all about them.
There was an exec of a funeral directors’ association and she said, the funeral directors’ favorite joke is, “What’s the most difficult part about being a mortician? Give up? Trying to look sad at a $25,000 funeral.”
And, there was an executive for an ophthalmologists’ group, and their favorite joke is, “Here’s my impression of an ophthalmologist making love: How’s that…how about now…better…worse…one or two…two or…” And if you never worn glasses, ask someone, ‘cause that’s funny.
They laughed about themselves, and booked me.
Thanks to the AENC, my speaking career took off, and everywhere else I’ve moved I’ve joined the local Association of Association Executives, and it has always been, and continues to be, the best money I’ve ever spent on membership dues, which is Lesson Three, for aspiring speakers. I hope they are listening.
Frank King is a Certified Laugh Coach, a Certified Speaking Professional, and full time Professional Comedian who has been helping people laugh and learn how to use humor to turn their losses into laughs, their pains into punchlines, and their stresses and messes into successes, for 30 years.
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