Thomas Antion

Direct comments or questions about this article to Tom Antion, Box 9558, Virginia Beach, VA 23450. (757) 431-1366 Fax (757) 431-2050, Email orders@antion.com

Other articles by Tom Antion:

20 Ways to Add Fun and Excitement to Your Next Meeting
20 Questions BEFORE Hiring a Speaker
Preparing for International Presentations: The Humor Perspective
Room Set-Up for Maximum Mirth.
Tom's Banquet Tips
Eleven Articles for Speakers
Stage Fright Strategies
FREE BOOK CHAPTER from Wake 'em Up Business Presentations
FREE BOOK--Complete text from Wake 'em Up Business Presentations --Warning: This is a large file.

If you want to make your next meeting an event "they'll never forget," why not use a technique that dates back hundreds of years and was used by many of the biggest names in American history?

According to H. Allen Smith in one of his classic books on American humor, "a function wasn't a function without a ribber loose in the room." What's a ribber? A ribber is an old English term for someone who is an impostor or jokester. This actor or group of actors is planted at a function; be it a party, banquet or business meeting, for the purpose of making some sort of commotion that everyone can enjoy --that is, they can enjoy it once they've figured out what the heck is going on!

Ribbers come in many forms. Three of the most popular types are false guest speakers, inept service personnel, and impostor foreign dignitaries. If you think that your sophisticated audience would not appreciate this kind of merriment, then maybe you weren't around when Franklin D. Roosevelt greeted everyone in the reception line at a big White House party with the following phrase: "I murdered my grandmother this morning." He did this because he believed that no one listened to required niceties at banquets (keep this in mind when planning remarks).

Or, maybe you didn't hear about W.E. Corey, former president of U.S. Steel, who helped humbug 12 of the richest men in the country or maybe you missed the memo about the joke General Ulysses S. Grant pulled in 1860 on the president of Norton College that lasted 75 years! Abe Lincoln, Henry Ford, Harry Truman, Ben Franklin, James Thurber and hundreds of other important people from our history were notorious practical jokers. The reason ribbing eventually faded away was not because it wasn't accepted. It was because it was so common, you couldn't fool anyone anymore.

Well, the time is right to bring back the old guard. I should know. For the past ten years I and many of my cohorts have zinged, zapped and zowied groups and individuals from board rooms to bakeries and convention halls to cafeterias. My motto is: Whatever I do for you will be remembered forever.

The Kodak sales force will never forget the meeting when I appeared as Vice President of Marketing and gave them a totally unintelligible pep talk. Neither will the CEO of a liquor company forget the time I crashed his black-tie birthday party as a lowly beggar, or the time Crestar bank managers heard the most outrageous customer service techniques imaginable.

Most of the time when a large group of people find out they have been hoodwinked, they stand and applaud not only for the prankster, but for themselves too. Taking a good hard laugh at yourself can do wonders for your morale. As evidenced by the success of television shows like Totally Hidden Video, America's Funniest Videos, and the perennial favorite Candid Camera.There is a highly receptive mood in our country for good natured ribbing.

What is he talking about?
My favorite gag is the false guest speaker. This act fools the entire audience at once. The length of the speech is easy to vary to suit your program. Some speakers have a canned act and speak on a generic topic like Stress Reduction. They then go off on bizarre tangents to the point of lunacy until the joke is revealed. A better version includes a presentation that is customized for the group. An insider or accomplice provides industry buzzwords and authentic issues so the speech starts off in a believable and relevant fashion. The speaker then rambles off on unrelated topics that are weaved into the real information to lead the audience down the path to bewilderment. Really good speakers open up the microphone for a question and answer session in which they ad lib or give pre-written comical answers to expected questions.

He tripped me!
Inept service personnel like clumsy waiters and off-beat busboys can be hilarious if handled properly. These acts do not have to be messy. The best evoke sympathy from the guests because the bumbler is trying desperately to do a good job, but just can't seem to do anything right. His comments have the guests biting their tongues so they don't laugh right in his face. Service personnel gags usually go on for an hour or more and the results filter slowly through the crowd. They are usually capped off with a staged argument where the bumbler gets fired. Or, he could spill something on a shill who gets irate. You stage the finale to happen close to selected group members who the waiter blames for causing the problem. This causes a quite a stir.

We are so pleased to welcome you to our country.
Impostor foreign dignitaries are always fun. They arrive with great pomp along with body guards and entourage. This is guaranteed to attract a crowd; maybe even media coverage. These characters normally wear some type of outlandish costume to add to the aura of the event. You can even arrange fake autograph seekers and paparazzi.

No backfires please.
When staging a practical joke you must plan the many details carefully. You certainly don't want something that is supposed to be fun to turn sour. If you plan the joke as carefully as you plan all other details of the event you will find that the benefits far outweigh the risks. I use the following criteria when planning an event:
1. The joke should not be physically dangerous in any way. 2. It should not be humiliating. 3. It should have good intent, i.e., you should be able to laugh with the group that was fooled and not at them. Most of the time key insiders are involved in the idea anyway. 4. It should be creative. If you faithfully stick to the first three criteria you can be assured that your jokes will be well received. Item number four can be fudged with little or no problem.

For instance, the idea of a clumsy waiter is not particularly creative, but when you have a talented actor playing the part, your biggest complaint will be that someone's side hurts from laughing too hard. Make sure you only deal with professional and experienced characters. Even if you plan the joke carefully, once the person or group is "on stage" they must be able to ad lib and adjust to whatever situation arises. On large productions you will need an on-site person to coordinate the action. The characters presented here are only three of the most popular gags you can pull at a meeting. You are limited only by your imagination and budget. If you truly want your participants to have a memorable experience, then give them something special to remember.



Follow Me!

Bookmark and Share