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Joe Hanson: Are You an MC or a Comedian?



This was supposed to be my first topic while looking to begin this series. It is till now the most controversial topic in the business, yet many still find it difficult to understand.

I have received calls from supposed clients that go like this a few times – “hello, can you crack real funny jokes? Hope you are a comedian too o?”

If you have been in the event hosting business [mc/master of ceremonies] for a while in Nigeria, you will notice the twist that started just a few years ago where you will be told that if you cannot crack jokes or make people laugh at a corporate function then you are not the one for the job.

This nagging issue started a few years back, because I can recall a few events I had to attend, anchored or even watched on TV – there was a host [master of ceremony] who introduced a comedian to lighten the mood a little and give the people something to laugh about.

Truth is, even as a compere, you need to be amusing at every occasion. So my answer to the above question always is – “NO! But I do have a witty sense of engagement and execution and those who have seen me do my thing know this.” With a recent conversation, I came to find out that “the brief and event execution” seems to mix this aspect of event planning up. Gloomily the belief most times is this: if people can laugh, the event is perfect!

So who is a comedian? Someone who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh through jokes or amusing situations or acting foolish (as in slapstick) or employing prop comedy etc [Short excerpt from Wikipedia]. This is different from what Master of Ceremonies does. You can check my first write up.

Comedians are very capable of hosting corporate events as we have seen in past/recent times and only a few pull off a good job.  However, in most cases, I have heard clients think otherwise. A certain case was when a rep from a client said – “please keep it smart and professional we do not want unnecessary slapstick jokes in this event. Our last experience with a well-known comedian went sour and our executives were provoked!”

An event host can be funny and yet waggish! This can be a turn off at corporate and informal events too – even weddings!  Some jokes become facetious and displeasing. So, you rather be a full-blown comic with a jocular or stick to being a witty/entertaining Master of ceremonies.

In my belief, these two cannot be mixed easily except you have honed your skills, making mistakes and learning the art [experience].

I once attended a wedding as a guest and the master of ceremony literally made conscientious efforts to be one, but truthfully, he was just a stand-up comedian! Asides from not managing the event flow, he also neglected the fact that kids were in the venue and kept cracking dirty and sensual jokes until the groom’s father called him to order. Imagine how the event planner must have felt. Utterly disappointed.

The Client Challenge
The foremost problem is that most clients want to pay less and get more! They want a master of ceremony/compere and a very funny comedian! Even though you think this is right, these are two totally different professions that only a few veteran comedians have been able to mix – e.g. Ali Baba, Tee A, Koffi, Teju BabyFace, Owen G, Bovi, amongst others

As a Master of Ceremony who has a level of funny deliveries up your sleeve, making people laugh at functions comes naturally [spontaneous] and planned! This can be developed as you grow your “skills”.

Yes, some Comperes can be boring but that can be supported by a comic, eventually.

So, the next time you need to choose your event compere, review what you really want, and go for it.


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