Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Interview with Harry Freedman, “The Nation’s Misleading Expert” 
                 by Harry Freedman.
So, let’s Get Down To Business. What do you mean by the phrase “The Nation’s Misleading Expert?” 

I do corporate comedy put-ons. I get introduced at events as an actual industry expert and fool everyone into believing I’m real, even as I get them laughing.

Why do people hire you? What’s the benefit to them?

At most conferences, audiences begin to glaze over from all the serious content. When I’m introduced, they think they’re getting more of the same. But when I’m finished, clients tell me, they’re refreshed, reenergized, and that it’s one of the best team-building activities they’ve ever had.      

Can you name of the companies you’ve entertained? 
Coca Cola, Dell, Met Life, AT&T, IBM, P&G, Merck, AmEx, and hundreds more. I’ve portrayed anything from a national health care advisor to a cyber-security expert.
What makes you such a hot shot at these put-ons?
I wouldn’t use the words hot shot, but I do a ton of research about every group and customize like crazy.
Give me an example.
I did a speech for Certainteed, which originally began as a French company making guillotines during the Revolution, so I said I how much I admired them because, “One way or another, your company has been beheading people for over 200 years.”

Tell me some of your career highlights?
I would say the biggest was getting the cover of the business section of The New York Times, on a 4th of July Sunday edition, as well as a full page profile, an honor usually reserved for billionaire business leaders. I also open for Ray Romano.
Oh, so it’s who you know then, huh?
Doesn’t hurt. But you still have to deliver the goods. In the course of my career, I’ve literally performed above the NY Stock Exchange and below Carnegie Hall, so I’ve been on top of the financial world and the bottom of the show business world.
One last thing. You have any testimonials from any of these so-called clients you like to brag about?
Yeah, here’s two. There’s a lot more where these came from.
Pretty full of yourself, huh? Oh, actually, these aren’t bad.
Harry, we really appreciated the time you took in customizing your material. Your delivery was tasteful, thoughtful and really funny. You were also an absolute pleasure to work with. 
Denis Hickey - GE Corporate HR Director.

Mr. Freedman was, to put it simply, hilarious. I consider that if people start crying with laughter, the comedian is at the highest skill level. Not only is Mr. Freedman a master at his craft, but we loved working with him. I give Mr. Freedman my highest recommendation.             
David W. Grounds, Day Chair, Arizona YPO Chapter

Harry Freedman is a corporate put-on comedian, emcee, and creates hilarious onsite video interview shorts. He also makes “The Ultimate Tribute Video” (It's like This is your life as produced by a professional comedian) for Honorariums and other special occasions.  

Agent Friendly Corporate Comedy Website: Harryfreedman.net
The Ultimate Tribute Video: https://youtu.be/yOP7cofTyqM

Monday, February 17, 2014

HELP YOUR SPEAKERS SUCCEED AT YOUR EVENT (A guide for meeting planners and event producers)

Harry Freedman – “The Nation’s Misleading Expert”  
          A 25 Year Veteran At The Podium.

If you hire speakers for your corporate events, you know that choosing the right one for your audience is just the first step.
In order to ensure that your guest speaker(s) have the best chance to succeed, there are number of issues you might want to consider.

First, once you’ve hired your speaker, or even before, it’s a good idea to have them talk with the client so they are both on the same page.

Some speakers customize more then others. If you hire a prominent celebrity or high-level politician, you are more likely to get their canned speech rather then one that is more tailored. There is not anything necessarily wrong with that, but you should of course know that going in and try to get as much information about their content ahead of time as possible.

If you hire a consultant on the other hand, you might expect that they will do more homework to learn about your business and develop specific ideas.

As a Corporate Put-on Comedian, I very much customize my speeches so I always talk to the client to get as much information about the company or group as I can. I also prescreen my material to make sure the client is comfortable with all my content when I am done writing.

One of the most important things to help your speaker give a great performance is to get them to the destination early enough so they are rested and refreshed by the time they go on. Otherwise, you run the risk of them being worn out from the day’s travel, and not as sharp. 

If possible, depending on the distance and location, I always try to get there the night before. Not only does this help me get a good night’s sleep, but it also eliminates any worry for the client about any possible travel delays, whether from weather or traffic, particularly these days on the GW Bridge. In addition, I find it useful to watch some of the other meetings to get a flavor of their topics and a feel for the audience.

Any speaker worth their salt will usually want to check the room and AV ahead of time, especially if they have power point or video as part of their presentation. I sometimes create videos for my performances and glitches are common when we first try them out. It also helps to adjust all the volume controls before the speech, whether it’s for a video, podium mic, or wireless lav. I always go over everything beforehand, and I also like to get on the stage or at the podium to get a feel for the space ahead of time.

Make sure you have a good sound system and fresh batteries in the wireless microphone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the wireless die on me, so I also try to make sure that there’s always a backup.

In terms of the room set-up, I find auditorium style is always the best. This way, you have the maximum amount of people close together without any dead space if the room is filled. If it is not, try to get the audience to sit up front and create a more unified situation. 

A good rule of thumb is that the closer the audience is to the speaker and one another, the greater the reaction and attention.
Sometimes, I’m asked to speak after dinner or lunch and the audience is at round tables. In that situation, I will try my best to get the tables moved up and near one another, so again, I have the best chance for a greater reaction.

The worst thing you can do to a speaker in terms of room set-up is to have them too far away from the audience or have dead space in the front of the room. I’ve spoken at events that had a dance floor in the middle that literally divided the audience into separate parts that were much less cohesive, and as a result, less reactive.

Another key factor in the room set-up is the lighting. It’s best if the speaker and podium are well lit, and the audience is dim but not completely dark. This helps us remain the focus of their full attention since we’re the brightest thing in the room, but also lets us see the audience reaction, which helps us adjust as we’re going along.

Sometimes, I’m in a situation where there is no spotlight or special lighting, but only the hotel track lighting. This usually crosses the entire room and doesn’t allow different levels of brightness for the audience and speaker. In that case, I usually set everything somewhere in the middle, so even though I may not be as bright as I’d like, I keep the audience from having too much glare on them as well.

Above all, if you have the event at a breakfast, lunch or dinner, make sure that everyone is done eating and the wait-staff has cleared the dishes and stops moving. It’s a simple thing. If people are chewing and clanking dishes, they’re going to be distracted from the presentation and also create additional noise.

These are just a few tips that I’ve learned from my experiences performing as a corporate speaker. I hope you find these tips useful and if I can answer any questions, please contact me at Surfcomic@aol.com or check out my website at www.Hfreedman.com 

Harry Freedman – The Nation’s Misleading Expert – specializing in Customized Corporate Comedy Put-Ons and Standup Comedy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

These Facebook Tips Can Double Your Income in the Meeting Industry in just 3 Weeks.

The secret ways you can turn facebook into a cash cow.

Harry Freedman
The Nation's Misleading Expert
Lying For Laughs For Over 25 Years!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Best Gift You can give someone is a movie about their life. Here’s how to Make one.

How to create a “This Is Your Life Movie” that knocks everyone’s socks off!

One of the greatest gifts you can give for someone’s birthday, retirement, honorarium, wedding, anniversary, mitzvah, or any other special occasion, is to create a video that tells their life story, that gets played at their event or party.

This is something I do professionally (www.TheUltimateTributeVideo.com) and I’ve developed some tips to help guide you to create an actual short documentary style movie that captures an individual’s essence and personality, in a way that’s highly entertaining.

In my opinion, it’s basically the most personal thing you can do to show someone how much you care. And if you do it right, it’ll be so warm, touching, and funny, it’ll blow everyone away.
So if you’re with me so far and ready to try something great, here goes.

First, ask the individual’s friends and family for photos. If they’re digitized, that’s easier, but since many people still have old photo albums, put the best photos under a good light, and digitize them with your own camera.  

Next, ask for anecdotes and get the individual’s life story. Where were they born? Where did they grow up? What were they like as a kid? What were their interests? Who were their friends? I try to get everything about their lives as if I’m doing a research paper.

If the video is going to be a surprise, make sure to do this in secret. If the individual is in on it ahead of time, then use them as a primary resource without hesitation.
After the initial interviews, go home and input the photos into your computer. Make sure you have backups of both your photos and video footage on a separate hard drive as you put together your project.

Write a narrative script about the individual’s life in chronogical order and record your voice-overs. It could start with something like, “He was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a rough neighborhood, so he had to be tough to survive.” Then describe how his upbringing affected his personality.
After you put in the narration, mix, match, and shorten the appropriate photos for each narrative to help tell the story. Sometimes I also add photos from the web, such as a map of their hometown to bring in an extra element.

Once you’ve scripted their life, and have a rough draft, prepare for the live interviews with their friends and family. It’s best to try to gather everyone at the same place and schedule them every 20 or 30 minutes, individually or in small groups.

Think of questions before-hand that will elicit interesting anecdotes as well as possible humor. I usually go in with about a page or two of notes based on their previous information, to get the highlights of the honoree’s life. I also coach my interviewees to bring out some humor.
When I interviewed the workers of one honoree who owned a window washing business for example, I had them describe how their boss, “wouldn’t do second floor windows because he was afraid of heights.” This was so obviously untrue, that it brought down the house with laughter.

There are whole books devoted to video, sound, and lights, so I won’t get into too much detail, but the better you’re able to frame your shots, control the audio, and have adequate lighting, the better the finished product will look and sound. I personally use a 3 chip high def camera, professional lighting and a shotgun microphone. There are people far more expert about this subject then myself, but since this video will not only be for the party, but also for posterity, try to do the best you can.

Use the questions as a guide, but if someone goes off into a unexpected direction, be prepared to ask follow ups. You never know what people are going to bring up, but the more you get on film, the more you have to work with when you’re editing. On the other hand, if someone goes off on a tangent that seems less promising, try to swing back to your other questions. 

Once you’ve got your footage, input everything into your computer and start editing. Again, make sure you have backups on a separate hard drive. Begin by separating the material that has a chance of being used from the stuff that’s not as interesting. This is probably the most tedious part of the whole job, but when you’re done, you should have the best footage ready to play with.
Next, go back to your script and add your voice over narration to the photos. Figure out what should go where based on the chronological timeline and match them up to accentuate the story.

I usually use categories like Early Childhood, Family Life, Career, Hobbies, Eccentricities, and Prepare Your Hankies for starters. Add as many or as few as you want depending on your subject’s life and interests.

This is also a good place to add a little humor. For example, I’ll show a series of actual photos of the individual and their friends and family, and then mix in a picture of Brad Pitt or even a Kardashian. The juxtaposition of these completely unrelated and unexpected celebrity shots usually get a good laugh.

I also added a joke for one family that lived on an estate when their daughters were young, by showing a picture of the estate, and stating, “So Erin and Lauren grew up thinking they were rich.”

As you’re editing, feel free to experiment by creating extra files so you’re previous version is always safe. This way, you can always go back if you don’t like your newest changes.

Once you’ve got several blocks of narration with the appropriate photos, it’s time to add the interviews into their logical categories to create a blend.

When I’m done putting together the whole thing, I go back and add titles and music. You definitely want opening and closing titles, but I find titles are also a great way to add information throughout the video, as well as an easy way to score some more jokes. I also use Garage-band to add music underneath the opening and closing titles, as well as anywhere else that I think it might be of help.

If you have extra time and want to add some more pizzaz, play around with special effects. Often when someone talks for a long time, I’ll fast forward their speech to show how long they were talking and then slow it down again for added humor. Of course, I always make sure that that person can take a joke.

Another time, I shot video for a bat mitzvah girl who was a karate expert and used special effects showing her breaking boards and chopping watermelons to make a humorous infomercial which I called, “The Julia Chopper.”

After it’s all done, I go back and cut out the fat. I show it to my wife and some friends and usually edit it down to 10-15 minutes. There’s no rule that says it has to be that length, but unless you’re a master, you’re more likely to leave in stuff that isn’t needed and slow things down. Keep the best.

Remember, these events are usually for business or family functions, so unless you’re making a video for a bachelor party, try to keep everything in PG.

I’m going to assume that either you or someone else will be able to secure a movie screen, sound equipment, and video projector. Hopefully, this is all done professionally and all you have to do is bring a dvd (plus backups), laptop, or Ipad, and you don’t have to worry. Either way, talk to whoever is in charge ahead of time and get there early enough to make sure everything works. Technical difficulties with video happen frequently, so be prepared to take a few minutes extra to figure it all out.

The best time to play your tribute video is right after the toasts, because everyone is usually focused and attentive and your movie becomes the icing on the cake.
I personally like to introduce the video’s I’ve made, to set it up so that everyone knows it’s going to be a little different and to ensure it has their full attention.

With that in mind, I also ask everyone to turn off their cellphones and make sure the waitstaff holds off on serving food or collecting dishes. I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing worse then watching your audience get distracted by clanking glasses and crashing dishes, so talk to the party planner or matre’di to make sure they’re all on the same page.

If all goes well, you can create a video that’s not only  charming but even electric. If you get the right balance of warmth, humor, and detail, it can be an homage to the guest of honor that will not only be loved when it’s played at the party, but will be an amazing keepsake for them and their family for the rest of their lives. 
Yes, it takes a lot of work and care. But when you see the reactions on everyone’s faces, you’ll know it was well worth the time.
And that’s a gift worth giving.

Harry Freedman is the creator of The Ultimate Tribute Video,   a customized humorous biographical “this is your life” style movie about someone’s life for any important landmark occasion.

Harry is also a professional comedian who frequently opens for Ray Romano, and has been profiled in the NY Times for his Corporate Comedy Put-ons for Fortune 1000 companies, in which he’s introduced as a fake expert at conventions and proceeds to veer off into customized humor. For more information, check out: www.Hfreedman.com

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Harry@hfreedman.com or call at 516-922-6831.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How To Produce Great Comedy For Your Corporate Holiday Party (Written by a professional corporate comedian)

HOW TO PRODUCE A GREAT COMEDY SHOW FOR YOUR CORPORATE HOLIDAY PARTY - Written by a professional corporate and standup comedian. 

A holiday party is usually a time for celebration and a good comedy show can be a great way to thank your employees for a job well done. But there are some rules to consider if you want to ensure that you get the best results for your company and from your talent.

There are a lot of ways to search for comedians, and whether you go through a lecture agent, speaker bureau, comedy agent, or check out your local comedy club, here are a few things to consider.

First, corporate comedy is different. If you see someone at a local club and they’re funny and reasonably clean, there’s nothing wrong with putting them on your list. But make sure that they understand the rules, because a nightclub comedian is often comfortable using raw language and material that may not fit your crowd.

So check out their websites, or better still, see them live if possible, and call one of their references. When you watch their video, try to skim through the entire show to get a sense of how it all flows, rather then just assume that everything will be similar to what they put on their highlight reel.

Some comedians, including myself, work all kinds of different venues, and we are able to switch our material from show to show depending on the forum. But I’ve also been doing this for over 3 decades and know what’s right for each crowd. The danger with a young inexperienced comic is that he or she may go in with good intentions, but use inappropriate material if they feel they’re not getting enough laughs, so keep that in mind.

Once you’ve decided upon your talent, make sure that they agree to your rules. Most likely this means no cursing, no potty humor and avoiding material that is politically incorrect. It helps to review some of their jokes in advance to give specific examples of what’s okay and what would be considered crossing the line.

Now, it’s true some smaller companies have looser cultures. My wife works in an office where the bosses yell and curse all day long, so if they hired a comedian for a party, the boundaries would probably be a lot looser, but even then, a good corporate comedian knows to err on the side of safety. Whatever you decide, use due diligence and do your homework.

Once you’ve chosen your acts, make sure all parties have a signed contract and a deposit. I usually get 50% which locks in the date for the company, so they’re guaranteed I’m not going to take a last minute offer for better money (not that I would), but it also ensures that I won’t lose money if I’ve turned down work and the boss suddenly decides to hire his second cousin’s nephew.

It’s hard for me to give specifics because it really depends on the size of group and venue for your party. If your company is small, the budget is obviously going to be quite different then it would be for a Fortune 500. The bottom line is, give yourself a range to shop with and be prepared to be flexible if you find a particular act that you just have to have.

Keep in mind, the better acts are in greater demand, so they generally do charge more, but there are plenty of reasonably priced comedians who may not be household names, but will still do a great job for your group. But be careful about hiring a comedian that comes in at a price that’s too low. They may be just starting out or may not have much experience in the corporate market.
Remember that the comedy show is probably going to be the thing your co-workers remember most about the party, so be careful not to be penny wise and dollar foolish.

I’ve done comedy in all kinds of situations and nothing is tougher for a comedian then to go in front of a rowdy crowd who wants to drink, talk and mingle, and couldn’t care less that there’s a show. So the number 1 rule is to treat the show with due respect. If the party planners behave as if it’s background noise, the audience will usually respond in kind and the comedians will be hard pressed to overcome that. But if you set it up right, it can be golden.

Wherever you hold the event, try to be sure your group has its own separate space so you avoid the chance of a loud bar or too much noise from other patrons.
Let your group know that there’s a show ahead of time and emphasize that if anyone just absolutely has to be talking for whatever reason, that they should take it outside. Then make sure cell-phones are all off and have someone from the company introduce the comedian so that everyone pays attention.

It’s also important that everyone is seated, because when too many people are standing, they’re restless, and it’s tougher for even the best comedian to hold their attention. And finally, don’t start the show during the meal because nobody really laughs too much when they’re chewing. So try to do the comedy either after the meal, get the wait-staff to stop moving and give everyone a 5 minute heads-up right before so they can use the facilities.

Sound and lights are more important then you might think, so it’s always a good idea to have your performer test both before the show when the room is empty.
A lot of hotel conference rooms have tiny little round speakers built into the ceiling. Use these only as a last resort. Bad sound can really hurt a comedy show, because if the audience can’t clearly understand what the comedian is saying, the humor isn’t going to fly.

Many comedians have their own sound equipment. I have a portable sound system that’s good for about 250 people. If I’m doing a local show and I’m not sure of the venue conditions, I throw it in the car just in case. But keep in mind, if you need the comic to bring their own equipment, there is usually an extra charge.
One of the trickiest parts about setting the right tone for comedy is the lighting. 

Basically, the overall goal is to get the comedian well lit (but not blinded), and have the audience dim but not dark, which increases the intimacy factor and makes it more comfortable for everyone to laugh. It also helps because the comedian can still see the faces and body language of the audience throughout the show.

If you’ve ever been to a comedy club you know that everyone is usually packed in like sardines. There are 2 reasons for this. First, the more people the club fits in their room, the more money they’re obviously making, but second, is that it exponentially increases laughter.

While, you may not want to squeeze your employees quite that tightly, do try to keep the tables fairly close together and near the comedian. Laughter truly is contagious and this is one of the most important elements to a successful show.

If you want a full comedy show with 3 comedians, about 90 minutes is about right, with the emcee usually doing 15-20, the middle about 30, and the headliner about 45. If you hire just 1 or 2 acts, anything from 30-75 minutes is fairly typical, but it really depends on whether you want comedy to be a spice ingredient for your party, or to serve as the main course.

The best time for a comedian is generally at night, but I have worked corporate functions at every possible time of day. Almost any time can work, but if your party is in the early morning, I suggest that you try not to start off with comedy as the first course, because your crowd simply won’t be all that alert. I’ve performed at conventions as early as 8 am, and I’ve been successful, but it’s a very different reaction at 8 AM then it is even an hour later.

Try to make your comedian(s) be as comfortable as possible. If there’s food, and it’s not prohibitively expensive, we always appreciate a good meal.
It’s also helpful to have a place in the back of the room, or better still, in another room, for your comics to hang out before the show.

Most comedians are pretty low maintenance. We perform in so many different situations that we’re usually pretty flexible, but the more you make us feel welcome, the easier it is for us to concentrate on our job – which is to give you a great show.

In my own career, I’ve entertained at the NY Stock Exchange, opened for top name acts at major theaters in front of thousands of people, been on national TV shows, and appeared at some truly mindboggling corporate events. I’ve also been at bars, nightclubs, coffee houses, libraries and drug rehabs. No matter what the venue or event, the less extraneous stuff we have to worry about, the better it is for everything.

Roasts are a fun way to let off some steam about office politics and company policies, but again, make sure you get someone  who knows what they’re doing.
This is one of the things I specialize in and I love doing it, but it’s a lot of writing so I do charge more. But what you’re getting in return is a much more personalized show.

When a comic is doing jokes about the corporate policies and some of your coworkers and execs, the audience is pretty much always riveted. If you do go for a roast, I suggest you review ALL the comedian’s material so there there are no surprises.

You might also consider the corporate put-on, where the comedian is introduced as a new vice president who’s joining the company after the holidays with some “fresh new ideas” for improving business. This gives it an added element of surprise, but again, this isn’t something that every comedian can pull off.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Surfcomic@aol.com or at 516-922-6831. You can also check out my website for demos of my own corporate comedy put-ons and standup comedy at www.Hfreedman.com (Harryfreedman.net (agent friendly)

(Harry Freedman performs customized corporate comedy and emcees, as well as stand-up comedy for all kinds of functions. He also makes humorous biographical videos.