Open Mouth, Insert Feet...
A number of years ago we were performing a corporate Christmas party for a large cold storage company. Learning from our Landmark Trusses mistake, we now had our Corporate Cheat Sheet that we used to garner some great inside info on the company. We had done our research and were all set to perform a 90-minute show broken into two 45-minute halves with an intermission.
We started the show and immediately noticed our jokes weren't hitting as well as we had hoped for the majority of the audience. There was one table of ladies that couldn't seem to get enough, they howled and clapped at most everything, but the rest of them seemed to stare and clap politely. Man, do we ever hate the courtesy claps! Why don't you just poke us in the eye with your fork? It would hurt less.
At the intermission we were being escorted to our green room when one of the company officers, in an attempt to make us feel better, mentioned that one of the three shifts the company ran was made up entirely of workers of a different nationality who, the majority of which, did not speak English. So a third of our audience did not speak English. That was one bit of info NOT on the cheat sheet.
After such a rough half, we were shook up, frustrated and embarrassed. Sometimes to clear your head you just need to vent a bit. So we did just that, in our little room separated from the rest of the banquet hall. We vented on what a lame, unfocused audience it was, we ranted on the seemingly misinformed inside info we had received, we lamented the fact that a third of the audience didn't even speak English, and then rallied by saying we're better than this, and any comedian would have a hard time with such a lame, lifeless audience...and then it happened. Our entire vent, rant and rally had taken about 30 seconds, at roughly second 28, there was a loud rap at the door, the door burst open and our red-faced coordinator shouted the four words I'll never forget...Your Mics Are On!!!
We were shocked and ashamed. Not only had we performed a rough half, we had now offended the entire audience over the sound system (well, not the entire audience. we now took solace in the fact that a full third did not speak english!). Worse yet, we still had to do the second half. The cold storage company was indeed icy that evening.
#1 Save any venting for after the show, and to be safe, mute your mic when you leave the stage.
#2 Be sure your company info is universally relevant. It turns out that the table of ladies that was laughing at all our jokes was the same small group of office workers who had filled out the corporate cheat sheet that gave us inside info on the company. We discovered later that most all of the humorous stories and info they had supplied us with were inside jokes centered on their small office team and irrelevant to the other 95% of the employees. No wonder our jokes weren't landing. Our corporate cheat sheet now emphasizes the importance of making sure the info is as universal as possible, meaning the majority of the company can relate, rather than a select few. Problem solved.