Standup Comedy "Your Host and MC"

Greg Schwen Standup Comedy Interview Clean Corporate Comedy Show #123

August 21, 2022 Scott Edwards Season 3 Episode 123
Standup Comedy "Your Host and MC"
Greg Schwen Standup Comedy Interview Clean Corporate Comedy Show #123
Show Notes Transcript

This interview is with Greg Schwen, who has not ever worked for me; but is known for his terrific clean corporate comedy. So I searched him out to learn how standup comedy brought him to the success he has received. Great interview and a short comedy set with Greg...Enjoy!

Hosted by: R. Scott Edwards

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Announcer:

This is another episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee, celebrating 40 plus years on the fringe of show business, stories, interviews and comedy sets from the famous and not so famous. Here's your host and MC, Scott and words.

Scott Edwards:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to stand up comedy, your host and emcee. And I've got something kind of special for you today. I know I say that every week. But this series of podcasts interviews have generally been with entertainers I've had the pleasure of working with, but I ran across this guy by listening to a friend of mines podcast, he's a professional stand up comic, mostly works the East Coast, and we haven't had a chance to work together but a terrific guy. He is the king of corporate comedy, kind of a business humorist, you've heard seen him on Comedy Central. He's clean. He's fun. And he's from Chicago. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the show. Greg Schwamm. Wow, Greg, the crowds going crazy. It's that Chicago thing. They love those people.

Greg Schwen:

That's right. I have never had applause for a podcast intro. So I appreciate that.

Scott Edwards:

Well, the crowd goes nuts. And when they hear there's a professional entertainer of your stature, joining the show, the crowd gets extra excited. I am here they do chance to learn a little bit about you from my friend, Carl's podcast. And I wanted to follow up on that. And dig a little deeper into the stand up comedy that you've been performing over the years. But let's kind of introduce the audience to Greg, I know that you and I swam in the same waters. Back in the 90s. I was running a club and actually three clubs at the time and working with a lot of the Great West Coast entertainers and a few from the east. How did you kind of fall into stand up comedy?

Greg Schwen:

Yeah, well, I It started as a hobby for me really before the comedy boom. I mean, I first got on stage in 1978. I was so mean. Yeah, laid back.

Scott Edwards:

Before the big wave.

Greg Schwen:

It really was. And so I did some stand up in high school, I did some stand up in college, around the dorms and so forth, where I went to I went to Northwestern University, which a lot of really great comedians came out of Northwestern, not necessarily within my time, but Stephen Colbert was from Northwestern Steph Meyers is from Northwestern. They were either just before or just after me, but Northwestern had a reputation as being, you know, kind of a hotbed of entertainment. And so I did it around there. And then I moved to Florida, to be a journalist, I just always thought stand up would be a hobby. But that is when the boom was was in full swing. And in that that mid 80s timeframe. And comedy clubs were popping up everywhere. And I didn't know anybody in Florida. So I started going to clubs just to have something to do and get on. And I did got stage time. And then they opened up. And maybe I don't know if you remember this, again, being on the west coast, but there was a double a club in West Palm Beach, Florida called The Comedy Corner. It was open. Yeah, it was opened by a guy named John Stoll. And John was a big time concert promoter who happen to love stand up, it was just that he just loved comedians. And because he had very deep pockets, he was able to open this club and bring in some of the top acts. These are acts that were just like starting to play theaters. And again, we're talking guys like Seinfeld, like Bill Maher, you know, that we're taking advantage that we're on the forefront of the comedy boom, these guys would come down on a regular basis. And I live 10 minutes from that club. And I used to just be able to go and just walk in anytime stand in the back and see the best in action. And the more I saw them, the more I was thinking I can do this. You know, you learn from you learn from the best. And I quit my job and eventually decided to do stand up full time. And I was I was living in Florida so I was working in the clubs in the southeast. But I knew I had to get out of Florida. Yeah, no offense to Florida, Florida, but you know where I'm coming from. You want to be in a big fit.

Scott Edwards:

Right? Right. Right. And you got a chance to see those were all guys that worked for me Bill Maher and Seinfeld regulars at my club back in the day. I opened laughs and 1980 So we saw a lot of the same people. And I've often said in fact, it's in my book 20 questions answered about being a stand up comic avail Build on Amazon, that it is important to watch other gamers. Yeah, quick.

Greg Schwen:

That was really put that slip out right in there. I love it.

Scott Edwards:

But it's true that a lot of the people that want to get into the entertainment business, any kind of entertainment, but especially comedy, it is advantageous to watch others, especially seasoned pros doing their stuff because you can learn so much. Do you? Were you doing open mics actually doing sets? Do you remember any of your first bits or jokes?

Greg Schwen:

Oh, gosh, yes. I actually though, yes, I was doing open mics. And I, you know, I learned very early to customize. And live in, in South Florida I live in in West Palm Beach. There was a lot going on down there still is I mean, South Florida is just is just a hot mess. And always has been. So but one of my bits that I did was I did a bit called South Florida Jeopardy. And it was all it was if it was as if Jeopardy took place in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale West Palm Beach area. And, you know, I had my categories I had, you know, I had categories, you know, somewhat politically incorrect. I mean, probably couldn't get away with that now, but it was like, you know, famous Cubans. You know,

Scott Edwards:

you know, your What was your favorite? Transportation? Firemen? Yeah.

Greg Schwen:

What I can't even remember what the I don't even think I had a question that it was the it was the name of the category that got a lap. But then I had a couple of questions, and people just went nuts. And I learned, and this helped me later on. And in terms of what I'm doing now, I've learned to very early to at least a portion, you should try and write material for your audience, if you can. And that is a that is the principle that has continued to that. I've continued to try and respect as I continue to move through common Yeah,

Scott Edwards:

you've done get into the corporate world, you've been extremely successful in the corporate world. And one of the secrets to being a corporate entertainer is writing for the audience and engaging with the audience in adding material or names that recognize and much like what you were doing with Jeopardy in Florida, is that by bringing something to the audience that they all have heard of, and all can relate to, you're you're bringing them in quickly into your comedy world. And then your humorous take on Jeopardy, is what brings the laughter now those first few years, it's difficult normally, to get stage time there was the comedy boom, there were clubs opening. In fact, one of the comedy teams, Mack and Jamie came out of South Florida. Who right good friends of mine, were saying that they would often drive up to New York, and do that drive just to catch more rooms like catch a rising star in the improv. Sure. Were you finding enough places to work in Florida? Were you doing a little transportation to hit clubs? Yeah,

Greg Schwen:

there was plenty of places to work in Florida. I mean, there was a chain called coconuts. 13 rooms?

Scott Edwards:

Oh, I don't know that many. Yeah, I remember, all over the place,

Greg Schwen:

right. But the more I worked these clubs, and the more, it would have been very easy to never leave Florida. And I know comics that did it that just continued to work those rooms twice a year, and a few others and so forth. And you could do that. But I knew right along. It's like if you if you just work Florida, you're gonna get a very Florida act. And I knew I didn't want that I knew I had to get out and see what people outside of let's just like comics who, you know, their comics would never leave New York. And there they kill in New York. But you know, a joke about eating a slice on the stoop and listen to the Yankees game, you know, that might not fly in Kansas. And you know what I'm saying? And I think it's just that that's why I think working the road is so important. And with such a great school. So, you know, sort of, for me, moving to Chicago was kind of the best of all worlds. They had about 20 clubs, between the the city in the suburbs. So if I wanted to stay home, I could still work. It was also it wasn't New York, it wasn't la so the competition wasn't as fierce. And we you know, we talked a little bit beforehand. Before we got on air here, and you mentioned today ever get out to the West Coast. And when I was working the club scene, the answer was no. Because I knew at that time, I could not compete. I needed stage time. And I knew I wasn't going to get it out there in LA nor was I ready for it. So and I felt I kind of felt the same way about New York, I mean, you're really hitting with the big boys. And I thought it would be better to just be in a big city and be able to work a big city, but also, you know, again, be in the Midwest, very centrally located, lots of clubs within say, an eight hour drive, right? Because I worked in Ohio, and you know, Ohio and Kentucky and, and you know, those play in Wisconsin, and a lot of those play and that was that was kind of my whole face.

Scott Edwards:

Well, what you do is you end up becoming a bigger fish and a little bit smaller pond. I mean, Chicago has a huge entertainment base. But I've often said on the in other interviews, it's come up that you could become a big fish even in the Bay Area, San Francisco. And then when you go down to LA, you're starting over you're showcasing you have to reprove yourself because the the amount of competition is so much stiffer, and I could totally see how that would be the same in New York. You had people like Mark Schiff, and Seinfeld and Larry Miller coming out in New York, and there was some really strong presence in those clubs. But I think that no, we work in the castle and a lot of those places in Chicago. Area love in Michigan,

Greg Schwen:

like Mark Ridley's room, I did not work that I, I worked to change, like I worked a funny bone chain, I worked several clubs there, I tried not to though, one thing I tried not to do is I try not to put all my eggs in one basket like I that was like the coconuts thing I didn't want to it would have been nice to call the funnybone and get 30 weeks. And a lot of comics did that. And of course, you're like, oh, my gosh, okay, my calendar is now filled. I'm making I can see this much money's coming in. It was it was sort of a breather, but I didn't want to do that for a couple of reasons. Number one, I think if you put all your eggs, I always thought if you put all your eggs in one basket, and then you have a bad show, or get a bad report there. There goes. There goes the basket. You know, and and I saw that happen to comics too. And all of a sudden, you're not you're not the catcher the day anymore. I plus I think it just, I've never wanted to get complacent. And I think it was very would have been very easy to get complacent if one phone call could have netted you 35 weeks.

Scott Edwards:

Right, right. Yeah, and it also it doesn't allow you when you're forcing yourself to work different rooms, which basically means different audiences, it forces you to stay on your toes, material wise, and presentation wise, you don't want to get too complacent, stand up comedy, or pretty much any entertainment. Much like other areas of you know, being a lawyer or doctor, whatever, if you want to be the best if you want to grow as a entertainer, you have to challenge yourself over and over and over again. And it was much like what you alluded to with the Florida situation, if you only wrote material for Florida, you would have trouble performing that in Chicago, you have to branch out and force yourself to write to different audiences. And I think that whether you knew it or not, you made a really good choice. Now you were on the road for several years. Do you have any really good or bad stories that kind of kind of make you laugh?

Greg Schwen:

That I haven't repressed through years of therapy. I mean, there's obviously there's a lot of good ones. There's Sibley Diaby, there's you know there you can always go back with the cringe worthy comedy condos. And you know what you were what, what was awaiting you when you showed up. I mean, that was the one thing about being on the road. I always likened it to, I said imagine every week, you're meeting your new college roommate, you know, in a new dorm. That's, that's kind of what being on the road was like, and you never quite knew who it was going to be until you open that door. And then of course you had to live with her or her for a full week. And I mean, some of those relationships were great and some I couldn't wait to get out of there. We all have you know, there's obviously lots of you know, stories of going up against I don't know if I absolutely my my absolute worst worst encounter was a one nighter in Pensacola, Florida for a military group who had just gotten back from the Gulf War. And I've been literally had gotten back like the day before. And we're ready to party and that party did not include listening to be for 45

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, that challenging there. They want to get let loose. It's not polite.

Greg Schwen:

Shut up. Have rules, you know, Sergeant? Yeah, they don't want to hear that. Nor if I was, I wouldn't have wanted to listen to me either. But, you know, again, it's all a learning process. And there's nothing. I was never in fear for my life, that's for sure. I've never had one of those. And I know comics. You know, I still think, you know, the late Bill Hicks, you know, just his, he, you can see it on YouTube. It's, it's a one on one interview with Kevin Matthews, who was a big Chicago DJ. And he talked about his worst gig. And it was just the two of them. There was no live audience. And he was talking about something in the South. Why is it? Why is it Scott, that everybody's worst gig always takes place in the South? That's true. You know, like, you know, don't get me started on Spokane, you know? Nobody starts there. Hell gig start. It's always Alabama, Mississippi, you know, it's always one of those states. And well,

Scott Edwards:

was a hard hitting guy. And you could say, I thought he was hilarious. He worked for me several times. But he definitely had an edge to him. And you could see how not for everybody, right? He's not for everybody. And you could take offense at some of the ways he presents things. But that's what made him Bill Hicks. I mean, he was carrying, he had developed a character, he was actually a really nice guy off stage. But he was acidic to the point that if you weren't going with the flow, if you didn't go with the Bill Hicks way of entertainment, you could get upset by it. But that's a great example of somebody that really took stand up comedy to a different area, you know, took a different path, and had some great success with it. It was sad when we agreed No,

Greg Schwen:

it was the funniest part of that story is to just take a second I'm not gonna tell the whole story. But he tells the whole story of this awful, awful gig. But the kicker he says, So, on the second night, he tells his story, but he has to go back, right? And perform again. And that that's what it is totally, it's so relatable to comics is like, you know, even you still have a job to do. So if you're there for, you know, a four night engagement and the first night is the worst thing you've ever encountered. You still have no you can't quit. You still have to go

Scott Edwards:

back to the show. Tonight. Yeah, the show must go on, including the Late Show. Right, right. And it's so funny that you mentioned that because I can remember many, many shows that I produced where things went arrive, either a bad audience or a comic had a bad sat, or just it was sometimes a bad comic. But the you know, you had to find a way around it. Now I was the producer, not an entertainer. I had an easy solution. If somebody was really pissing off an audience or not funny, I fired them. Yeah, in fact, in my history, there was only two acts that I fired midweek Bill Kirchen Bauer and Bill Maher, okay, that were that were not doing, relating or caring. And that was a bigger thing to me. If you're not having a good set, that's one thing. But if you disrespect and don't care about the audience paid to see you that as a producer through me. Now, this brings up a good second question for you. Who have you worked with? You know, that might be that the audience may have heard of that really might have influenced you? Or maybe mentored you? Was there any other name acts that you got a chance to hang with that maybe affected your comedy career?

Greg Schwen:

Yeah, definitely. Um, Larry Miller. I think he's one you mentioned him briefly, some of the comments that came out of New York and a lot of people might not know him off the top. Larry Miller, probably best known as the suck up salesman in Pretty Woman, which was a career making role for him. You know, the, we're gonna the, give him the talk. Give them the tie. Yeah, who ordered the pizza? Yep. That was, you know, that was Larry Miller to a tee. And, you know, it's weird when I had, it's funny because this this place the Comedy Corner, when they would let some of the locals perform with some of the biggest names and when they said to me, Greg, you're gonna get a chance to perform with Larry Miller. I was really disappointed because I'd never heard of them at the time. And somebody was like, oh, no, he's good. And I'm like, I've never was Larry Miller. And then the first night that I watched this guy. I was like, This guy is an absolute technician. And and just the way he approaches his craft. And I ended up working with him several times. Once I think back at the corner, and I think I did work with him in Chicago with the funny Firm A couple of years later. And, you know, he remembered me and I just I, I actually asked him, you know, what he thought of my set, which I know a lot of comics don't like to do. They are nice. But he took the time to watch it, and really gave me some pointers. But just again, I learned a lot from just the way he approached every show. And that that has stuck with me. So I would say him more than more than anything. And I've also, yeah, I've also learned from comics about what they what they won't do. I worked with Dennis Miller years ago with the I opened for him a theory crown theatre. And he, he watched my set, which I'd heard he normally would not do. But he watched this was this is what he was at the height of his this was Monday Night Football, Dennis Miller. So he sold out 4000 People at the Crowne theater. And he watched my set. And he, I came offstage. And he's like, man, he says that, and I had a really good set. And he said, he said, guy, I just I, I get the impression you do a lot of corporate gigs. And I go, Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do. And he goes, Yeah. They won't let me I don't do those anymore, because they won't let me say, Fuck. And at first, I was like, wow, how much money? Are you turning down? for that? That's fine. That was my first thought. But then I thought this is a guy who just, that's part of his act. And it's like nobody, he stuck to his guns. You know, he's like, nobody's going to tell me how to do my performance. And that kind of stuff with me, too. Now, I've never, I don't think I've ever been in a situation. I'm not that famous. Where I probably have that kind of leverage. Report, say, Look, this is the way I do my set, take it or leave it. But I did find it interesting that he did that.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah. And Dennis Miller is a unique, he's much like Bill Hicks. He created his own path. He had a different way of doing things. Some people felt he sold out a little bit when he did Monday Night Football, but he, you know, with The Dennis Miller Show in everything he's done on TV and onstage, he is certainly another unique personality that's had a lot of success is funny, quick story. Dennis worked for me quite a bit back in the day. And I was shooting craps in Tahoe one night really late. It was like two three in the morning. And I hear my name yelled out from across the casino. And here comes Dennis Miller. And he had like a show room babe on each arm. And he's yelling my name and waving and he comes over. And and I actually, you know, had to stop the roll, which pissed off the table. And I'm like, Hey, Dennis, how's it going? Good to see you. And soon as he got to me, he goes, Yeah, hey, good to see you. He turns and walks away. It wasn't anything to do with, you know, our relationship and saying hi. He wanted everybody in the casino to see him walking through with two models on his arms. Interesting. Yeah, that's that. That's was such a Dennis Miller move, you know. But, you know, it was a funny moment for me. And it's a great story to share. But it sounds like also, I wanted to go back just a little bit. A lot of my regular listeners will have known this, but I've worked with hundreds, if not 1000s of entertainers, and I could not pick my favorite. But if I was forced under threat, Larry Miller has always been my top choice. He was a terrific friend. We spent a lot of time together amazing stories amazing act is drinking story, a skiing story. And I often explained how a lot of comics do jokes or a bit that might last a minute or two. But Larry was able to do like a 15 minute story bit and keep everybody laughing and enthralled the whole thing he was incredible. So I think that you having time with Larry and people like that help you develop as a corporate entertainer now why don't you explain to the audience because they've heard a lot of Stand Up club acts. How did you transition to corporate comedy because that's a whole nother beast.

Greg Schwen:

Oh it is. It is and well what really did it was in the mid 90s. I started doing a lot of material about computers. On on in my in my nightclub act, okay, and my comedy club back because at the time if you remember, and about 90, well, Windows 95 was really when all of a sudden, everybody had to learn how to use a computer. And with it the internet, but really, first they had to learn how to use a computer. And it was just sort of all of a sudden, this technology was just thrust upon everybody. And we didn't really, no one told us how to do it, it was just like, here it is, figure it out. Right, and this was true in your office, and in your at home, too. And I mean, we all remember those of us who, you know, had to learn how to use a computer, you know, not, we didn't grow up learning how to use it, we just suddenly had to learn, we all remember things like the, you know, the Microsoft paperclip, and the Are you sure you want to delete that? And that kind of in the end, the tech support calls, where you would just call and be on hold for hours for just the dumbest question. I mean, they don't even have that anymore. And I would do these bits. And the audience, it would just they would so resonate. I remember once I worked with Jackie Mason number Joe came away within the last year, and he was back doing nightclubs. And he watched me and he's like, Oh, my God uses that computer stuff. You know, I use this look at this audience because this audience is like very older, my audience, but they still, I don't understand how they, they are loving that stuff. And I go because everybody, it doesn't matter how old you are, he's having to figure this out. And he's like, Well, I guess that's true, you know? So because of doing that I would have people come up to me after shows and say, Can you come down to our office? We're having a Christmas party, we're having this we're having an offsite meeting and just go do it just if you do those bits you've just described totally, you know, it's that whole thing about you should come to my office, if you want to see what's funny, but it wasn't like, they weren't telling me that there was a funny, they were like you are you have just nailed it. So we're gonna tell you a little relatable. Exactly, you do that. So I started getting invites to do these things. And then little by little, I got, I got a couple of corporate agents interested in me just through word of mouth. And they started booking me for bigger events. And honestly, Scott, again, I came from I went from journalism to comedy. I never worked in an office, I never had a corporate job. As a result, I didn't know, I didn't no idea that corporate events existed, I just didn't know that they had these three day off site meetings at the, you know, at the Peabody in Orlando, or at, you know, are at the swanky resorts. I didn't, there was a whole new world for me. And once I started doing these, and doing well with it, and again, figuring out, we go back to the customization thing, figuring out that people love to laugh at themselves, they love to laugh at their work and what they did. And if you could do that, without I figured out very quickly, they love to laugh at themselves, as long as you don't piss them off. Like there's a and this is why this is why so many comics cannot do corporate events. Because they make that mistake, they make that mistake of crossing the line on too far that of making them laugh, You're belittling them, or you're mocking what they do for a living and get that death. That is the you will never get the audience back. And I was lucky that I kind of figured that out. And the more I did them, I mean, again, the pay was way better. The accommodations were sure as hell better the the time of day. I mean, I I was when I got into this, I would just I had my first child. And I knew the this, this whole thing of continuing to work clubs where you were working until midnight on every Saturday or being gone. Like I don't know if I want to continue down this path. So, I mean, because clubs after a while, they all look alike, you know, and you start I think you I think you start to question. No offense, you owned clubs. But I think you start to question if you're in comedy clubs for too long, where am I going with this?

Scott Edwards:

Right? Right? It should be a stepping stone. It doesn't have to be the end all you know exactly. comedy clubs of my ilk. I was in a room. It was the step before TV. It was a step before a sitcom or getting a writing gig on a TV show or something like that. And there it should have been a tool to get you to something that would be you know, take your career farther. Now that I love road comics has stayed on the road their whole career as a producer that was really valuable to me, because you knew what you were getting in the audience was always going to be entertained. But I also took a lot of pride in the fact that people that stuff started off with me as an opening act MC and ended up on TV or having a great career. You know, it really is, that's impressive. Going corporate, and it sounds like you kind of accidentally fell into it found that you were it was a niche that you are good at. And again, by incorporating the company that you were entertaining into the show, so you know, you, you throw out a couple things with the boss's name you you know, if it's a CPA convention, you have a couple of CPA jokes, and and the computer stuff, what a great entry point because even today, you know, 20 years later, whatever, everybody can relate to the issues that we all have with computers and copiers and, and any sort of electronic machine. So I think, what a great gift, Greg, you were able to develop and make that not only who you are the business humorist, but be able to make a career. Because like you said, you're staying in better places, the pay is way better. The crowds are more polite, and you can still have a family life.

Greg Schwen:

Yeah, exactly. You know, I rarely ever worked with this to this day, most corporate events are midweek, they're like, in the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday range, I rarely worked weekends. And and that was that was it was the it was kind of the best of all worlds. And, you know, that that really continues to this day. So I mean, I and you know, here's the other thing. The other thing, Scott is that I I knew also we go back to work and clubs, and is there a future in this, but when I started doing it full time, the boom had crested you know, it was not on the way up, if anything, it was kind of on the way down. So I kind of got into it it at, you know, the the high end, you know, it's sort of like in real estate, you know, buy low, sell high. Well, I kind of bought high.

Scott Edwards:

You gotta comedy at the crest of the wave.

Greg Schwen:

Yes, exactly. And I knew there were so many guys in there that I thought, Okay, I got to do something to separate myself from the pack. And doing corporates was really a way to do that. Because again, you just, you know, it's like, how long can you continue to be a club comic? Or how long can you continue to be a feature act? And if your goal is just a headline, that's great, but you're still headlining clubs, week after week, and eventually, how far is that going to get?

Scott Edwards:

Well, great, what are the things that I think the audience needs to understand and I as a producer, totally appreciate is that one of the biggest challenges for entertainers stand up comics, going from club work to corporate work, is that many of them cannot work clean. And you know, Steve Bruner is a good friend of mine. He's a great corporate comic. He's always been clean. There's just a few there's not a ton timber doors, another there's Greg Otto, there's a few of them that were clean, went into corporate and made a good career out of it. But Greg, you've had such success in corporate work? How was it different? Difficult for you? I get the sense that you never really worked dirty, but was it? How big a change going from comedy clubs to corporate? Was it an adjustment for you?

Greg Schwen:

Yeah, it was. I mean, yeah, you're right. I'd never if I worked dirty, or if I was profane, I never would have gotten the chance to do corporates. You know, that's, that's just that's, that's kind of a, there's no negotiation there. And with your clients, but But even still, there were you know, I remember once I did a joke about in a corporate day, it was in Hawaii is one of the very first corporate dates I did. And probably the what's still one of the it's like, you know, I went up to this resort in Hawaii, and I'm like, I'm so not ready for this, you know, and it was about 400. They were a Mormon based food service company, which maybe there's probably a joke in there somewhere. Right, and there was this, there was this big event. And I remember I did a joke about circumcision. And I can't remember that joke, but it was one of those taboo buzzwords where they just heard that word. And that's and they tuned out the rest, you know, you've seen that it's like where you want to say, look, you know, and then they came up to me and they were just all up in arms. And because I was so new at this, I, I felt like I I wasn't ready to defend myself. You know, I would. Now I would do that. I would say look, look, did you really listen to the whole joke or did you stop after you heard that? Word. Because if you listen to the whole joke, you will see that whatever you're, what you're telling me was so offensive probably isn't. And that and I have had that conversation with certain clients. And eventually they they've come around and said, Okay, maybe we did overreact. But I wasn't in a position to do that. But I, my manager at the time, he said to me, he's like, you know, Greg, he says, what you have to do is just go through your act. And he says, If you even think there's something that in your mind might raise a red flag with somebody, he goes, it's just not worth it. He goes, take it out. It's not worth it.

Scott Edwards:

And waste of different words to say the same.

Greg Schwen:

Yeah, there is. And I still do that to this day. Now. It's getting harder and harder, because you know, we could spend a whole nother podcast on talking about what is it? Is it offensive to people but everything? Exactly. And that's what an what, that's what sad a little bit about corporate comedy, it certainly. But comedy in general, is everybody wants to laugh. Providing you do it on their terms. Yeah. And it makes no difference are getting more and more vague, depending on who you're talking.

Scott Edwards:

Well, and I think they're getting a little crazy now to tone. But let me let me use that as a way to pivot the conversation because that's the next word I wanted to bring up is pivot. When the COVID came along, and clubs basically shut down, corporations had to cancel all their gigs. Were you able to pivot and and provide your entertainment and some of your motivational talks to corporations. After that, were you able to do it online?

Greg Schwen:

Virtually? I was good. I like it. No.

Scott Edwards:

I mean, there's no, there's no feeling with the audience. There's no response. No, no, and or not.

Greg Schwen:

And yeah, and I think that, you know, I think virtual entertainment and virtual speakers just sort of followed the path of virtual meetings, meaning, it was kind of cute and fun at first. And it quickly became, like, I don't know how much longer I can get up every morning and stare at a bunch of boxes, and then log off and do another 115 minutes later, you know, so I did it. I did my best. I felt like virtual when you're doing virtual comedy. I feel like the audience you're getting sympathy laughs like they're almost feeling sorry for you. Like this is every bit as weird for us as it is. Yeah, now, I had a couple of good ones. Like I did a couple of Christmas parties. And I could tell the audience was kind of liquored up virtually. Which mean, obviously, when you're doing live shows, I would rather than I would rather they be I'm okay with him drinking but not hammered. You know, and it virtually is like, hey, drink as much as you want, I don't care if you if you get into it with the virtual, you're not going to virtually heckle me, first of all, and if you do, you're the technology itself, it's just going to be the two of us talking over one. So it's not worth it. But to see people, you know, maybe with their Santa hat on and raising their glass, that was kind of fun. But for the most, for most of them, I was just I, you know, you try and you you make fun of their virtual backgrounds and so forth. But your hands are somewhat tied. Anomaly is, you know, a lot of motivational. A lot of corporate speakers could do the exact same speech virtually, as they do live and alive, met speakers that liked that, that light not traveling. They like being home. I'm not that guy, and never will be. I need. I need to, I need to see people in front of me, I need to hear them, I need to know that they're enjoying it. And I need to know that they're not going to suddenly slide their lens closed. Right in the middle of myself. And

Scott Edwards:

I think that's the key difference between a motivational speaker and a comic is that in comedy, one of the things that I think makes it special is you form a bond with the audience. There's a shared energy, there's a communion of we're all in this together for the next you know, 30 minutes, 45 minutes and let's absolutely have some fun when it's a motivational talk that's coming over a zoom call. You might pick up something there might be something there that would benefit you, but you're not sharing The same air, you're not experiencing the same thing. And I imagine and it sounds like it was a bit challenging. But now we're getting to the other side of it. As we come out of this, are you starting to pick up more corporate gigs going into late 22? And

Greg Schwen:

very much so? Yeah. And I'm cautiously optimistic because I feel like we've been down this road before. I mean, I feel like in in spring of 2021, we had that kind of same attitude like this is over. And I had a, you know, I had a really good ball. And it was all in person stuff. And in we Yeah, and it was like, This is what I remember. And it's so it is just such a pleasure. And was the audience socially distance? Yes. Were they wearing masks? Yes, I didn't care. I was with them. And they were getting to see me live. And I thought, Oh, great. And of course, all the cron hit, and everybody pulled back again. And I, you know, Christmas was so incredibly depressing for me, because I was like, and I'm sure most people in show business were like this too. Like, I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this, I don't know how much longer I can keep going back again, and starting over. And that's kind of what I felt that was happening. And you know, once again, companies were pushing their meetings back or postponing them or canceling them altogether. And it's like, we've already done this twice. And now, again, we're we're seeing like you said, we're kind of coming out of that and we are I am getting, the phone is ringing, the emails lighten up a lot more, I am booking a lot more. And the interesting thing, and I feel like COVID will really benefit people who make people laugh for a living, because I think it's it's a true statement to say, we need to laugh. Now, we need you know, that we need to lighten up, I felt the same way after, you know, like 911 911 was a great example of you could just say to companies, look, you have to be we've been sad long enough. We've been you know,

Scott Edwards:

we've been locked up long enough.

Greg Schwen:

Long enough. We've been isolated. We've been we need to reconnect with each other. And humor is a great way to do that. I think so, you know, for all these I, I've been very bold with companies. I've looked at their agendas, and they're like, Well, you know, it sounds fun. But I don't know if we have real but and you know, and I've actually said let's, let's, let's you and I look at your schedule, let's look at you and I look at your agenda. You have, you know, a diversity speaker, and then you have another diversity speaker and then you have, right exactly like you, you're repeating yourself three times, why can't you squeeze in 30 minutes of fun? Because I don't see any fun on your agenda. I don't see

Scott Edwards:

beating everybody over the head with, you know, sad that it's going that way? Well, I think Greg swam as the king of corporate comedy is the answer. So everybody out there in podcast land, if you have a meeting coming up, or a special event and you want somebody who's clean, who's funny, who's professional, give Greg a call, you can find him on the Googler. And there is always going to be some entertainment for your company in your group. Greg, it's been really terrific getting to know you and hearing your story. I think that it is a unique one in the sense that even though a lot of Stand Up comics follow a similar wide path. It has been mentioned a couple of times in this podcast, people take different avenues take different roads, to their success and to create yourself into or mold yourself into a successful corporate entertainer was smart. I think you're you've had some great success. Congratulations. I think that you've really had a terrific career.

Greg Schwen:

Thank you. I appreciate Scott. And I'm sorry, I didn't get to know you earlier when you were running your clubs because I heard so much about those clubs, except that they were on the west coast. But I would love it if you if you if you still open your clubs, and we get to know each other now. And if you still had them, I would love to come out and work them. Even if I didn't headline even if I'd be fine featuring just to get to get out and work the West Coast club scene. Well, I've done it.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, I'm still booking some corporate events. So mostly charity fundraiser. So I will keep your number and hopefully we'll get a chance to work together. But ladies and gentlemen of my special podcast, you don't have to wait for that. I have pilfered some of Greg's material. And I'm going to share a little bit right now with the audience. Greg, thanks so much for doing the podcast. Everybody out there if you get a chance and you're looking for a terrific corporate comedian, motivational speaker, the business humorist, Greg swim is your guy. And, Greg, anything else you want to share with the audience?

Greg Schwen:

No, I think he pretty much did it. Just everybody. Get out there and support live County. Stop watching it on your phone. Go see comedians, seriously. Go see comedians live okay, it because we've waited a we've waited a long time. We've waited a long time to do what we love. I totally

Scott Edwards:

agree. And that is a great message to end on. Thank you so much, Greg, ladies and gentlemen. That was Greg swim and right now and stay tuned and listen to some great stand up comedy by Greg Schwen. Here he is. Thanks, Greg.

Greg Schwen:

Thank you. At a meeting like this, when you're surrounded by your compatriots, I think the worst thing that can happen to you is to be seen using a payphone because he will kind of walk by and look at you like, oh yeah, you're a player Hey, whip out your typewriter. Let's do a little business here. We can't just talk on the phone anymore. Now we got to do stuff on the phone. And I was in a coffee store one day, and I see this kid and he's he's typing into the phone. And I'm a comedian. I'm curious. I walk up I go. What are you doing? He goes, Well, I'm sending a wireless text message to my girlfriend. Yes. You see, I just typed the message. And then I hit send. She gets it on her phone. Pretty cool app. Yeah, of course, you can always call her like driving to New York and pull on your jet behind the car. You know? If meetings were that important, we'd have meetings that are personalized, when it'd be weird if your whole life is structured around a meeting. If your secretary failed to run 24 hours a day. Mine would be waking me up on Saturday morning mr. Schwamm get out of bed you have very busy days to get your schedule. Let's see it looks like you got an 8:30am with your wife in the kitchen she'll be discussing the current state of Alon then you're giving a speech to your three year old at noon you'll be speaking on the art of peeing in the toilet not around it. You got a four hour cocktail party with yourself and for the football game between two and six you're meeting the Domino's guy for dinner at seven and tentatively you gotta 10:30pm with your wife in the bedroom. I'm thinking that's going to be canceled. What do you think Sarah? Well, that Phipps token is specifically defined by Citrix as a token that is in compliance with FIPS so basically all I know about this group is that you stop using complete words years ago is that right?

Unknown:

Yeah What is a typical day for the folks at USS but in your language I think you're what you're probably getting an A and after a night of r&r Take off your pjs drink some OJ get to work ASAP right all day long you sit at your PCs dreaming a BS and trying to figure out how you how you can improve your shrinking DPM right and you maybe in 20 years you'll make VP you're gonna want a pm What do you do when you stop at an ATM you punch in your PII and you grab a C note? You go home your kids say what's for dinner you say if I hear one more FAQ your kids are gonna be SOL they gotta eat right so what do you do you open your BMW or SUV drive to KFC get a little dinner. They come home eat dinner, you sit around your DVDs brick and ngd and watch an HBO CNN, MTV and VX one before tape and ER and your VCR catching some z's, that sort of life is that right books.

Scott Edwards:

That was Greg Schwamm. If you get a chance, and you want a good, clean corporate guy, give him a call. He's easy to find on the internet. And being Chicago based. He's kind of central and go east coast west coast. And it was a great pleasure to get a chance to learn more about his life and stand up comedy on this podcast. We hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks for listening. Be sure to share and we'll see you next week. Bye.

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