Graphic by K8 Strassman

Time to lighten up. There’s momentum for comedy in the workplace.

Mike Berland
5 min readFeb 16, 2021


Did you hear the one about the tech CEO who tried to crack a joke on a Zoom meeting?

It wasn’t even remotely funny.

(insert laugh track)

Improv comedy in the workplace isn’t new. We all grew up hearing that “yes and” would be the most valuable tool in the workplace… that was when we had in-person meetings. A year into working remotely and we’ve learned we need a different set of skills for Zoom. It is not as simple as turning on your camera, adjusting your microphone, and putting on a virtual background (as if that is easy…). We’re past the “oh my goodness, it works!” phase. Now it is time forworking remote 2.0.

Zoom requires spontaneity and quick thinking to keep your audience engaged. Zoom “democratizes” the room — no matter who you are or what your title, a spontaneous quick joke will get you noticed, grab your audience’s attention, and help you assert authority so people start listening.

Businesses need to learn from stand-up comedy for today’s Zoom culture.

We’ve learned that comedy isn’t just for entertainers like Leslie Jones, Pete Davidson, and Kate McKinnon. It is not just limited to Netflix, HBO, and SNL.

Working remotely… it is hard to form deep bonds over Zoom, hard to establish new relationships, and there’s a natural tendency for clients to want to work with people they already know well (Golub Capital Webcast). Most importantly, we’ve lost our water cooler conversations and the spontaneous moments that bring us joythroughout the workday.

We now realize how essential those were to bonding us and creating a strong company culture.

Let’s face it: Now the real fun of corporate culture happens during “on-cam calamities” — when the tech glitches & the mishaps happen.

Stand-up comedy is having a momentum moment driven by the stand up comedians teaching us all how to get through it. Who would have thought comedians would be momentum masters of the board room?

In today’s world, we can appreciate the fun in the mishaps.Coworkers who accidentally took us to the toilet forgot to turn their mic off at revealing moments (Jeffrey Tobin, gross) or screen shared content that was less than professional. So many Zooms with so little human contact. If we don’t laugh, we will all go insane.

At our own company, we knew we needed to try something different. Improv for professional development & team bonding has been around forever. We were inspired by our client who left our call to meet her comedy coach Jo Scott (Second City, Adult Swim). So we decided to give stand-up comedy workshops a try.

What started out as team-building to get us through quarantine hassharpened our interpersonal skills and given us tools to perform better and win over clients.

In this week’s Up & Down, we look at the momentum for comedy in the workplace.

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The Decode

Here’s how comedy is going beyond entertainment to be the secret weapon of corporate culture (and life):

Nobody wants to work for a boring boss.

Clients are willing to pay more for a meme.

Jokes are a great litmus test for who you want to do business with.

  • Push the limits. Don’t be afraid to let your sense of humor shine. Not everyone will get your jokes, but those that do are your kind of people.
  • For example, attorney Rod Ponton tried the old “I can’t figure out how to turn this cat filter off” during a Zoom meeting… his judge Judge Roy Ferguson didn’t seem to find it humorous, but the Twitter world did!

Leading with laughter makes you memorable

Humor helps us through the hard times

  • If we want to solve the world’s problems at warp speed, we need to unite. All rockets rise when Nearly a fifth of U.S. workers say their companies aren’t doing enough to make employees feel connected, and those who say their companies aren’t doing enough are twice as likely to say they feel burned out, according to an employee sentiment survey conducted by Glint and provided to Axios.
  • In turn, we’re seeing leaders get creative with how they weave humor into their leadership styles. Connor Diemand-Yauman, co-CEO of Merit America, hosted his first all-hands Zoom call with his company during a particularly challenging week for the country. To acknowledge the tough times, he pretended to leave his screen sharing on and Googled “things inspirational CEOs say in hard times.” Everyone at his company lost it.

ON THE DOWN: Being Too Serious

As much as we don’t want to admit it, we’re in it for the long haul with virtual meetings. There is plenty of seriousness all around. It’s time to stop taking it so seriously and embrace moments that bring levity.



Mike Berland

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M