Comedy, The Best Medicine
It's 2020. If you don't laugh, you'll cry. That's why the boys bring Ray Ellin, comedian and founder of Comedy Cloud to the podcast. Ellin's company brings top-notch comedians to corporate Zoom calls. In addition to laughs, we're talkin' better employee morale, engagement and just a break from the daily monotony of working.
Take a break, grab some headphones and have a few laughs on us and our sponsor NEXXT.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:
Disability Solutions is your RPO partner for the disability community, from source to hire.
Well, you said that first show went really well. How do you know? Because when you're on stage, you can engage and you can see, and you can feel the crowd. How do you feel the crowd when you're on a zoom call or what have you?
Ray Ellin (13s):
It was the strangest phenomenon. I was, I was a little, I was really kind of apprehensive, but the key was when I'm scrolling through people's screens on the zoom and you can see them laughing, I mean, up close, and that was good, but I found myself clicking a lot on those, like really like rifling through the pages of the webcams.
Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.
It's a new day in America and Waka Waka, we got some comedy for you, everybody. Can you believe?
Chad (1m 0s):
Joel (1m 1s):
On today's show, we welcome, Ray Ellin, comedian and founder of comedycloud.co. Ray, welcome to the show, man.
Ray (1m 13s):
Thanks for having me.
Joel (1m 14s):
This guy's got chops.
Chad (1m 15s):
He's got chops, Comedy Central. I mean you did Fox, Nat Geo. I mean you you've done some shit, Ray, you're from what I hear, you're a pretty damn funny guy.
Joel (1m 25s):
You're kind of a big deal.
Ray (1m 27s):
Thanks guys. I feel very, very, very, very impressive sitting here in my tiny New York City apartment. But thank you.
Chad (1m 36s):
We do what we can do. So give us, give us a little bit about you. Little Twitter bio.
Ray (1m 40s):
Well, I started doing standup throughout high school and college. And then when I moved to New York, did a bunch of TV commercials and while I was doing standup, and then I made this movie, I produced and directed a film called the Latin Legends of Comedy, which did pretty, pretty nicely.
Chad (1m 59s):
Ray (1m 60s):
And I was most recently I was an executive producer of a Comedy Central show called This Week at the Comedy Cellar. And that we did three seasons of that right before the lockdown. And then I also started a comedy club called Aruba Ray's Comedy Club, which is the number one nightlife activity on the Island of Aruba for the past seven years. So.
Chad (2m 24s):
Got to love that shit, right? I mean, when you're going to Aruba, you got your own place.
Ray (2m 29s):
It is nice. That's why I really, I set it up. I've been going to Aruba for a bit and I fell in love with the Island. And I went every month for a year. I kept going back and forth like eight days, nine days a month. How could I spend more time here? So I set up the comedy club in April of 2013. Not really thinking it was gonna, I thought it'd be like, it'd be like an okay little thing, but it's turned into like a pretty solid place to go. So, it's awesome. Yeah.
Chad (2m 53s):
Well, that's the state of New York? We hear it's dying out here in the midwest.
Ray (2m 58s):
It doesn't feel like Aruba. I could tell you that. New York has gotten, has gotten much better. I mean, compared to when I, left and went down to Aruba mid July, as soon as they opened up. And at the time that I left, like my neighborhood in New York, which, which is a pretty nice neighborhood, it just felt really unsafe. You know, it wasn't, you didn't feel so great walking around the neighborhood. There was a little more crime and so on and everything was closed. I mean, I had the supermarket, the pharmacy and a deli, those three things were open pretty close to my apartment, which is great, but everything else was, was shut down. And it was a pretty dreary vibe.
Ray (3m 40s):
Most people that left town, probably 80% of my building, 90% of my building had left and went somewhere else outside of New York. But then when I came back early September, there was, there was a lot of outdoor dining had now opened up, a bunch of stores that opened up. But that being said, there's still some terrific places that I've been going to for the last, you know, 10, 15 years that are, are gone, that went out of business, you know, restaurants and some other mom and pop stores. And that, and that really, it sucks. I mean, it's, it's a, it's a bummer and I feel bad for the owners and, you know, they're hoping they can reopen maybe in a year someplace else that maybe at better rent, but it's disappointing, you know, it's, it's difficult.
Ray (4m 23s):
It's very difficult, but you know, what can you do? You have to move forward, right? It's all difficult.
Chad (4m 27s):
Talk about that. I mean, overall, you're a comedian. You make people laugh, but that doesn't mean that, you know, sitting in your apartment in New York City, doesn't suck, during 2020, this shitstorm, we call 2020. How do you cope? How have you actually moved through this?
Ray (4m 45s):
Well, pretty, it's difficult, but it was pretty challenging, you know? Well, first of all, I think you guys know, so March 1st, my oldest sister passed away. She was based in California.
Joel (4m 57s):
Sorry to hear that.
Ray (4m 58s):
And no one really knew that much about COVID at the time was this brand new thing. And so, you know, we get this terrible news. So, and then a week after her funeral, we basically go into lockdown. So we had just wrapped the third season of the Comedy Central show, right as we're going into lockdown. And a week prior, I had this terrible thing happened with my sister. So I kind of had this, you know, there's like this global pandemic that everyone is a part of. Then I have my own little personal crisis, you know, for me and my family. So when, when we first went to lock down, it was just like, it was, it was just a bizarre, it was just a surreal feeling, you know, like you're alone in your apartment, it's is a lot to sort of figure out.
Ray (5m 41s):
And then they say, all right, you're going to be locked in for two weeks. And at first, alright, like two weeks, I guess I have some food in here. There's a supermarket around the corner. Okay. I'll just, I'm going to read binge Game of Thrones. And literally that was the game plan. I'm going to, let me see what the Starks and the Lannisters are up to again, for the next couple of weeks,
Joel (6m 4s):
It was Breaking Bad for me. It was Breaking Bad.
Ray (6m 7s):
I did that at some point. I think I did that hit that in June, but it's, you know, that's really what I was doing at the time. And I knew comedy clubs weren't going to be open and comedians were hurt. I set up a fund for comedians. I knew, there's a lot of comedians that hadn't worked in quite some time. So I set up a fund for that, not for me, but for my colleagues. And that felt good doing that of course. I was talking to friends of mine who work in at law firms and in banking and advertising and they're working from home. And some of my friends were saying to me like, you know what, Ray, I love my wife. I love my kids, but I am losing my fucking mind.
Ray (6m 49s):
Just going crazy, you know. Same thing, my friend Barbara said to me, she was like, you know what I, my husband is I am going to murder him. Like they, you know, they were really, they were just going nuts like each other. So, so I, I really thought, okay, comedians have no place to work. I have, you know, friends who need some sort of relief. I, I, you know, I would say to them, you really need to laugh right now more than anything. And then I get a call from a guy who had been to my comedy, the comedy club in Aruba. And he said to me, you know, you want to put together a show online for, for my employees?
Ray (7m 28s):
And I, on the one hand I wanted to perform, on the other hand, I was feeling kind of lousy, but on the other hand, I knew people really needed an outlet and they needed a hoot. And he said, you know, we're having motivational speakers come in every week. And at this point I don't really think my employees feel motivated anymore. So, you know, what do you say? And, and I thought, you know, this let's give it a shot. So it was myself and three other comedians, all of whom, you know, everybody's been on the Tonight Show and America's Got Talent and Last Comic Standing and Jimmy Kimmel and everything. And, and the show I produced, I would also work with probably about 180, 190 different comedians.
Ray (8m 8s):
So I just, from being in the business a long time, I know a lot of different comedians. What I didn't realize was there's some comics that are great when you see them live in the feeder and a club, but online either they're not into doing it online or where their act just doesn't work well, going through the webcam. So, yeah, there was also a learning process with that to discover who was really great online. And who's not.
Joel (8m 33s):
So, just for a visual, is this like a zoom call? Like, it would almost be a fellow employee on the screen. Do you set up, do you set up a stage? It's just sort of, it's the same as a zoom call?
Ray (8m 44s):
Same as a zoom call. Yes. And I we've tried different types of backdrops and some backdrops, you know, you kind of get lost, you look like a, you look like, BooBerry, you know. You just of floating, but some are better than others, but yeah, just like as a regular zoom call. You know, and we have to learn about the best way to do lighting and audio and that sort of thing.
Joel (9m 6s):
Ray (9m 6s):
So we do the show for this company, and it went great. I was like, much better than I expected both their reactions and, and how it felt to perform, you know, on your laptop. So I knew it had it to be modified. It had to the format, the flow of a show, a totally different from seeing a regular comedy show. And also becoming more proficient at zoom, you know, being able to spotlight people and tweaking the audio and that sort of thing. So I bring in a small production staff each time we do a live event to make that go smoother, but it went really well.
Ray (9m 47s):
And I said, there's something here. And I kind of thought, and it was great because it gave me something to think about, something more constructive and creative to think about during the...
Chad (9m 56s):
A purpose right?
Ray (9m 56s):
Press, right? Yes, exactly. It was really like, it gave me some sort of purpose that, you know, not only, you know, was I able to, Oh, this is something that can, you know, can boost people, make them feel better? You know, everyone's stuck at home, everyone's cooped up, it'll boost their morale. Also give some comedians a place to work. And then for myself, just a great distraction from, you know, from just from everything else that, that was on my mind, you know? So, so that was really, it, it was the first time, you know, people come up to me after shows and comedy clubs before, and they would say to me, I've been going through such a hard time, and this was pre pandemic, you know, thanks. It felt so good, that sort of thing.
Ray (10m 36s):
And I always appreciated hearing that, but this was the first time that for me personally, comedy really was a coping mechanism. I mean, who knows for the last 20 years, it's probably been a psychological coping mechanism for me as well.
Chad (10m 51s):
But, but you've, but you've spun this thing up where you have like six comedians that at comedycloud.co? I mean, this is, this is actually turned into something more it seems like, because you could have just done this yourself and said, okay, yeah, I'm going to give myself an outlet this is a coping mechanism, but you went many more steps to start to include your community to obviously perspectively help give them a coping mechanism. But also, I mean, we're talking about people who don't have jobs right now really, giving them an opportunity to perspectively, earn a wage.
Chad (11m 31s):
Tell me how that all came together in your mind, because this is very community centric. And I, and I love this comedy cloud idea.
Ray (11m 39s):
Oh, thank you. Thanks. It's yeah, it was, it was one thing I, you know, from talking to my fellow comedians, I knew how down they were and, and not only for not having a place to perform, but also they're worried about, about making a living. So I really thought to myself, you know, why not, why not include other people now? There's probably, there's a stable of about 12 different comedians now that I primarily use that I use in a rotation. And I like to, for every show, I like to always have myself, plus at least four and A, it gives other comics an outlet and, and a paycheck. And also just like a regular comedy show. I think it's good for the audience to have a mix and have a variety.
Ray (12m 22s):
You know, when we do a show in Aruba, at the club down there, or at a place in New York, I like to always have at least, you know, two other people. So I figured, you know what? This is online. I don't have to fly comedians down to Aruba. So let me make it four or five, just so just to spread the wealth a bit.
Joel (12m 41s):
How do you match companies with comedians? Does a company come to you and say, Hey, I want somebody really edgy, like cussing, or like, Oh, I just want some safe water cooler talk. How do you match the companies with the comedians and what does it typically cost?
Ray (12m 56s):
Yeah, it's funny you said there. I do get information from each company. I do want to know, you know, what's the makeup of their staff, you know, what's the age range? What's the ratio of men to women married, single? You know, there's a variety of questions I do ask. I've had companies say to me, you know, we, I would like an all Latino lineup if you could do that. I've had one, there was a women's organization that we did a show for, and they wanted an all the comedians to be women. So I can, you know, definitely. And that makes it, there's a challenge there because in sometimes maybe I'm performing, doing, going to put together a show with some people that I haven't worked with.
Ray (13m 38s):
I might not even have worked with them live outside of a computer. So I like to also then do sort of, sort of almost like a fake, like almost a dummy show, just to get a sense of who works and who doesn't, you know, cause again, there are, there's, there's a technical aspect as well, performing on your computer to me. And I think at any comic would agree, is much more challenging than just doing the live show, you know? And, but in a fun, challenging way, you know. When you get done with the show afterwards, it's sort of like, well, okay, I'm a little tired, you know that it takes something out of you, but at a regular comedy club, after you do a show, let me hang out with your, your friends, your fellow comics have a drink, whatever. And here it's like, you know, you log off and you're like, okay, I'm back alone in my apartment.
Ray (14m 21s):
This is a...
Chad (14m 23s):
Well, you said that first show went really well. How do you know? Because when you're on stage, you can engage and you can see, and you can feel the crowd. How do you feel the crowd when you're on a zoom call or what have you?
Ray (14m 35s):
It was the strangest phenomenon? I was a little, I was really kind of apprehensive, but the key was when I'm scrolling through people's screens on the zoom and you can see them laughing, I mean, up close. And that was good. But I found myself clicking a lot on those at first, like really like through the pages of the webcams on zoom. Like I really want to see everybody as much as I could. And you also, you can't hear all the audio because you get feedback. If you turn on every mic. Right. So, you know, I only open up a certain amount of microphones and that has to be monitored to see if anyone's popping during the show, that sort of thing. But I was just like, you know, and it's, and you get a kick out of it watching, you know, performing and you see somebody like stroking the cat, you know, or,
Chad (15m 18s):
Oh, you didn't have Jeffrey Toobin on, did you?
Ray (15m 22s):
That'd be a pretty interesting show. And I'm sure it would go viral if you recorded it. But, but there's been no Toobin. I've always said that, that that's a verb now is, is if you, if you take care of yourself during a zoom call, you are "toobin", which is why I prefer a free conference call, don't take the risk.
Nexxt PROMO (15m 46s):
We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt. So for those companies that are out there today, who are kind of hesitant because they're afraid of texting, what do you have to say to them? Get with the program? People are texting these days. You know, I will say that I'm in a different generation, a different point in my career, that I agree I would be hesitant, but there are obviously millions of millions of people that are in that demographic that want to receive them. So, it's again, know your audience and be able to deliver a message to your audience that way they want to receive it. For more information, go to hiring.nexxt.com.
Nexxt PROMO (16m 27s):
Remember that's Nexxt with the double X, not the triple X. Hiring.nexxt.com
Joel (16m 33s):
Do you find that companies usually want work-related comedy or do they want sort of just your act as you would normally do it? Do you need to spin it usually for comp like company humor, Dilbert type stuff or not?
Ray (16m 50s):
It's both, it's both, you're doing, you're doing material from your act, you know, relationships and that sort of thing. And our relationship material has gone in the direction of, you know, wow. Breaking up during a pandemic, you know, there's that there's, you know, bits about that or, or, or being with your spouse 24/7, you know, there's, there's that type of humor. And then also sure there's work-related humor that if some comics have it, I think it's good to, to use because you know, anything that's relatable, you know, any, you know, and now we're at the point where it's like, yeah, everybody knows that person at the office who like, you know, loves to dominate the zoom meeting, you know, before it was like, they wouldn't, they wouldn't shut the hell up by the water cooler. And now, you know, they're, you know, completely like, you know, just yelling everybody down on their laptop.
Chad (17m 33s):
So, so this has given you tons of material.
Ray (17m 37s):
There's a lot new stuff. I mean, there's only so many jokes you can do about, about, you know, sitting alone in a studio apartment in NYC, you know, surrounded by bottles of a wine. But, but yeah, no, there's definitely, there's, there's, there's always new material that evolves and stuff you learn from watching the news and that sort of thing. We do tend, we, I, we never want the shows to be really political or racial because just like doing a live corporate event, you know, you're not supposed to do that kind of stuff. You know, that's, it's not in New York city nightclubs. So I always make it very clear with everybody what the guidelines are and those things, you know, no politics, no race material.
Ray (18m 22s):
That's always been a constant with all the show, we've done over 80 shows now.
Chad (18m 26s):
Ray (18m 27s):
Yeah. And for all, and for, you know, tech companies and financial companies and media companies, shipping companies, we've done a few of those and anywhere from 18 people up to 900, usually it's around 150, 200 people, but they've gone anywhere, you know, up close to a thousand people. And as low as when we did it for, you know, 16, 18 people, I, those are actually harder because you have fewer people to work with because the best part about these shows. And one thing I do love is that, so when I, if I'm live on stage in a club, you know, I'll interact with people primarily in the front row, you know, and improvise and ask them.
Ray (19m 6s):
So what's great about these shows is theoretically everybody's in the front row. And so it was kind of exciting. Now you don't feel the energy the same way that you do in a live club, but I have learned how to sort of pick up the vibe just based on visual cues. And look, if somebody has a webcam off there, there's a visual cue right there. It's gonna stay off. But, but generally speaking, you do pick up energy from someone just from the way they're sitting in, in relation to their webcam and that sort of thing.
Joel (19m 37s):
Have, have you been, have you been heckled yet? How does that work on zoom?
Ray (19m 40s):
Only one time! I've learned that really remarkable. You don't have to worry about a bouncer or, you know, you don't have to be afraid of having a bottle thrown at you. You can just, with one finger, you can click that mute button and that's the heckler disappears. That's remarkable. Only one time there was actually got drunk in his living room and he
Joel (20m 2s):
So HR wasn't on that call, I guess?
Ray (20m 7s):
It was pretty, it was kind of something to see, you know, if someone's sitting on a couch leaning back and just shouting things at a comic, but it was, it was, it was fine.
Chad (20m 17s):
And so with the holidays, have you seen like an uptick in interest because everybody's always looking for their holiday party, right? Now, and I mean, from a scalability standpoint, I would assume that you can probably even do more than you could before. I mean, you don't have to travel, you don't have to go to all these different places. How has that changed? Have you seen, does it even matter that the holidays are happening?
Ray (20m 40s):
Yeah. Well, we've been, we've been doing tons of shows from, May up until now. You know, it's been about 84, 85 shows. That's been great. And then, yeah, the calendar is really filling up in December. There's some days we have two a day. I mean, theoretically, you know, it's, you could do, we do four of these a day, you know, it's but the calendar is definitely been filling up for December for holiday parties. And truthfully, this is objectively speaking. This to me is the most fun you could have on zoom. I know people do trivia things and scavenger hunts and wine tasting things.
Ray (21m 20s):
This is the most fun as long as people are into comedy. It's great. And the other thing is the interactive part, the interactive component of these shows is excellent. It makes, when you pull up somebody on, if I spotlight their video on zoom, they feel like they're on the jumbotron in Times Square. You know, they feel appreciated. They're engaged in a way they haven't been in the last, you know, seven months and it really does boost their morale. And it's incredible. I've had companies that have booked us again, as soon as we're done, they'll email me and they'll say, can we do this again next month? Because you're just people. And then employees willing to interact with each other on some level during the shows as well.
Ray (22m 2s):
And that's great. It's great to see. I mean, it's really, really satisfying when you have a bunch of people that you know, are isolated and you can see them all laughing together on your screen. It's oddly satisfying. So the interactive part of these shows is really special. And that's the other thing I learned in the beginning. I was talking to people in the audience and the virtual audience just a little bit. And it was usually later in the show. And now that's, that's something that I'll get into early in the show and it'll be a constant throughout the show. So A, you know how to work a crowd, which is something I knew how to do from doing stand-up in clubs.
Chad (22m 42s):
Ray (22m 42s):
And then it is fun. It's all. And also you get sick of your jokes and you've done some of the same jokes, hundreds of times, like some names rebel had said, he said, your jokes are like your kids, you know, you love them, but you get sick of them sometimes. So, you know, it's, it adds, there's always something new when you talk to someone and, and to see how people live is also fascinating. You know, like, you know, when you have a bunch of hedge fund guys and you're performing for them versus a bunch of interns from a shipping company, it's a world of difference in the backdrop.
Joel (23m 19s):
Yeah. You've mentioned a lot of industries, a lot of demographics, a lot of, you know, just different businesses and I'm assuming locations, how much homework goes into each show and how much, I guess, customization do companies expect? Like, do you, do you make fun of the CEO, for example, are you on, you know, Wikipedia and checking out their history to make jokes about them? Are you learning more about different industries and sort of what's timely jokes there? Or is it basically just, we're going to give you the show and there's not going to be a lot of sort of really inside baseball, with the comedy?
Chad (23m 58s):
The comic stalker.
Ray (23m 59s):
You're right. Exactly. No, I, I always liked to learn more about the company and I'll share information with other comedians about it as well. And, you know, I, the comics act, you know, their tried and true material. You want to make sure they get to that because that's the stuff that, you know, works. But I always like to make the shows as, as personalized as possible and as customized as possible. So I'll learn about what the company does, what sort of, what their mandate is, what their sort of, what their one company had, like their own sort of bill of rights, which I, I learned with those were. And then I found a lower level employee and I unexpectedly quizzed them on some of those, which was really, which actually was a lot of fun.
Ray (24m 40s):
He didn't know any of them. But no, I always want to learn about, about the company and what their mission is and, and how they've been doing as a company and what the culture is within their organization. And some CEOs are very happy to engage. I always will find out from, before the show, give me a list of people you definitely don't want us to speak with during the show. There's some, for whatever reason, maybe they say our boss, isn't going to want this. Or we have so-and-so works in whatever department and it's better if you stay away from that person. And then also give me some names of people you, that you definitely want us to talk to.
Ray (25m 20s):
Because a lot of times people will have not just for their employees, but they'll have do shows for their clients.
Joel (25m 25s):
Ray (25m 25s):
So, you know, talking to a guy in Delaware, please talk to the person who's in an Austin, Texas, please talk to this guy in Idaho. You know, cause, we've done events for people where, if it's their national sales meeting and they, and they have clients all over the country, which is the other thing that becomes kind of interesting is that we've done shows for people in different time zones. So we'll have people that are watching in New York, Tennessee, Los Angeles, and London. And we'll start the show at like two in the afternoon. And you see people, you know, sipping a cup of coffee at the same time, someone else's sipping whiskey. So it's kind of cool, you know, it's kind of cool to bring people together from, you know, different parts of the world.
Ray (26m 8s):
It's pretty fun. And the other thing I'm going to say is shockingly, I enjoy doing shows at, at two o'clock one, two, three o'clock in the afternoon because the audience, the employees, they love that a typical workday is getting broken up with doing something fun. You know, as opposed to come back at eight o'clock tonight, you know, we're going to log in front event. That's great, too. That's fine. But to let them to interrupt a typical workday where they might be bored out of their mind, that works really, really well.
Chad (26m 44s):
I'd like to say, I'm going to put this out there and I'm going to go ahead and wrap up Ray first and foremost, you know, again, yeah, the holidays are coming up and we definitely need to laugh, especially as 2020 for God's sakes. But this comedy, I don't care what time of the year it is. Yeah. We don't need any more of those goddamn motivational speakers. Let's get some comedy in there. So, Ray, let me ask you real quick so that everybody knows where to go. Where can everybody find you so that they can get perspectively in the queue to get you in some of your comedians to their conference or their just their company meeting.
Ray (27m 19s):
And they can go to comedycloud.co that's the website comedycloud.co. You can also find us on LinkedIn, and those are the easiest ways to get in touch. And it's a pretty simple, straightforward process to get things rolling. And I guarantee, I promise it will be the best event you can do for your staff or for your clients. For sure. It really there a lot, a lot of fun.
Joel (27m 46s):
Chad (27m 46s):
Excellent man. Well, we appreciate you taking the time and being our being on the show.
Ray (27m 53s):
I appreciate you guys having me. It's a lot of fun and I hope to see you guys again, live in person.
Chad (27m 59s):
Joel (28m 0s):
Chad (28m 1s):
OK. Excellent. We out.
Joel (28m 3s):
Chad, we out.
7 (28m 5s):
Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any hoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode.
7 (28m 49s):
And while you're at it, visit www.chadcheese.com just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.