It's The Big Charity Question
And I don't think it's a good idea ...
When I'm staging a charity show, a question often comes up about whether or not a representative from the charity should come up on stage and say a few words about the work the charity carries out ...
I believe the big charity question should always be answered with a firm no.
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You may be surprised that my advice is always a firm 'no'. If you are raising money for a charity with a stage show, I believe you should get the public in simply by promising music and comedy.
"That's the way to fill a venue. Then when you have them in, give them a damn good time."
I was once performing with my comedy band at a charity event, and as we stood behind the curtain waiting for them to open, a lady from the charity came up and just wanted to say a few words.
Well, they got 15 minutes of death and doom and gloom, and the band were all looking at each other wondering how on earth we could - after this - bounce to the front of the stage and open with a little sing a long number called 'Jollity Farm'.
It's a delightful bit of nonsense where we encourage the audience to join in with animal noises, raspberries and general mayhem. All I can say is that it wasn't the easiest gig we've played.
The way to get money out of an audience is to make them laugh and smile, and then they reach into their pockets and stuff tenners into the charity pot. The in-depth details of what the charity does - which most audiences will know as that's why they're there - can be done by giving leaflets and having people chat at stalls off the stage.
The other thing is, and this may seem slightly harsh though it isn't meant that way, is that quite often the person brought up to talk about the charity isn't a natural public speaker. They are very hard working people who are immersed in the challenging work the charity does, and that's a different ball game to raising money by giving the audience a good time.
Many years ago a few comedians decided to get together to raise funds for Amnesty International. When discussing the way forward, Peter Cook, who was on the bill and much respected in the world of entertainment, made it clear that in his view the way to raise money wasn't to tell the audience about political prisoners locked up without trial, brutal torture and executions. He said it's just about making them laugh, and the money raised would go someway to stopping all of the bad stuff.
And he was bang on the money with that view, and they raised a huge amount of money, and the Amnesty shows went from strength to strength. Not only that, but Cook and his 'Beyond The Fringe' colleagues, plus many others in 1976, brought the work of Amnesty International to the public eye.
I saw the show, laughed my socks off at the sketches of these fine people, went away, read a bit about Amnesty International and joined. I probably wouldn't have been aware of it all, had they not done that show.
"So, it's just a word of advice, but follow Cook's mantra."
You will raise far more money and awareness than if you try to give them the details from the stage. Gloomy and sad people do not put their hands in their pockets as readily as happy people do, with a few drinks inside them.
Hook them into the fun, and they will support the cause.
Until next time ...
David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions (DPP) which provide corporate entertainment and also actors for corporate training and development.
Having worked in the Light Entertainment field for many years and produced shows for Al Murray & Joe Pasquale amongst others, David is in a position to advise on well-known comedy and musical acts. DPP also represent Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's scripts which include Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.
He is the director of MK Theatre of Comedy who are very well known locally for their stage adaptations of classic comedy scripts such as Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Allo Allo and many others.
He is a long-standing member of Equity and the Directors Guild of Great Britain and has acted in, and directed, many productions over the years, mainly in Light Entertainment, but with occasional forays into Shakespeare etc. Every Christmas he is contracted as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, currently with 'That's Entertainment' who also use him as a director.
He teaches eccentric magic for The Pauline Quirke Academy and MKTOC also run a youth drama school in Olney from the DPP offices.
David maintains his busy lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid being on any committees. He is married to Julie, and they have one daughter, Esther and live in Clifton Reynes, surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. They live so close to the church that David has instructed his daughter - when he dies and not before - to fire him over the wall from a circus cannon.