Brian Thomas has a knack for well-timed jokes.
It’s an ability that’s helped the owner of Proforma Marketing Solutions (asi/300094) on countless sales calls and client consultations. And, it’s a skill that’s won him big laughs in his side gig as a stand-up comedian.
“I’ve always enjoyed telling jokes,” said Thomas, who is based in Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, CA. “In grade school, I’d hear jokes and turn around and tell them, putting my own spin on them. As I got into the work world, I realized that interjecting something humorous at the right time and getting someone to laugh can open doors.”
Brian Thomas performing his comedy routine.
Of course, it helps when he’s on stage, too. Thomas started performing after taking a comedy class eight years ago. Since then, he’s told jokes and spun entertaining anecdotes in venues around Sonoma County, as well in clubs, bars and the like in nearby cities, such as San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. He’s even squeezed in a quick set at a Las Vegas venue – Big Al’s Comedy Club -- while in town for a Proforma meeting.
Modest and unpretentious, Thomas admits some shows have been on the small side – playing to literally a couple people at a restaurant. Others, however, have been large and exhilarating, like the times he’s had comedy club audiences of 150 or so busting up with his observational humor.
“It’s actually easier to perform for the bigger crowds,” said Thomas. “They’re there to laugh. Once you get the first laugh, you settle in and it starts to go. It’s a thrill to get that kind of reaction from a big room.”
Sales & Comedy: A Symbiotic Relationship
For Thomas, the comedy performances and sales career exist in a symbiotic relationship, helping to fuel each other. For example, promo/print clients have hired him to perform stand-up. He’s kept the crowd laughing at a customer Christmas party, put in punchlines at the retirement celebration of a client, and provided the post-dinner chuckles at the surprise birthday party for a client’s wife.
Furthermore, he invites customers to shows. Many have come. Seeing Thomas on stage helps further personalize and endear him to his customers. “They get to know you better as a person, and that takes the relationship to a higher level,” said Thomas. “It can definitely help with loyalty.”
Comedy assists in other ways, too. To perform well, a comedian has to be relaxed – not only to remember his or her material, but to deliver it with the right timing. The experience of staying cool under the spotlights certainly aids in pressure-cooker business situations, just as the experience of rolling with the punches in sales settings has helped prepare Thomas for the stage. “They feed each other, teaching you to think on your feet and to go with the personality of the client or the audience,” said Thomas, who organizes a routinely held comedy night at a Santa Rosa winery.
Brian Thomas routinely organizes and hosts a Comedy Night at D’Argenzio Winery in Santa Rosa, CA. This is a flyer for one of the performances.
Comedy has been a platform for Thomas to contribute to his community, too. He has, for example, performed at fundraisers benefitting victims of last year’s California wildfires. He’s also shared insights with other entrepreneurs, speaking at his local chamber of commerce about his successful mix of comedy work and Proforma business.
While there isn’t a ton of money in comedy, a big payday is not the reason Thomas gets behind the microphone. For this NoCal native, comedy is a labor of love. And if he breaks even at his gig, maybe gets a little free food and drink, and brings smiles to people’s faces, then that’s good enough for him. “If you do it well, you get to make people happy,” said Thomas. “That’s a lot of fun.”