PALMETTO -- As a senior vice president overseeing human resources for 660 employees, Lisa Krouse wasn’t someone known to generate laughter.
But when asked by the United Way to do a standup comedy routine as part of a fundraiser, Krouse had no choice but to find “the funny within.”
So she turned to Traci Kanaan, a Palmetto small business owner who is also a nationally touring standup comedian. After three months of one-on-one sessions with Kanaan, known as “The Princess of Parodies,” Krouse put together a routine built around, among other things, her ugly duckling childhood and her 27-year marriage (as the daughter of conservative Christian parents) to an orthodox Jew.
“You can go through all the speech classes you want, about ‘Don’t stare at the Power Point’ and ‘Don’t say um,’ but I learned something else very profound from Traci,” says Krouse, a top executive at FCCI. “I learned to laugh at myself, and at things you don’t ordinarily find humorous. She taught me that to be an effective presenter, you have to be comfortable with who you are.”
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Kanaan is now bringing her combination of comedy and business experience to the business community at large, with a series titled “Punch Up your Presentations!” The regular McCurdy’s Comedy Club performer kicks off her 16-hour course Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Most business people just assume there’s nothing interesting in what they’re presenting,” Kanaan says. “So they just hammer through it and don’t try to find what’s interesting or funny about it. You have to believe that there is ‘funny’ in your material. And I can help business owners find that very easily.”
Kanaan will provide tips on things like making a good impression within the first 30 seconds, always having an interesting “elevator speech” ready, how to make your weaknesses into strengths by joking about them, and -- even when it’s not appropriate -- to be funny.
She’ll share some basic clues about joke-writing strategy, as well as the methodology behind finding out what works and what doesn’t.
“Nobody’s going to come out of this as a standup comic ready to hit the road,” Kanaan says. “But this will help businesspeople be more entertaining speakers, and help them impart their knowledge in an entertaining format.”
Kanaan has worthy credentials to back up both aspects of her career. As the owner of Traci Keychain Advertising Specialties, she has won the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award several times and was named by one regional publication as among the area’s top 40 under-40 business owners.
As a comedian, she has opened several times at McCurdy’s Comedy Club in Sarasota and performs about 10 stand-up comedy routines a month throughout the country. Her specialty is melding music with comedy, and among her highlights is a segment of her act on “rock songs that should never be played on piano.”
Les McCurdy, co-owner of McCurdy’s, says Kanaan is known for her self-deprecation; her act is rife with jokes about her experience losing 90 pounds over the past three years.
“Traci started in our comedy workshops, and she’s one of the few that have attended who has stuck with it and gone on to become a professional,” McCurdy says.
“She’s a fun person to be around and is an upbeat, positive person,” says Pearl Dahman Para, a Sarasota certified public accountant who has partnered with Kanaan on seminars in the past. “She and I share the same philosophy about small business owners: They work so hard IN their business that they don’t have a lot of time to work ON their business, so when they do, they need it to be enjoyable.”
Christine Hawes, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.