Turn on the news, pick up the paper, pretty much wherever you turn, you’re hearing about the plummeting stock market, the dried-up real estate market, or the latest job cuts. In times like these, we all need to laugh, which is probably why movies like Madea Goes to Jail and He’s Just Not that Into You are tops at the box office.

So, if you’re planning a party or corporate event this year, consider bringing in some laughter — a comedian will certainly lighten things up. It may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you follow our guide on how to hire a comedian:

Consider your audience.

  • What kind of humor do you think they’d like? Political satire, everyday humor, sight gags, audience participation, etc.
  • What is the age range of your guests?

Determine the fit.

  • Where does the comedian fit into the event? Is he/she the main event or the opening ice-breaker?
  • How long would you like the act?
  • Would you like the comedian to roast the guest(s) of honor?

Know where the line is.

  • If you’re planning a church fundraiser, you should probably look for a 100% clean, wholesome act. Clean comedians can be just as funny.
  • For a corporate event, you don’t want to offend anyone with sexist, racist or other off-color jokes.
  • And, for a 40th birthday party with your closest friends, well, the proverbial line is wherever you want it to be.

Get to know a handful of comedians.

  • Be sure the comedian understands exactly what you want – you can start by sharing your answers to the above questions.
  • Be sure to watch video clips of their act. If you’re not laughing out loud, your guests won’t be either.
  • A good comedian will spend time talking to you about the audience and walking you through their jokes. By the time you make your decision, you should feel 100% confident that the comedian’s act will be appropriate, and 90% confident that your guests will be rolling in the aisles (hey, there’s no guarantee!).
  • If you need a comedian to clean up the act, and doing so makes it less funny, move on.
  • Talk to references from the comedian’s previous clients.
  • Consider price and time – you’re better off having a shorter act that is funny than a longer act that is dull.

If you get it right, your guests will definitely thank you for reminding them to laugh!