We interview Jon Selig, Founder of Comedy Abroad. Jon explains how making travellers laugh can help raise funds for good causes.
Jon's unlikely comedy career began with him receiving two business degrees and selling enterprise technology. In 2011, these bad decisions caused him to have a mid-career crisis and prompted him to get onstage and tell jokes. In that time, he's performed in cities all around the US & Canada and been named a 2015 Young Gun of Comedy by the Comedy Nest.
Jon's latest project Comedy Abroad produces stand-up comedy fundraiser shows in well-touristed destinations, which benefit local nonprofits. Their two tours in Central America have raised approximately $18,315 USD for 4 nonprofits in Costa Rica & Nicaragua.
Anula: What are the challenges Comedy Abroad is trying to address?
Jon: Apologies in advance. This interview will be hilariously un-hilarious! Comedy Abroad produces fundraiser stand-up comedy shows featuring professional stand-up comics in well-touristed destinations to benefit local nonprofits. We offer nonprofits/NGOs in the developing world a simple fundraising vehicle (and excuse!) to tap into tourism to raise new funds. We want to help non-denominational nonprofits whose missions are to improve & embetter human lives. New funds are constantly needed to fulfill their objectives and remain sustainable, and as such, we empower selfless changemakers a means to raise required new funds. We can work with nonprofits to put on different shows for different types of travellers on different budgets (luxury travellers vs. backpackers).
We want to bring together travellers & expats of all ages who seek a unique, familiar night of entertainment while far away from home.
Anula: What is the impact you are trying to achieve?
Jon: Stand-up comics are not known for their selflessness. We're clueless how to make an impact - or what that even means. The best we can do is be funny and empower those dedicated to solving global challenges by helping them affordably raise new funds. Overseas nonprofits are run by people who polar opposite to stand-up comics - selfless, passionate people making an impact on their native, adopted, or super-temporary communities.
Anula: What's special about your approach?
Jon: We're a fun, turnkey fundraising solution for nonprofits in Latin America (and someday, elsewhere). Our English stand-up comedy shows in Latin America bring travellers & expats together for a night of comedy and laughter in a unique setting, and for worthwhile causes. We're sneakily enabling travellers & expats give back to communities they're living in or passing through, and helping our nonprofit partners bring awareness to the challenges they're addressing.
In addition, we provide nonprofits with all the promotional materials they'll need to market the shows (posters, flyers, playbills, videos, social media, etc.).
Jon: Several come to mind, actually! We had crowds of 120 & 130 at shows to benefit Abriendo Mentes in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. It was mind-blowing to see how many westerners in the country were interested in checking out the show.
Our favorite show was to benefit Biblioteca David Kitson in Nosara, Costa Rica. The venue was stunning, all 90 tickets were sold, and the crowd was a blast!
Performing shows in Popoyo, Nicaragua to raise funds for FIMRC was also a highlight. The need is far more visible and on-display in Nicaragua than it is in Costa Rica. The FIMRC team offers medical care and affordable prescription medication to children and women in the area. Funds are always scarce for them. The FIMRC team worked really hard to market the shows to local hospitality & tourism, and fill the rooms. They also got local businesses to donate items for raffles so additional funds could be raised. It was extremely rewarding to know that the funds raised were helping with the most vital of human needs.
Anula: What do you need to help you be more successful?
Jon: Our objectives are to do more shows to raise more funds for more nonprofits in more countries. We're looking to book 50 shows in a select group of Latin American countries this coming winter and fall. To date, nonprofit partners have paid us some fees to offset travel and accommodation expenses. We want to mitigate and even remove risk from nonprofit partners. To make this happen, we need:
a) more nonprofit partners in well-touristed destinations to partner with us, market shows, and benefit from ticket sales. We're speaking to nonprofits in: Mexico, Dominican Republic, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.
b) Sponsorship: Comedy Abroad itself needs to be sustainable. We're doing nonprofit work, but we have for-profit objectives as well. As Comedy Abroad creates all branded promotional materials for tours, we can offer brands/businesses visibility on all or some of them in exchange for their marketing/CSR dollars.
c) Hospitality & Tourism Partners - A challenge is getting the word out about where & when shows happening, and who benefits when tickets are purchased. We need the support of hotels, hostels, tour operators, travel agencies, mobile technology, and local tourism boards.
Anula: What does that success look like? Share your dream...
Jon: Our major goal is to produce more stand-up comedy tours in more countries to help more nonprofits raise more funds.
We want to raise full sponsorship of tours by brands who want to help make an impact. As we create and manage all promotional materials, we can offer visibility prior to and at our shows.We also want to create loads of funny video content while on tour.
Anula: If you could connect with one person, company or organisation in responsible tourism, who would it be, and why?
Jon: We're still in a fledgeling stage, so we can benefit from all kinds of contacts & partnerships! The biggest challenge our nonprofit partners face in working with us is selling out our shows. We'd like to let people at-destination know that shows are happening 1-2 days leading up to them. In addition to connecting with local hospitality & tourism, we'd love to connect with so-called "sharing economy" hospitality brands (such AirBnb/Homeaway, CouchSurfing) who could email travellers at-destination in the day-or-two leading up to the show dates, as well as local hotels who can market to their guests.
We'd also love to connect to more connectors! People in sustainable tourism/global philanthropy who love what we're up to, and can advise and make required introductions.
Anula: Which other person, company or organisation would you most like to recommend to be interviewed for this series, and why?
Jon: Without a doubt, speak to Rebecca Rothney at Pack for Purpose. She does incredible work.