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Mike Orton-Toliver

Artistic Director

Q: What brings you to Whistle & Bell?
I started fifteen years ago as a comedian in America, performing with Second City and Comedy Sportz. In 2006 I moved to Amsterdam to work for Boom Chicago. It was there that I did most of my corporate show work as an actor, writer and emcee. In just five years at Boom, I’d written and performed for hundreds of corporate shows. Whistle & Bell is a natural step for me.

Q: As an American, is it challenging to emcee or host an international audience?
It was fairly challenging, at first. I mean, sure, you know how to be funny, but the audience is like “Wait, what did you say?” Still, with time and practice it gets easier. At Boom Chicago you’re onstage, in front of an international audience, over 200 nights a year. Needless to say, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.

Q: is it the same for corporate audiences ?
Yes, corporate audiences are the same. Companies like Shell, PWC, and ING have such diverse workforces. When speaking in English, trying to get one employee from Germany and another from Nigeria to understand the same message is a challenge on to itself, but making them laugh is more difficult. Emceeing for a global audience is a muscle that gets stronger the more you flex it and, after years of doing it, I’ve accomplished just that.

Q: Tell us, what makes for writing good corporate entertainment?
Good Corporate entertainment scripts have two ingredients: effective use of corporate language, and clear, crisp writing. But at Whistle & Bell, good’s not good enough. We aim for Great corporate writing and that needs a third element called tailoring.

Q: What do you mean by Tailoring?
Tailoring is better aligning our product with the client’s company strategy and its employee’s daily experience. At Whistle & Bell, we learn as much as possible about our client before we start writing a script. Plenty of emcees or hosts only want to know the venue or the audience break-down and nothing more. At Whistle & Bell, we go further. We want to know everything about the company and its people. It’s a simple concept, really: great jokes use great information. And it doesn’t stop at jokes. All great corporate entertainment is like a mirror; the client should see themselves in it. You only accomplish that with quality tailoring. Nobody likes to wear a great looking suit that doesn’t fit.