The Roar Of The Xerox, The Smell Of The Fax

So you think it pays to make a fool of yourself, huh? Big companies are hiring a New York comedy troupe to gather everybody from the chief executive to the mailroom guy into one room and have them work up wacky improvisational routines. Like putting three people in a three-headed suit and making them free-associate the adventures of a rubber duck. Like handing them a common household item and telling them to pitch it as a new product--selling a Frisbee as an infant's sled, say.

New York-based Chicago City Limits, an offshoot of the famed Second City comedy troupe, figures that using teamwork to put together shticks on the spot makes for better internal relations in a company--as well as quicker-witted salespeople. Sessions with drugmaker Apothecon, wrote Marketing Director Michael Guidotti in a letter, were a "valuable assistance" in boosting sales.

Chicago City Limits, which started marketing these high jinks in 1989, has worked for 60 companies to date, including such button-down establishments as GE Capital and General Foods. After one recent session at Computervision, the company's Human Resources Director, Carl Dias, asked: "Should I quit my day job?"