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CMI:  Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content

CMI: Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content

Figures don’t lie.  Statics maybe, but not figures. 

Part of producing a corporate comedy video for YouTube, Facebook, etc, is the approval process.  I’ll often face the objection, supported by research, from a committee member arguing that not everyone will appreciate the humor.  Possibly a small business owner in Burma.  ‘Our content needs to be global.’

So, I’ve conducted my own research as a rebuttal.  See figure 1.

I shared a bit more about the process of using comedy principles with the Content Marketing Institute.  Read the article here, and join us at CMWorld in Cleveland this September.

A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit

A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit

Let’s hope there is a lot of laughter pouring out of General Assembly Hall today.  As the UN Climate Summit begins this week, what would be possible if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and team consider what John Cleese preaches about the power of laughter:

“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else. I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation and humor makes us playful, yet how many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was ‘so serious’.”

Not only does laughter open your mind, it opens the minds of those on the other side of the debate.  We usually tune out to an argument that we have already concluded is wrong.  But laughter is a powerful interrupter.  If we’re being entertained, we’re more likely to pay attention, and be less defensive.

John Oliver, Bill Nye, and the Last Week Tonight team produced what The Guardian dubbed “the best climate debate you’ll ever see.”  [Note:  use headphones for the first 1:08 if you’re at the office]

Much of the sketch’s brilliance is the stunt that would qualify it for  Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” Hall of Fame.  Combined with Bill Nye (who received a rockstar ovation from the crowd when he walked on stage, and was genius improviser during rehearsal) and brilliant comedic writing (“Are there hats?”), the comedy sketch makes for an attention-grabbing, concise, persuasive argument.   As The New York Times best-selling author Chris Mooney said:

“I feel like they said in 4 minutes something I’ve been saying for 10 years with like tens or hundreds of thousands of words”

At the summit today the UN will honor Leonardo DiCaprio with the title Messenger of Peace, although his name tag for the luncheon reads “Wolf of Wall Street.”  Leo’s presence will certainly bring more exposure to the conference.  But if John Cleese had booked the event talent, the opening keynote speaker would have been John Oliver.

 

Contagious. Why Things Catch On

Contagious.  Now Available in the large print edition.
Contagious

Last month I visited The Wharton School to speak about the benefits of using humor in corporate social media. While on campus, I had the chance to interview Dr. Jonah Berger about his book, Contagious:  Why Things Catch On.  The video interview is posted in my BtoB Magazine blog.  We discussed how he’s applied science to understanding what will go viral, how B2B content marketing folks can apply his STEPPS model to improve the success of their campaigns, and how humor helps content marketing be more successful.  FastCompany posted a few excepts from the book.

Jonah also connected me to his friend Dr. Peter McGraw, author of The Humor Code and professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Ann Handley and I will interview him on Better Marriage Through Big Data this summer.

Photo: Andrew Hetherington, in Wired

After the gig, Steve Aguiree and I celebrated over an outstanding cheeseburger at 500 degrees.  On my next trip to Philadelphia, I’ll check out Lucky’s Last Chance, winner of this year’s Burger Brawl.

Comedy at @Wharton cheeseburger. Go with the wild boar bacon

 

 

On The Hill with Conan O’Brien

The last time I was inside the Beltway with Conan O’Brien was during the Judge Alito confirmation hearings.

But we were both in Washington D.C. Saturday night, although he had a slightly bigger gig. I was emceeing an event for 750 Christian Wall Street bankers (not an oxymoron) at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel where the first inaugural ball of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was held in 1933.  The hotel has made a few updates since then.  Conan was one mile away at the Hilton, hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner.

A highlight was the “House of Cards” mock video, which gave NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg the funniest line.

I’m looking forward to heading back next week to emcee Whats Next DC event, and speak about using humor and storytelling in corporate social media.

Benefit for St. Stephen’s School Scholarship Fund, May 2

My friend Elza and I will be performing May 2nd, 6pm-8pm, at Sarah’s Wine Bar in Ridgefield, CT to benefit the St. Stephen Nursery School scholarship fund.  It will be a fun evening of award-winning music and mediocre comedy.  Elza is an award winning singer, songwriter and recording artist whose music was most recently featured on ABC’s NY MED and Hopkins.

Comedy Reel from Tim Washer on Vimeo.

An Evening of entertainment & hors d’oeuvres. Sarah’s Wine Bar, upstair at Bernard’s Restaurant  20 West Lane  (Route 35)  Ridgefield  CT  06877.  Click for directions.

$75 per person

Space is limited. To reserve your space please mail check to St. Stephen’s Nursery School, 351 Main St, Ridgefield, CT 06877
For more info: 203.438.6806 or www.ststephensnurseryschool.org

ElzaLive

 

Vampire Bats at SXSW

Technically, they’re not vampire bats, which might be behind the inferiority complex.  But the 1.5 million bats living under the Congress Bridge in Austin can brag about being the largest urban bat colony in the world, as Reuters reports.  Be sure to add this to your list of  destinations while you’re in ATX.    Last year I had a fun visit with Scott Laningham and Turbo Todd Watson about some of our humor projects at IBM, including Art of the SaleMad Science with John Cohn and the smarter planet animation series.



The year before, David Meerman Scott and I watched the bats along the way of our aimless tour of ATX.



I hope to see you if you’re heading down this year. Ann Handley and I will record an ATX version of our new series , and I’ll tweet out when we have the session planned.   If you need help picking which events to attend, check out the Golin Harris marketer’s guide, SX Scout.

The Marquette Beer Runner

My first visit to Milwaukee far exceeded the expectations, probably because most of my knowledge of the town comes from watching Lavern & Shirley. Tim Blair, a good friend and mentor from IBM now at Grant Thornton, invited me to speak at the PR + Social Media Summit, hosted by his alma mater, Marquette University.  Tim is still a mentor, but we’re no longer friends.

The event’s first speakers was Olympic sprinter Nick Symmonds who turned to eBay to auction real estate on his deltoid for a tattoo of a corporate twitter handle.  Creative agency Hason Dodge narrowly outbid Nick’s mom.  Before I try to sell tattoo space to raise funds, I’ll need to shave a few seconds off of my time in the 400 hurdles.

Molly McKenna, social media director at McDonald’s, masterfully blended humor, candor about taking risks, and  fascinating stories from the trenches, including a recent twitter battle  between two prominent mayors over a beverage ban, as an example of standing up for your brand on twitter: “RT @McDonalds .@MikeBloomberg We trust our customers to make the choices that are best for them.”  She’s one of the best speakers on social media I’ve ever seen.

After speaking on The Business Case for Nonsense and showing a few comedy videos and a clip from our documentary, Tim  Blair and I headed over to Sobelman’s, a burger legend featured on the Travel Channel’s Food Wars.   An excellent choice, as was our dinner the night before at the Iron Horse Hotel.

Custom Motorcyle

In addition to the speaker lineup that included some social media rockstars like Kathryn Janicek from NBC Chicago, Augie Ray from Prudential and Mary Henige from GM, one element that made this conference stand out was the host, Tim Cigelske, aka The Beer Runner.   Not only did he help everything run smoothly and was a fun guy to work with, but he’s an established SM leader as well. Check out his interview in Wired Magazine on combining his passions for craft beer and fitness.  I hope to return soon to spend more time at the river walk and tour the Harley Davidson Museum, but as Cigelske suggested, I think I’ll wait until after the Wisconsin winter, when conditions aren’t the same as Ice Station Zebra.

About the Comedy & Cheeseburger blog.

Gesu Chapel

Comedy at SXSW

I presented at SXSW Interactive about the role of comedy in corporate social media, and was amazed at how productive the conference was.  I had the chance to meet with quite a few social media leaders — when possible, over BBQ — including Jeff Pulver, C.C. Chapman, Guy Kawasaki, Pam Slim, John Jantsch, Erik Qualman and David Meerman Scott. I managed to squeeze in some comedy, kicking things off with Conan O’Brien’s  documentary premier.

ConanChristopherOBrien.com

ConanChristopherOBrien.com

Rainn Wilson and director James Gunn dialed in the flight-delayed Ellen Page and put her on speaker to talk about their new dark comedy feature Super.

Super team.  Photo: Austin360
Photo: Austin360

Director Todd Phillips shared the backstory of some of his comedies like Old School and talked a bit about The Hangover Part II.

Todd Phillips.  Photo: Austin Chronicle
Photo: Austin Chronicle

Dined with Vince Thompson, comedian Matt Kirsch and the LA crew at the Salt Lick BBQ.

SaltLick

I wrapped up the visit with some classic Austin trailer food at Trey’s Cuisine for an amazing New York Strip burger stuffed with mac and cheeses served on a croquette.

Trey's Cuisine

Trey’s Cuisine chef Cowden Ward.

Trey's Cowden Ward

Finally, dessert at Amy’s Ice Cream with my favorite NEW YORKER cartoonist, Matt Diffee.

mattdiffee

An Oscar in the Shorts

Actors struggle with limited paths to break into feature films in Hollywood. Buzz Lightyear got his foot in the door working as an extra, playing a stormtrooper in The Phantom Menace. Woody’s first on-camera gig was “Saddle Soars,” a :30 second commercial for a medicated ointment. But now, another avenue — the short film — is getting more exposure and respect, leading to more opportunities for filmmakers. This Oscar weekend I emceed the Shorts Awards at the Soho House in West Hollywood.  Shorts International honored John Lasseter with the Lifetime Achievement award, and recognized the Oscar nominees in all three short film categories: animation, live action and documentary.   We also handed out a few short film visionary awards to Melissa Leo and voice-over actress June Foray best known for playing Rocky the Squirrel and Cindy Lou Who. Hopefully the press coverage, which included the Washington Post, ABC News, and the  Hollywood trades will help more short films find the funding for production.

The Inklings

While sitting at this table 70 years ago at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, England, C.S. Lewis encouraged a reluctant young writer to publish the work he shared with the small group of friends, The Inklings.  

That young writer was J.R.R. Tolkien and the unfinished story he shared was “Lord of the Rings.”   I’m guessing Lewis had no idea the film trilogy would go on to earn 30 Oscar nominations and $2.9 billion worldwide at the box office — he probably just thought it was a neat story.

We’re studying The Inklings at Wedgwood Circle,  a group committed advancing the good, true and beautiful in arts and entertainment.  I emceed our conference at Shutters in Santa Monica, where we got a peak into some behind-the-scenes stories:  Sean Astin on making Tolkien’s film (and The Goonies), Michael Flaherty of Walden Media on the Chronicles of Narnia, and Kiel Murray & Phil Lorin on Cars and their short film Kilo.

Shutters

It inspired me to work harder to try to create more of the good, true, beautiful and ridiculous.