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Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken

Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken

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Tony Hale asked me to moderate his interview on Apple TV’s “Meet the Filmmaker.”   Here’s some of the wisdom he shared (not all of this made the final cut of the show.)

Gracious Leaders Inspire Creativity

Armando Iannucci, creator of HBO’s Veep, built a brilliant team of genuinely friendly and supportive people, which gives the cast a great deal of freedom.  The actors don’t need to be cautious to tiptoe around egos.  This fosters a fun, relaxed environment that encourages risk-taking.

I would imagine that kind-hearted actors are also required for the show, since much of the comedy comes from hilarious, caustic insults, certainly to be true to life inside the beltway.  One of the first audience questions was “What’s your favorite Jonah insult?”  Turns out it’s a barb from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, speaking to Matt Walsh about Timothy Simon’s character: “You let that unstable piece of human scaffolding into your house?” Critics agree — that berating ranked #3 on Hollywood.com’s list.  If you’re still considering your favorites, reference the research from the Chicago Tribune and Rolling Stone (headphones are suggested for this video).

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Early in his career, Tony was acting in plays and  TV commercials in NYC as he focused on his dream of working on a sitcom.   After he finally landed the role, he realized it didn’t offer the satisfaction he had anticipated, and later reflected that there was no way the experience could ever live up to the expectations he had imagined.  He had missed out on being in-the-moment and truly enjoying some of his earlier experiences.  This lesson of contentment inspired him to write a children’s book, Archibald’s Next Big Thing.

Follow the Fear

Tony shared insight into some of the scary moments in his life.  One was on the morning of the 2013 Emmy awards, when  Julia Louis-Dreyfus called him with an idea for a comedy bit to use in an acceptance speech.  A last minute, unrehearsed live routine in front of 18 million people — what’s scary about that?

The other fear that controls Tony’s life:  Claire Underwood.  BuzzFeed documented the brutal Twitter threat-down.

ClaireUnderwood

Watch our discussion on Apple TV or download via iTunes “Meet the Filmmaker” episode 25.  https://itun.es/i66n8RD

For more on the poultry theme, watch Tony as the mustachioed video store owner-turned detective and Andy Richter sidekick in one of the best ever TV comedy episodes in the history of the world.  Andy Barker P.I., produced by Conan O’Brien.  “Three Days of the Chicken, available on Hulu+, Amazon or iTunes.

Andy Barker P.I.

Catch Veep on HBO, Sundays at 10:30 PM ET.

UPDATE:  Tony Hale on The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable

, on being content where you are.

Veep_Tony_Julia

 

Improv with the CIO

Improv with the CIO

Our Voice of the Customer marketing team has been exploring creative approaches for our customer interview videos.  At a recent CIO conference we asked a few adventurous executives if they would be willing to try something a little more entertaining.

Dinner with the CIO

At any C-level executive event, there is a lot of pressure on the events team to make sure everything goes smoothly.   The agenda is managed very closely, so we only had about 15 minutes for these interviews.   Thankfully, it was one of those wonderful occasions where everything went our way.  Our amazing events team worked with the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel staff to get us access to film in one of the restaurants during the day before it opened for dinner.   All of the CIOs were fabulous!  We had created just enough structure to the scene to make it easy to improvise, and they all seemed to have a fun time and enjoy the experience.

Ann Handley shares more of the backstory in her post, Humor and B2B Marketing:  A Love Story.

 

Sunset at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Improv Rules for the Conference Call – #INBOUND13

I studied improv under Amy Poehler at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater for two  years before she joined SNL.  While she’s the most brilliant improviser I’ve ever witnessed, she’s also one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, following only Ms. Reed, my sophomore Latin teacher in the stack rankings.   She has the gift of encouragement, and when you’re learning to perform The Harold — a long form improv format where a troupe perform a 30 minute show based on a single audience suggestion — encouragement is needed.

Some of the most terrifying moments in my life occurred in my early days of improv.  After learning a few simple principles, I began to feel comfortable stepping out on stage in front of a full audience with nothing but trust for my team and an empty mind, ready to discover the show.  I reluctantly began to understand what Del Close meant when he preached, “Follow the Fear.”

In the world of corporate communication and content marketing, it’s fear that keeps us from our best.  Fear to be different, fear of not getting promoted, fear of failure.  When I’ve applied the rules I learned in my corporate life, it’s lead to my biggest successes.   I’ll talk about three of these rules at #INBOUND13, Wednesday 12 noon, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.  Swing by if you’re in town.  I’ll post the video when it’s live.

 

 

The Work Talk Show:  Humor at Work and Being Unqualified

The Work Talk Show: Humor at Work and Being Unqualified

As with most worthwhile projects I stumble into, when DJ Waldow and Nick Westergaard invited me to be on The Work Talk Show, I felt unqualified.  But I said yes anyway.   To avoid sounding unqualified, I scrambled to come up with anything that sounded like a step or a process or an iPad app that I use to get work done, but we never really got around to those bullet points.  Like a good improv show, we started out with a little structure, and found ourselves on a much more fascinating path.

The Work Talk Show

I confessed to the hosts that I have no idea how I get work done, and it seems like most of the time I am not getting work done.  My projects usually start with a request like, “Hey, can you produce a funny YouTube video to amplify our marketing message for the upcoming product launch?”  I’ll say yes, then block off the next 4 -5 hours to feel unqualified.  Day 2 in the project schedule is usually dedicated to self-loathing, and by EOD, I’ve concluded I shouldn’t even be in corporate comedy and should apply for a lateral move into Accounts Payable or Procurement. The following morning I’ll stop at a coffee shop and write the script in seven minutes on a napkin and ATM receipts.  And the video comes out okay.

But instead of discussing work process on this show, we discussed how more comedy and humor in the workplace can improve creativity, productivity, and make us all taller.  And, as with all business podcasts, we covered Del Close and  The Harold.

I’m only just not coming to peace with this way of working.  And I was comforted after listening to the first Work Talk Show episode of this year.   Seth Godin proclaimed that the industrial economy has been replaced by the Connection Economy, which rewards surprise, grit, delight and ridiculousness.   What we get paid for now is by standing for something, and by overcoming the fear of being remarkable and ridiculous.

Being ridiculous?  Now that is something I’m qualified for.

How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?

The New York Times Magazine article suggests there are three Stephen Colberts.  I’d submit that there are four, considering the hip-hop Colbert who performed Empire State of Mind with Alicia Keys. (thanks Matt McMahon!)

A few years back Tom Purcell, executive producer of The Colbert Report (pictured next to Dr. Colbert ) taught a writing class at the P.I.T.  He spent six Saturday afternoons with us reviewing how the staff approaches writing The Word and the other classic bits, and generously offered to extend the class a few more weeks to help us develop our writer’s packet.  I managed to write a few pieces I was happy with, including one for the Threat Down segment, but struggled with insecurity to finish a strong packet.

I’ll accept David Meerman Scott’s challenge to make 2012 the year of courage.

Backstage with the Rockettes

Saturday our family went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.   One of my friends from the improv community Stacey, is in the show.  We performed together in a troupe at Magnet Theater, and after our shows we’d grab a cheeseburger at the  Triple Crown Ale House, an improv hangout.   It was always a blast to be in a scene with Stacey — she’s a brilliant improviser, and if I remember correctly, she had the best high kicks in our troupe.

It’s hard to find the right adjective to describe the Christmas Spectacular.

Radio City Christmas Show - Rockettes-2photo: Bob Jagendorf

The “Missouri Rockets” were founded in St. Louis in 1925, long before the very first Christmas.    They opened at  Radio City Music Hall in 1932, followed a few years later by Conan O’Brien.

Nativity

We had such a blast watching our kids light up.  We did too.  Stacey took us backstage after the show to see all the props and costumes, and the camel’s dressing room, who is a bit of a diva and constantly demanding Evian.

Backstage with the Rockettes

Stacey couldn’t join us for lunch as she had to get ready for her second performance (on some days, she dances in four shows.)  We headed out to Petite Abeille to tackle the Banana Split Brussels Waffle, as seen on the Travel Channel’s “Breakfast Paradise.”   No celebrity sightings, but the last time my daughter and I dined there, we sat close enough to Aaron Eckhart to eavesdrop on his script writing session for his next feature.

Yelp gives Triple Crown 3 out of 5 stars.

About the Cheeseburger & Comedy series.

When Powerpoint Attacks: 6 survival tips

pptattacks

If you forced me to rank the places where I would most prefer not to look like an idiot, the Harvard Kennedy School would come in fourth.   Or maybe sixth.  Some of history’s most eminent figures have spoken there, like Jack Donaghy.
But even after a successful tech-check before the presentation, things can go terribly wrong.  Especially if you’ve embedded videos into a powerpoint presentation.

I was attempting to show two commercials, but another video popped up, and what’s worse, the audio was out of synch with the video.  But here’s what I’ve learned:

1)    Take a deep breath and relax.  You’re still in control of how you respond.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from a decade of standup comedy is that audiences are incredibly empathetic.   If you’re having a good time, they are.  If you’re stressed out, they are.  Audiences want you to be successful.   It’s important that you understand and remind yourself that they are rooting for you.

2)    Bring backup.  I always carry a copy of my presentation on a USB stick and load the file on a backup presentation computer if available — the AV folks usually have one.

3)  Bring a short 3-4 minute video about your topic on a DVD.  Give it to the AV folks during the tech run-through.  If there is a problem, they can play your video to give the audience something to watch other than you sweating, while the tech folks are resolving the issue.

4) Take an improv class.  You may have to do it on a dare.  I came very close to running out of my first improv class in 1998 at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater.  It was scary to get through, but has changed my life.  Give it a shot.

5) Have an alternative slide-free version of your story ready to tell.  It’s important to be ready to present a compelling case without powerpoint slides, as I sometimes have to do when negotiating with my wife.  Hard to believe but history has witnessed a few speeches that went pretty well without foils and an overhead projector:  the Gettysburg Address, the Sermon on the Mount and King Henry V’s Crispian Day speech.  To be fair, one of those speakers relied on 3×5 index cards and was a fictional character.

6)    Get a Mac.

Filibuster – Cablevision iO commercial

NYC Improv Festival

Our improv troupe, Brian’s Epic Tan was selected this year to perform in the Del Close Improv Festival along with the big guns from 30 Rock, SNL, Conan, The Daily Show, etc. Check out our schedule on Facebook and come see a show.

Update:  News coverage of the Del Close Improv Marathon via WNYC.

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