Season 3, Episode 6: Transcript
Veanne: Hello, and welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio. We’re your hosts, Veanne Smith and Sarah Lodato. We’re so excited to have our listeners join us for another episode of Season 3 where our topic is innovation. We’re talking with business leaders about how they have incorporated innovative ideas into the workplace. In today’s episode, we’re excited to be exploring the world of comedy. You might be wondering what this has to do with innovation in business but once you get to know our guest, Marshall Chiles, founder of the Laughing School Comedy Lounge, you’ll understand the impact a good laugh can have in workplace environments.
Marshall weaves comedy into his work as a business consultant and is a huge proponent for connecting to the human side of the business you do as an entrepreneur to nurture success within your team and with your clients.
Sarah: Marshall speaks to business leaders all over the country on the importance of the light-hearted side of humanity in the workplace, making comedy attainable in workplace presentations and team environments to increase overall engagement and togetherness. He serves as a board member of the Entrepreneurs Organizations, an active participant in the business community, as well as a long-time standup comedian. We hope we can all get some good laughs as well as insight into making our own workplace as speckled with innovative ways to engage our teams during today’s episode.
Hi, Marshall, and welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio.
Marshall: Hello, thank you very much for having me.
Veanne: It’s great to have you here in the studio today, so let’s get rolling. How about it?
Marshall: Let’s do that.
Veanne: All right, so before we jump right in and learn more about how you’re changing the way businesses weave comedy into presentations, we’d love to first hear a little bit more about your career path and how that led to coaching other businesses in this area.
Marshall: Sure. Before I got into comedy, I had my own businesses. I was part of the dot-com boom and bust, mostly part of the bust.
Veanne: Yeah, I remember those days.
Marshall: Yeah, it was exciting days.
Veanne: I bet you learned something from it, though.
Marshall: Oh, totally, I learned tons. I learned I don’t want to be in the – [laughs] no. I was 30 years old. I had a little bit of coin in my pocket, and I had debt-free. I didn’t have a girlfriend or anything. I was like well, my childhood dream was to do standup comedy, so I got into standup comedy. I knew the business world before getting into comedy. Actually, my plan when I was seven years old was to grow up, have a business, be successful, use that money to get into the arts and not be a starving artist. I grew up poor and I didn’t want to be poor as an adult. I was like, I really want to do comedy, but I’m not going to be a starving artist. Well, it kind of worked out like that.
Sarah: That’s amazing insight or foresight, I guess, to be able to plan for that and think about it growing up.
Marshall: Yeah, it’s interesting to look back and realize wow, I did it. It’s been interesting. I had all that information before I went into comedy, and then I realized that Atlanta comedy, back in the year 2000, had the Punchline, which was one of the best clubs in the country, and Uptown, and that was it. There wasn’t a lot of stuff. Being an entrepreneur, I was like wow, this town really needs – there’s a void here. I opened the Funny Farm Comedy Club, or it was already open. I took over the Funny Farm Comedy Club up in Roswell. Do y’all remember the Funny Farm, by any chance?
Veanne: I do not.
Sarah: I don’t.
Marshall: It was in an entertainment complex. It was called Star Time, and it was like a Dave & Buster’s.
Sarah: Oh, my gosh, I’ve been there.
Marshall: Yeah, Star Time.
Sarah: Yeah, a while ago. Is it still –
Marshall: No, it ended in 2009, I think.
Sarah: I think I went in 2007.
Marshall: Yeah, so Star Time was like a Dave & Buster’s if Dave was a crystal meth head.
Marshall: It was not a nice place. You know what I’m saying?
Sarah: Oh, gosh.
Marshall: [Laughs] I started off as a road comic. I was dating my wife, and then I got into comedy. We were just starting dating, and there was a time where there was several conversations of hey, this relationship’s not going to work out if you keep going down that road. I knew I wanted to marry her, so I just figured out a way to get on stage and sleep in my own bed at night.
Veanne: That’s great. Failure wasn’t an option, it sounds like. You were determined.
Marshall: That’s exactly right, especially opening the Laughing Skull Lounge because the Funny Farm had closed. Star Time actually closed and took the Funny Farm down with them. There were several times the first year starting the Laughing Skull Lounge – it’s an 80-seat comedy club. Most people tell you you can’t do that. I knew I could. She’d come down at 1 in the morning when I was working that first year, made $10,000 working 80 hours a week, doing everything myself, and she’s like, “Are you sure? Are you sure?”
Sarah: Okay, are we done having fun yet now? [Laughs]
Marshall: Exactly. [Laughs]
Veanne: That’s right there at the Vortex, right?
Marshall: Yeah, it’s inside the Vortex in Midtown. As an entrepreneur, business people out there – at that time, I was like, I don’t have any other choice, Laura. This is what I have to make this work. it reminded me of An Officer and a Gentleman. Remember when he’s trying to make – Lou Gossett’s trying to make him quit and putting the hose on him. He’s like, “I’m not going to quit.” He’s like, “Alright then, you’re fired.” He’s like, “You can’t do that.” He’s like, “Why not?” “Because I have no place to go.” He won an Oscar nomination for that, and that scene was a big part of it. That’s exactly the feeling that I had as a – building this, what I’ve built. It was like, there’s no other options. I can’t do anything else.
Veanne: I don’t know how to do anything else. [Laughs]
Veanne: That’s awesome.
Sarah: Good story.
Marshall: Made it work.
Veanne: That’s awesome.
Sarah: Good story. All right, so I’m going to switch gears a little bit here and focus specifically on corporate presentations. That’s something that’s near and dear to us. I’d love to know why you focus on this particular element of company communication in general, so just the presentation and then how the idea sparked for you to create your presentation as a joke.
Marshall: Sure. As a comedian, we watch other comedians, and we write what’s called tags. Oh, it’d be funny if he said this. It’d be funny if he said that. For years, I was doing that, and I was working with some of the biggest comedians in the business from the Funny Farm and also at Laughing Skull Lounge. That’s just a skill that I had. It’s a muscle that’s been built. I was like, you know what? I wonder if I could help my friends that are in sales, add humor to their sales presentations. My best friend’s in sales, so I worked with him and it worked. Then another person worked. Then it was like all right, well, I’m just going to do it in presentations because it falls across the board, and that’s how it came about. I was already doing that for comedians. Then you watch regular presentations as business presentations, it’d be funny if he said that. It’d be funny if he said that. They don’t have jokes.
Veanne: I was going to say, you were thinking they needed to be a little bit more lively.
Marshall: Right, so I’m just flexing that muscle anyways. Then I was like, all right, why don’t I charge for this, because it works?
Sarah: I love that because I feel like comedy in general – when you’re watching a standup comedian or whatever it is, a lot of the humor is grounded in reality that somebody can connect to, right?
Marshall: That’s right.
Sarah: You’re leveling the playing field, so it completely makes sense that you would try to – where are the most compelling arguments or most compelling statements that need that kind of leveling of the playing field? In a company environment where you’re trying to convince someone of something or get people rallied around something, it’s something I never really thought about, being so intentional about it.
Marshall: Yeah, and using humor in your communication for work is actually more important for internal communication than external communication because if you can’t get your team members to help you accomplish what you need to accomplish or you get any kind of resistance there, you’re not going to be able to do your job to the best of your ability.
Sarah: Exactly. It just makes it more human, too. I think it’s great.
Marshall: That’s right. That’s what I say, too. One of my favorite sayings is it’s not B2B or B2C. It’s H2H, human to human.
Sarah: Somebody wrote something – I was on LinkedIn or something, and I saw something about that. I was like, yeah, [laughs] let’s do that.
Veanne: Why didn’t I think of that?
Sarah: It’s funny because there was that joke about corporations are people, too, which I know is very controversial. I don’t know if you guys remember that. I embrace it because it’s true. It’s groups of people, whatever the context is. Anyway, I know an entertaining presentation’s obviously beneficial for both parties. The audience gets to spend time enjoying content that’ll hopefully stick, and the speaker gets a more engaged audience to deliver that message. Are there other benefits that you see beyond just maybe just the more effective communication or both people are in a comfortable place coming from a comedy-infused presentation, if you will?
Marshall: Yes, what I say is when you use humor, you increase engagement, and you also increase likeability. If you make somebody smile or laugh, it raises their endorphins. If you’re the person that makes them happy, then they’re going to like you. If you’re doing a presentation, you’re either trying to get people to change their minds or to take action. If they like you, they’re more inclined to do whatever –
Veanne: More inclined to take action or do what you say to do.
Marshall: That’s exactly right.
Veanne: That’s good. All right, well, you mentioned the workplace, so let’s talk more about that. I imagine adding humor into a company presentation works well for organizations that already have that type of culture that’s humorous and light-hearted. How can companies without that inherent culture incorporate comedy? What is your advice maybe to businesses that want to add some humor to the way they communicate with their teams? Can you share any advice on people that are stuffy and [laughs] how do they become more funny? I don’t know.
Marshall: Yes, totally. That’s one of the greatest things that I could get from speaking with people is that people can take action right away. They change their behavior right away after listening to me because the low-hanging fruit to do this is funny images.
Sarah: Yeah. That’s great.
Marshall:Go to Google Images. Put in whatever the subject is, plus funny, and you’ll find a funny image that matches what you’re trying to say. Then put in your emails. Put it in your company newsletter. That’s the low-hanging fruit.
I worked with sales teams, and one time I gave a presentation. The sales guy came out. After talking to everybody afterwards, he came back in a few minutes later, and said, “Hey, you now what? I used that image that you said. This one person never gets back to me. I’ll let you know how it goes.” Talking, talking, talking, about five minutes later he comes in, and he goes, “The guy finally got back to me.” The funny image works.
You got all these different images. Hey, been waiting around for you. I have a picture of a skeleton sitting on a bench. It’s been a while since I heard from you, and stuff like that. I’ve got a funny picture of a dog sitting in a sink looking out the window. I’m really looking forward to meeting with you. Stuff like that. It works. It works. I did a speech for Marriott, and the Director of Sales for a week was just forwarding me all these emails from her sales team about how they used the image, and it worked.
Veanne: It reminds me. In my texting life, I’ve gotten to using bitmojis now, and so it’s interesting. You can have a dialogue, and sometimes you won’t get anybody to come back. If I inject a bitmoji, it usually elicits some conversation, right?
Marshall: That’s right.
Sarah: There’s a deeper connection.
Veanne: Yeah. It is.
Sarah: Like in animage.
Veanne: Yeah. It elicits some emotion, I guess, that gets you motivated to do something, right, or to act. I guess I would ask the question; can you do it too much? If you start doing it every time, now you present a goofball that nobody respects anymore. Can you overdo it I guess I would ask?
Marshall: It depends in what area. If you’re doing a presentation, I always say, look, you don’t want to do any more than humor every three minutes or so.
Veanne: There you go. That’s what I was wondering. Is there a guidance? Yeah. I would think you could overdo it.
Marshall: Yeah. I think you can overdo it. What I always tell people is, look, you want to start off with a joke. You want to do humor at your transition points and just before your key message. People pay most attention just after you use humor because they want to hear what you’re going to say next. If you get a humor point out and everybody starts laughing, and then you have your call to action, they’re paying the most attention right then and there. You know?
Veanne: Yeah. It’s good.
Marshall: Beginning, transition points, and at the end, at your call to action.
Veanne: Very good. There’s our nugget for the day.
Sarah: I know. I love that. I’m going to try to start being more intentional about that.
Veanne: I am too. Yeah.
Marshall: It’s not that hard. I’m telling you, man. It’s the images.
Veanne: I don’t do it today. It’s not me naturally.
Sarah: Images is a great idea, though, because all of us laugh at those types of things. Trying to come up with a joke, or finding yourself physically comfortable relaying a joke, or something like that can be very difficult. You feel very self-conscious, but if it’s something that somebody else has created and you’re just sharing it, I feel like it relieves a lot of the pressure.
Veanne: Yeah. It does. Yeah. I agree that.
Sarah: That’s awesome.
Marshall: If you do the images, I recommend making a folder on your desktop so that whatever images you find you save them there. If you find one but it’s not able to be used in that email or that newsletter, go ahead and put it in that folder. I have so many. I have hundreds. I just go to my folder, and I start looking for it.
Veanne:You can see what’s appropriate. You found it. Maybe you couldn’t use it then, but you can use it now.
Marshall: That’s exactly right.
Veanne: You’re saving it.
Sarah: I have a folder on my desktop called GIFs, and I have tried to title all of them so that they’re really specific to laughing, dancing, celebration, celebration happy. It’s very odd. I hope no one ever digs through them. The titles are so weird and specific to me.
Marshall: Of course you turned out to be a serial killer. Look at these.
Sarah: She’s got six Come Here’s. You don’t have to share the names if you don’t feel comfortable, but just good stories, I guess, of companies that have adopted this approach, and have permanently switched from not having humor to having humor in the workplace with their team.
Marshall: Yeah. The three that come to mind is this one company called Elite SEM. They’re one of the top SEM searching and marketing companies out there. They were one of my first clients, and they’ve worked with me a few times since then. Right away, they were applying the humor and images, and stuff like that. He was one of the people that got me into the organization YPO, and so I did a webinar for YPO. He did the intro for me, and it was just kudos, kudos, kudos. It changed their culture, and they already had a fun culture, which incidentally, that webinar won an award. I’m actually a YPO award winning presenter, which is crazy.
Sarah:Oh, that’s awesome.
Marshall: They were just nothing but rock stars.
Veanne: Yeah, those presenters. Yeah.
Marshall: Then, again, what’s my competition?
Veanne: Right. You stand out easily, right?
Sarah: That’s great.
Marshall: SEM and then there’s Headsets.com. I’ve worked with their sales team about three times now. They just keep coming back, and say, hey, we want to keep working with you. They do great with headsets. Headsets.com, they’ve changed it and then, also, Marriott, from working with Marriott. Like I said, the Director of Sales just sent me all those letters. I’m trying to think of some other people that I know that just continuously come back to me. 22squared, I did an event for 22squared and then, also, Moxie.
What I’m also doing now is I do these things called internal comedy shows, which is a stand-up comedy show, but the people that are performing are people that work at the company. I work one-on-one with them. We come up with a five-minute routine. We have seven of these people do it, and then we have some professional comedians close it out. 22squared and Moxie both said we’re still talking about this, and we’re still applying humor in the workplace.
Veanne: Have you done that for holiday parties or for quarterly…
Marshall: I’ve done it for all of it: annual parties, holiday parties.
Veanne: We have to think about that, Sarah.
Marshall: Yeah and also just standalone. Moxie was just like, hey, we want to just have a fun time. It falls under entertainment. It falls under team building. What happens is we make posters, comedy club posters with their headshots on it. We put them all around the offices, so these people are rock stars in the office that do it. Last one we did with 22squared, they got standing ovations going on the stage and off the stage.
Veanne: That’s awesome.
Sarah: That’s so cool.
Veanne: I want a standing ovation. Can you help me?
Sarah: What a confidence booster.
Sarah: Yeah. Can you just work with the two of us?
Marshall: Yeah. That’s what I do.
Veanne: Okay. Yeah, we’ll think about that, seriously. We’ll talk about that later.
Sarah: Yeah. I love that. I think it’s cool when you bring people around. We try to do some goofy stuff as a team. You could go into any environment, and think it’s just a very serious environment, right? We’re doing really difficult work, very challenging, very rewarding, but the second you introduce something that’s just human to share, everybody just lights up. I think it’s amazing, and I think what you’re doing is amazing. It’s something that I think is deeply in all of us, right?
Sarah: We were all kids at some point. We were all goofballs.
Marshall: Everybody loves to laugh.
Marshall: Everybody loves to smile. You know?
Marshall: What Corporate America has been based off is the military business model. Did you all know this?
Veanne: I guess I didn’t know it, but it makes sense.
Sarah: Mind control.
Marshall: Yeah. During the Industrial Revolution and all these companies were growing so quickly…
Veanne: It came out in the military.
Marshall:They had to say, oh, what other organization is structured of this size? It was the military.
Sarah: Totally makes sense. Yeah.
Marshall: That’s why there’s such hierarchy, and if you go out of the hierarchy, you get popped on the head. There’s silos and all that stuff. If you look at how the military’s run, you look at how Corporate America’s been built. Now, with the Millennials…
Veanne: It’s changing now.
Marshall: It’s changing it all, exactly. That’s, I think, where a lot of like you’re not allowed to laugh. It’s like, dude. One of my favorite sayings is it’s not businesses do business with other businesses. It’s people doing business with other people.
Sarah: Yeah. I love that.
Veanne: Yeah. That’s great. You mentioned YPO and winning your awards there. I also understand you’re a board member at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and I think it’s a global organization, right, that engages entrepreneurs to learn and grow together.
Veanne: I’m really curious as to how you got involved and what took you there. Were you looking for advice and counsel as your own business owner and entrepreneur, or was it more that you wanted to take your humor and comedy to help other entrepreneurs as we’re talking about today? I guess, why did you go there?
Marshall: It was really to go and take the learning.
Veanne: You went there to learn. Okay.
Marshall: Yes. I can’t say enough positive things about EO. EO and YPO are the two best business organizations I’ve ever met and been a part of. EO, I’ve gotten tons of people to join because it really does work, and so I decided I wanted to grow up as a business person. You know? When your whole career is based off making people laugh, it’s really easy to just go through life, and oh, I make enough to pay for my family and blah, blah, blah. We got a nice house. Then I was like you know what? It’s time for me to grow up. I learned so much from EO, and I’m very active in it and very much love it. I’ve learned tons.
Veanne: Yeah. That’s great. I’m in an organization that’s probably somewhat similar called Vistage. Similar, we have all walks of life. You might have the surgeon who is particularly talented in surgery, but doesn’t really know how to run a business.
Marshall: Yeah. Vistage is another great organization.
Veanne: Yeah. It’s good. Yeah. I enjoy it. I’ve been in it for almost 20 years, I think. Yeah. I’m sure there are a lot of people that are listening to us maybe looking for an organization like that. I know, in my travels, I talked a lot about it, and people are always interested. I think it’s great for us to talk about that here so people have some avenues where they can go. If you want to be in a group where there’s a person who brings comedy, go to Entrepreneurs’ Organization, right?
Marshall: Hey-O. Yeah.
Sarah: I think that, in the business world in general, there’s this idea that if you’re that very spontaneous, creative person, it’s almost in opposition to business, right?
Sarah: Like the structure. What I really love about it, I mean, I think I’m fairly creative, is it actually establishes structure around the things that you shouldn’t have to worry about, right, so that you can have dedicated order and success and a process so that your mind is freed up for the creative things that you’re doing. It creates the platform so that you can shine in those areas rather than being maybe the struggling artist. That you’re never going to really get the platform to practice your craft or whatever it might be.
Marshall: Right. You’re saying that, in the business world, because of the structure that’s in there it gives you the stability to where you can then also have a little bit of that – I think everyone’s heard dogs don’t play if they’re scared. Dogs only play when they feel safe.
Marshall: That’s what you’re saying, right?
Sarah: Yeah. For me, it’s been those types of practices. Just providing structure professionally and learning to be a leader and to do better work with other people, it allows you to just be better at the creative fun stuff, I think.
Marshall: Right. Yeah.
Veanne: Marshall, I also read that you lead corporate comedy roasts.
Veanne: Is this in line with what we would see on Comedy Central?
Marshall: Yes, in a sense, but it’s got to be corporate clean. That’s the difference.
Veanne: Yes. That’s where my head is going. How do you ensure that it’s safe? How do you ensure it’s a safe environment while having a good time? How do you do that and not offend, I guess?
Marshall: Right. I have what’s called the humor rules. Keep it above the belt. Stay away from religion and politics. Stay away from unsafe subjects. Don’t make fun of any group or people. I mean, especially the Germans, I mean, right? They’ve taken on the world twice and almost won. Don’t want to upset them.
Marshall: Yeah. You just follow those rules, and that’s what I also do when I do these internal comedy shows. It’s the same thing. I would work with a team. I’d be like, all right, we’re going to do a roast. I’m going to be the roastmaster, and then you five are going to be on the dais instead of doing that. I got a lot of resistance from roasts because they were like, oh, that’s going to be the Comedy Central one. HR and legal steps in and go we can’t do this.
We try to explain. No, no, no. The jokes are corporate clean, and you get to approve the jokes. Oh, we should just say no. That’s how it got morphed into internal comedy shows. I’m like, hey, we’re just going to do a stand-up comedy show now. People can wrap their head around that much easier.
Veanne: What value comes out of it? Is there value? I mean, can you talk about the value that comes out of it?
Marshall: Of what, the internal comedy shows or the roasting?
Veanne: Yeah. The roast, I mean, what’s the value in the roast? I mean, it’s just the fun? I mean, anything else?
Marshall: It’s a fun event. Also, when the leaders laugh at themselves…
Veanne: That’s where I was going. Yeah. Uh-huh.
Marshall: Right, exactly.
Veanne: Make them more real.
Marshall: That’s right.
Veanne: They can relate.
Marshall: I think Inc. Magazine was one that I got a quote from this. It says that “when leaders laugh at themselves and use self-deprecating humor, they appear more trusted, likeable, and caring.”
Veanne: There you go.
Marshall: That’s what self-deprecating humor does for you. It’s amazing. It’s a very powerful tool. What’s interesting about self-deprecating that I learned on this is that, women, it fails for women 70% of the time because of the socioeconomic mindset or socio-status mindset of women are not powerful, and so, oh, well, of course she’s making jokes about her not being good. It’s weird. That’s a weird thing. If you’re a position of power and you do self-deprecating, it doesn’t hurt you, but if you’re in a position or perceived position of not having power, it can hurt you in the workplace.
Veanne: That makes sense. Yeah. That makes sense. You’re dealing with self-esteem issues already and maybe don’t’ feel confident enough. It may impact the woman so puts her in a lower playing field.
Marshall: Yeah. You’ve got to be very careful when you use self-deprecating humor as a woman in the workplace, and don’t blame me. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Sarah: You just ruined my whole shtick.
Veanne: Yeah, but you’re confident, Sarah. You do just fine. Yeah.
Sarah: It’s literally my life.
Marshall: You know what, though? That’s just it. Anybody can have it backfire. You what I mean?
Veanne: Right, of course. That was where I was going.
Sarah: You just walk out of the room. Everyone feels sorry for you. They’re like, oh, shoot. That’s great.
Veanne: That’s good. Okay.
Sarah: This is definitely a cliché question, but we have to know. I’m a huge fan of comedy, so I’d just love to know who your favorite comedian is. Maybe whoever it might have been that inspired your style or the fact that you became a comedian. Yeah.
Marshall: It’s such a loaded question because there’s been so many great comedians throughout history. I was first influenced by Lenny Bruce as a kid, and I didn’t even really realize it. His Thank You Mask Man, which was a joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and I was a big Lone Ranger fan. I just thought it was…
Sarah: Love Lone Ranger. Yeah.
Marshall: Yeah, exactly. I’m a big fan of Lenny Bruce. I think Dave Chappelle is amazing.
Sarah: Oh, he’s my favorite. Yeah.
Marshall: Yeah. He’s great. He’s so smart. Then Hannibal Buress is another one of my favorites. A lot of people don’t know who he is. He’s the one who actually took down Bill Cosby. He’s the one who had that joke. He was doing it at an open mike, and somebody recorded. He said he would only do those jokes at open mikes because he didn’t want it to get out there. A guy in the audience recorded it, and put it on it. That’s how that all came about.
Veanne: I didn’t know that.
Sarah: I didn’t know that. Do you watch Broad City?
Marshall: No. I don’t.
Sarah:Hannibal Buress is on Broad City.
Marshall: Yeah. He is amazing.
Sarah:He is amazing. He’s a very subtle character.
Marshall: Then, also, I’ll tell you one of my other favorite other comedians is Gary Golman, G-O-L-M-A-N. He’s actually going to be at the Laughing Skull Lounge in April, I think, which I’m surprised, but I’ve been friends with him for so long. He could do a much bigger venue.
One time I was talking to him. I was like, “Hey, Gary. Who’s your favorite comedian these days?” He goes, “I am.” I go, “Really?” He goes, “Yeah. Shouldn’t every comedian want to be their favorite comedian?” I finally have reached that, and I was like that’s a very…
Sarah: That’s a perspective. Yeah.
Veanne: That’s confident. Yeah. That’s confident.
Marshall: He’s great. He’s super clean. He’s smart. He went to Boston College on a football scholarship.
Veanne: Where’s he from?
Marshall: I think he grew up in Boston.
Sarah:I feel like that’s a challenge. That feels like that’s a challenge to the comedy world, right? Hey, guys, I am the best in my eyes. Somebody prove me wrong. You know?
Marshall: Right. Right. I get it, though. It’s like I’m writing the jokes that I like that make me laugh. These are my favorite jokes. It took him 20 years to get there. You know what I mean? When you’re an artist, you’re just peeling back layers of the onion, layers of onion. What I noticed in the 16, 17 years I’ve been in the business is the ones that really pop are the ones that get brutally honest.
Sarah: I was about to ask. What is it about those comedians that you like? Yeah.
Veanne: Those that you like. Yeah.
Marshall: The honesty, brutal honesty, perception, being able to get to the core of things. I say what makes people laugh is the unknown known or the known unknown. Have you ever been watching somebody perform comedy, and they say something like, oh, my gosh, I thought the exact same thing? I just couldn’t say that. I just couldn’t put the words to it, articulate it. You know? That’s what it is. When you point out the unknown known or the known unknown, it makes it work.
Jerry Seinfeld also said that a premise is like a launch ramp, and the punch line is a landing ramp. If they’re too close together, it’s too easy of a joke. If they’re too far apart, people won’t get it. It has to be the right distance.
Sarah: Enough to blow you mind, right? I didn’t know it was going there.
Marshall: Then also what I say makes people laugh is when you connect two things that normally aren’t connected, but they make sense in the way you did it. That’s what tickles the brain. You’re making a new connection. It tickles your brain. Oh, that works. You got the perfect landing ramp. That’s what I say, making those connections.
It’s what I tell people too is, when we’re writing jokes together, whether they’re a comedian, or a CEO, or whatever, you got to lay the bread crumbs. Anybody ever told you a joke and nobody laughed, and afterwards they go, oh, I forgot to tell the dude was a doctor? It’s a very important bread crumb. You lay the bread crumbs along the way, and then boom, the surprise. That’s the trick to comedy. The trick to comedy is surprise. That’s why if you hear a joke a second time, it doesn’t work as well, right?
Sarah: Yeah, except for my favorite. Would you like to hear my favorite joke?
Marshall: I would love to hear your favorite joke.
Veanne: Yeah. Let’s do it.
Sarah: I’m so excited. Most people don’t get it.
Veanne: Keep it clean.
Sarah: It’s totally clean, Veanne. I have a reputation. No. What did the zero say to the eight?
Sarah: Nice belt.
Veanne: That’s good.
Sarah: It’s so silly. It just creates such a great visual in my mind. It’s so silly.
Veanne: It’s a good one. Yeah.
Marshall: That’s so funny.
Veanne: Yeah. That’s a good one. That’s cute.
Sarah: I know. It’s like a zero with a little cinch waist.
Veanne: That’s cute.
Marshall: One of my favorite comedians also is a guy named Emo Philips. He comes to Laughing Skull Lounge every Valentine’s Day weekend. He was our first comedian. In England, in the UK, they look at comedy way better than America does. It gets reviewed in the paper. I mean, they really have comedy on the high level over there. They rank these jokes, and Emo Philips joke was number one in the UK, the people that judge. I know I’m not doing it nearly as good of justice he does.
These two guys run into each other in England. One guy says, “I’m from America.” The second guy goes, “Oh, I’m from America.”“Oh, I’m from Georgia.”“Oh, I’m from Georgia.”“I’m from Atlanta.”“Oh, I’m from Atlanta.”“I’m from Cobb County.”“I’m from Cobb County.”
“I’m from East Cobb County.”“Oh, my gosh, I’m from East Cobb County.”“I’m a Baptist.”“I’m a Southern Baptist.”“Heretic!”
Veanne: Oh, that’s too fun. Oh, that’s good.
Sarah: That’s good. That’s good. Awesome.
Veanne: Great way to end.
Sarah: Yeah. This has been super fun. I would love to know. If our listeners want to learn more about the things that you’re doing, where can they go to get more information on what you’re up to?
Marshall: Humor Wins, humor-W-I-N-S-dot-com, humorwins.com, you can see that I’ve got my book up there called Your Presentation is a Joke. I just put it all into the book. That’s great too. If you’re thinking about doing this, you don’t have to hire me. You can get my book. If you want it for free, you can email me. I’ll send you the PDF.
Veanne: That’s nice.
Marshall: My goal in life is to bring more laughter to the world.
Veanne: Help us laugh.
Sarah: I like that.
Marshall: Exactly. I’m more than happy. If you’re going to read my book and apply it, you’re going to bring more laughter to the world.
Sarah: Yep. I love that.
Veanne: That’s perfect. That’s for bringing some laughter into our podcast room today. It’s really, really been more fun than usual.
Veanne: We appreciate that. Thanks for being on Atlanta Business Impact Radio today.
Marshall: Thank you.