Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Marian Daniells.
After I applied to work at Peppercomm, I heard whisperings about the firm’s comedy training, and researched more before my interviews. Having grown up in community and school theater, I assumed that the lessons gleaned from comedy training would be presentation skills – the confidence to stand up in front of strangers, the ability to improvise, the mastery of taking on a different identity (like, say, acting like a manager in the hopes of securing a promotion).
Comedy is performance, and in many cases, those skills apply – but it’s more than just standing up on stage. Steve and other Peppercomm execs meet with clients, spend a few minutes talking about TOAST (an acronym spouting the keys to good comedy – unbeknownst to me, there’s more to the art than “stand up and be funny”), and encourage people to face their colleagues and tell true, funny stories about their lives. The skillset you glean from comedy – storytelling, honesty, building rapport and confidence – is more robust than simple presentation skills, and can surely be applied to business situations.
Two weeks after starting to work here, I had the unique honor of shadowing Steve and Chief Comedy Officer Clayton while they boasted of the benefits of comedy to a top financial company. What struck me most about the experience was that Steve and Clayton played supporting roles. Sure, they threw in a teaching moment here, a PG-13 quip there… but the real headliners were the participants themselves.
After the first few bold volunteers had fallen on the metaphorical sword and come out unscathed, others finally loosened up. Some improvised (“Um, I didn’t really prepare anything”), some read from a notebook, some fired up the metaphorical grill and roasted their colleagues (to roaring laughter). It’s not easy to make a bunch of left-brained, jet-lagged financial types open up. Apparently comedy does the trick.
I won’t spoil the show for those interested in the comedy experience program. But I thought I’d share some of my fly-on-the-wall insights:
- Background and acronyms are important – to a point. But the real value comes from challenging colleagues to take the stage, and learning in a kinesthetic and supportive environment.
- Self-deprecating humor works miracles, as does roasting colleagues. With coworkers, some subjects can be “sticky,” as one participant noted. But everyone can appreciate shared experiences, or knowledge gleaned from water cooler gossip.
- For those who are nervous – breathe easy. I was shocked to find that nervousness actually came across as enthusiasm, and made performances better.
- According to CCO Clayton, the chemical response that results from laughing is identical to that from eating chocolate or falling in love. So laughing together is one sure-fire way to solidify office relationships – you’re almost literally falling in love with your colleagues.