Stand-Up, And Be Remembered

(Listen to this post, here.)

Do you work long, hard hours? I don’t.

Not because I’m so smart (although I am good-looking).

It’s because in the world in which I live, my compensation is tied to value rather than effort. And so the law of diminishing returns applies.

For example, the kind of writing I’m typically hired to do – short format, zesty, sometimes funny – doesn’t get better by grinding away at it. In fact, it often gets worse.

And so I’ve learned to step away from the keyboard anytime I find myself pushing too hard.

I take a walk outside.

I call up some of my solo professional friends to shoot the breeze.

And, of course, I wander the Internet.

Yesterday morning, comedian Jim Gaffigan popped into my mind. I don’t know why, he just did. And so I Googled him and found a bunch of clips.

Jim Gaffigan
Much of what I found was from his various stand-up performances.

But there were an equal number of clips in which he was simply being interviewed: On Letterman, Conan, The Today Show, etc.

That’s when I noticed something that had never occurred to me before: When he’s chatting with the host, and while it may just look like off-the-cuff witty banter, he’s not chatting … he’s doing his act.

Consider these two examples…

First, watch this two-minute stand-up segment in which he talks about kale.

Then watch this interview on Conan, beginning at the 1:58 mark.

Did you see? On the subject of kale, it’s essentially the same “conversation”
– all that’s changed is the setting.

I have to admit, for somebody like me who is often accused by his offspring (and, OK, clients, friends, relatives and pretty much everybody else) of repeatedly trying to tell the same jokes, I’m envious.

Not only are comedians not ridiculed for saying the same things over and over again, it’s expected … it’s how they fine-tune their craft.

But it’s more than just repetition. During those interviews, comedians speak as if it’s all coming off the top of their head, in the moment, for the first time.

It’s not, of course.

It’s carefully scripted and rehearsed, right down to the pauses and gestures. But it works best when it feels spontaneous.

Guess what? This is exactly the way you want to be when people ask you about the work you do: scripted and rehearsed, but with a feeling of spontaneity.

Unfortunately, most professionals settle on one of two equally ineffective extremes:

Some of them ramble on with whatever undercooked blah blah spills out in the moment. It may sound genuine, but it’s bound to be blurry, not well thought out, and inconsistent from day to day (insert your own political joke here).

Others do the opposite. They unload a benefit-laden “elevator statement.” While possibly impressive in the moment, these tend to be completely unmemorable and lacking the feel of an authentic conversation.

(“I help Fortune 100 companies reduce overhead costs by up to 35% using my 5-Star Cross-Promulgated, Reptilian Optimization program [trademark pending].”)

Instead, I recommend taking a page from the world of comedy: Develop a clear, brief, conversational description of the work you do and use it – word for word – every single time you are asked about your work.

Easier said than done, I understand. That’s why it’s one of the first things we work on in my six-month marketing program. Here are three examples from current students in the course:

Elly van Laar: I am a mediator. I specialize in helping couples in divorce maintain mutual respect.

Helen Rose: I’m a Realtor. I specialize in helping seniors transition into homes that will meet their needs as they age.

Trisha Menchu: We are cost recovery specialists. We help public agencies recover overcharges from their utility providers.

Clear, simple, easy to remember and jargon-free.

They can be dropped into any conversation in just about any situation. And yet, like a comedian’s words on a talk show, they are intended to be memorized ahead of time.

Here’s the bottom line. As solos and small business owners, we live in a word of mouth world. That’s where the referrals, leads, prospects and, ultimately, clients come from.

Given how much of that word of mouth is a function of the actual words coming out of your actual mouth, it’s a good idea to spend some time now rehearsing for your next “gig.”

Gotta go. Colbert’s on the line and I need to plan what I’m going to say.

Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me

Congratulations to Blue Penguin client Brad Michaels on the launch of his newsletter, “Safe Living, helping parents teach their teenage daughters what they’ll need to know about personal safety.

My daughter Emily is 20. So while she’s technically no longer a teen, Brad’s simple, street-smart advice is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

Check it out and subscribe here. And congrats to you, Brad!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have a daughter named Emily? Explain.
  1. What is your simple description of the work you do?
  1. I’m out of new jokes. Please post your favorite here for me to use.

Share your comments below!

If you liked this article you’ll love the next one. Click here to sign up for future posts and get a free copy of my report, “The 5 Biggest Blocks to Writing a Monthly Newsletter (and how to overcome them right away).”

15 thoughts on “Stand-Up, And Be Remembered

  1. Michelle Morris

    1. No, I have a son named Sam and a dog named Gambit.
    2. I help single women make sense of their money and their taxes.
    3. Sorry, can’t help you. But I have been meaning to optimize my reptiles….

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Yes, well, there is nothing more annoying than sub-optimized reptiles.

      And nice job on the one sentence description too!

  2. Shelley

    I watched the whole Jim Gaffigan clip with Conan. (Okay, I admit to procrastinating under the guise of studying, but you forced me!) Having just watched a Gaffigan special last week on Netflix, I can tell to you nothing was unscripted… Everything came from his comedy routine.

  3. Charles Alexander

    1. Ava and Lilly. A girl named Emily beat me up in high scho…I mean pre-school.
    2. I create animated videos. I specialize in helping busy professionals increase leads through video storytelling.
    3. What’s green and invisible? This head of lettuce (me pretending to hold an invisible head of lettuce.). Hayo! Ava and Lilly don’t like that joke either.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      1. Nice timing on the Emily comment!
      2. Yep. I’ve always remembered that about you.
      3. That is a total “dad” joke. I’ll be using it shortly….

  4. Sari

    1. No, but I have one named Elina. Close?
    2. I am a communications consultant. I specialize in helping attorneys communicate with jurors.
    3. Seen in Lapland hotel (I’m from Finland, so you know, this works. Not quite a joke, but funny)
    (Card in bathroom)
    Help us to save water. If you need fresh towel, throw yourself on the floor. If you don’t need fresh towel, hang yourself.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      3. I love that sign. Did you get a picture?!

      Recently I saw a sign in the supermarket for “bear dye.” Based on the product next to it, I believe they meant beard dye.

  5. Mark Modesti

    2 cannibals are eating a clown and one says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

    Thank you, thank you very much…

  6. Barbara

    Hi Michael

    Great post!

    I’m a daily money manager and I pay bills and organize finances for seniors and veterans.

    The line I often get from prospective clients (usually male) when I introduce myself is “Great, you’re paying my bills with YOUR checkbook, right?” That’s when I know it’ll be a fun time!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s a nice, clear description, Barbara!

      And that sounds like a good way to know when you’ve got the right type of client in front of you too!

  7. Dave

    Okay Michael, you asked for a joke:

    Mr. Jones is referred to a psychiatrist because he has a sex addiction.
    The doctor proceeds to show him an array of ink blots and asks him what each one reminds him of.
    “Sex!” is the patient’s reply to every one of the ink blots.
    “I am afraid you have a serious problem,” the doctor tells Mr. Jones. “We will need to meet twice a week for at least the next six months.”
    “Doc, you’ve got this all wrong,” Mr. Jones retorts. “YOU’RE THE ONE showing all the dirty pictures!”

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thank you Dave, I will use that this very evening when I meet with my Tuesday night drinking buddies!

      (It reminds of this joke: Who is this Rorschach guy and why is he always showing me pictures of my parents fighting?)


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