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Peter McGraw: How Comedy and Business Intersect

What do entrepreneurs and comedians have in common? Turns out a lot. From having a strategic mindset to having the determination to keep going, there are so many useful parallels between business and comedy that can benefit entrepreneurs. In my keynote speeches, I often talk about how comedians know how to carve out their niche and attract their ideal audience. Sound familiar?

Today, I talk with Peter McGraw who happens to be an expert on the cross innovation between business and comedy. He introduces us to concepts like architecting a reversal, liminal space, and constraints. There are so many things that good comedians do that entrepreneurs can benefit from. We break it all down in this eye opening episode along with examples and explanations that bring it all home.

Peter McGraw is a behavioral economist who teaches MBAs. He’s a professor of marketing and psychology, and he teaches graduate classes in behavioral economics. He also speaks at Fortune 500 companies and universities around the world. He’s also the founder of the Humor Research Lab (adk HuRL) where he studies some of the world’s funniest people and translates that knowledge into success tactics for business people and entrepreneurs.

He is the author of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny and his new book Shtick to Business: What the Masters of Comedy Can Teach You about Breaking Rules, Being Fearless, and Building a Serious Career. His background in business and comedy makes him the perfect person to share how knowing how to make great comedy can lead to the ability to make a great business.

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[02:36] Peter gives us a glimpse into his new secret project which is his new podcast Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life.

[03:57] Fusing business and comedy was a natural fit for Peter with his background in business and his study of comedy.

[05:09] Peter shares how it's not about being funny. It's about thinking funny. It's about thinking creatively and innovatively.

[07:26] Parallels between being successful in business and comedy is having a strategy mindset and grinding out the work.

[09:16] Architecting a reversal or finding your unique perspective. Producing an opposing perspective is a great way to get a laugh and reverse the status quo.

[12:03] Peter shares an example of this using Tony Horton and P90X. Getting in shape isn't easy. It's insanely difficult.

[13:50] Another example of a reversal is creating a dumb phone as opposed to a smart phone. Thinking in reverse can reveal new opportunities.

[15:48] Liminal space is when we transition or move from one space to another. It can also be psychological from one identity to another. Comics constantly live in a liminal world. This creates an opportunity to see the world in new ways.

[17:30] Entrepreneurs are often in a liminal space when it comes to personal development and growth.

[19:39] Having good health is foundational to succeeding.

[21:14] Comedians have an amazing ability to observe.

[23:32] If we don't capture and write down our insights, we often lose them. A notepad not a microphone is a comic's most important tool.

[27:45] Constraints and how comedians deal with them and what we can learn. Creativity is finding an original and appropriate solution to a problem. Constraints force us to think harder, think differently, and work harder.

[31:14] Peter shares the lesson of hot tea and ice tea. Trying to make everyone happy makes no one happy. Comics care about making their audience laugh.

[34:17] Taking an improv class is some of the best training you can receive in business. You learn listening and creating comedy out of nothing.

[37:40] The key to listening in business is listening to the last thing said.

[41:00] Sometimes the thing we focus the least on gives us the greatest reward. Are we focusing on solving our customer's problems?

[44:13] Busting up the myth of the lone genius. It's usually a team of people that create innovations. Most successful comics have great writers. Group genius is a result in comedy and business.

[49:45] Peter shares his answers to the rabid round of SELF Sustainability, Elevate, Let's go, and Facing a challenge.

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Host Jeffrey Shaw is a Small Business Consultant, Brand Management Consultant, Business Coach for Entrepreneurs, Keynote Speaker, TEDx Speaker and author of LINGO and The Self Employed Life (May 2021). Supporting self-employed business owners with business and personal development strategies they need to create sustainable success.


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