Netflix is doing a special with Jerry Seinfeld where he dissects what is funny.
Seeing how Jerry Seinfeld worked so hard to make his humor seem like it was casual and off the cuff is a lesson for all of us who need to communicate with impact. A Wall Street Journal article describes how Seinfeld used a Bic pen and a yellow pad to try to make his jokes as clear and concise as possible.
He saw candy advertised as breakfast cereal to be great humor. He even looked at the cereal names to see which ones would be fun. Choice of words can make a big difference. “Fruity Pebbles” works much better than “Oat Bran”. He would try to strip out every unnecessary word. He liked surprise.
“I think Nietzsche said often after a bowl of Cookie Crisps,
‘If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger’
He loved Cookie Crisps … and it almost killed him.”
Seinfeld liked pen on paper because he felt like an artist as he wrote his jokes. He would cross out parts and insert other words to get it just the way he wanted it to sound. He has saved all of his yellow pad pages dating from 1975 when he started. He has filed the jokes so he can pull them out when needed for fresh ideas.
Only a few of our clients need to talk about breakfast cereal, and they might not want to copy Seinfeld’s jokes at work. What we can all learn from Seinfeld is how to prepare:
- Be very thoughtful about your message and your audience.
- Really narrow down your message to the essential parts.
- Think about word choice, and possible connotations.
- Deliver your message with maximum impact and timing.
- Know your key message so well that you can make if seem like it’s “off the cuff”.
- Smile more often, unless you are delivering a tough message.
- Remember; shorter sounds smarter.
Being clear and concise is an important skill for effective communication, which is covered in our best selling book, “Seeing Yourself as Others Do“.