Episode Number 34Tim Washer on Humor at Work

Tim Washer is a Webby-nominated video producer and corporate humorist. He mines years of conference-call fodder from former corporate roles including IPG vice president, Accenture change management consultant, and IBM’s head of social video for the Smarter Planet campaign. He holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin where he majored in PowerPoint. With a background like this, we couldn’t wait to get Tim on The Work Talk Show.

Show Notes

As a self-described actor, writer, and Presbyterian with writing credits that include the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Comedy Central, and The Onion SportsDome, Tim Washer could seem like an odd fit in the corporate corridors he's called home, such as IBM and Cisco. As he notes, "Not many organizations have a comedian." However, when you consider that so much of the digital content we create needs to be both engaging and entertaining — a skill most corporations struggle with to say the least — his background comes quite handy.

With all he has on his plate at Cisco plus his work as a professional speaker and emcee, Washer often fears that the "work isn't getting done." This is where his improv training comes in handy. We discuss the "order from chaos" that's promoted as part of ImprovOlympic's signature long-form improvisation format, the Harold. The other great improv lesson that has value at work? The simple act of remembering to "say yes."

Washer agrees that we could all use more comedy in our work — laughing together is a great way to get closer to each other. Beyond morale and team-building, it's a great way to foster creativity. Washer cited a John Cleese talk in which he noted that humor is one of the six traits you need for an "open mode" that fosters workplace creativity.

Like a long-form improvisation, Washer isn't structured with his own routine. He does this purposefully so he can restructure his day as needed around his kids. Of course, deadlines always help. Like many juggling multiple work demands and family, he leverages a lot of his fringe time — early in the morning (5 AM) and after the kids go to bed.

In kicking off the shout-outs and shameless plugs, DJ reminded us all about Tim's commercial fame with Catherine Zeta-Jones (future guest?), while Nick gave a shout to his favorite improv book, Truth in Comedy. Remember, you can see Nick and DJ live and in-person at Brand Driven Digital's Social Strategy Boot Camp in Madison. Use the code worktalk for special listener savings. To close things out, Tim plugged his web series with past Work Talk guest Ann Handley, Better Marriage Through Big Data.

Until next week, we'll see you on the Internet!

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