Today on the Engaging Marketeer, I’m interviewing John Cooper, a stand-up and improv comedian. As well as being a successful comic with over two decades of experience, John has also had the honour of giving his own TedX Talk, something that I dream of doing myself one day.
John discusses his roots in comedy and how improv can be an effective tool worlds of marketing and sales, as well as how he managed to base his TedX Talk around the art of improvisation. Of course, as a Liverpool Comedy Festival winner myself, John and I share a lot of common ground, making for a fascinating discussion.
As ever, be sure check out the full interview, which includes the below highlights, on our YouTube:
Darren: It almost sounds like you were made exclusively for me. You’re a graphic designer, you’re a comedian, you’ve done comedy shows about Doctor Who, about Star Wars and about WordPress. That’s like my niche. My first question is: how the f**k do you make WordPress funny?
John: Well, it requires dipping into a lot of metaphors. Really, that show was made for WordPress fans. You have to know how that works in order to get angry about things like the wpBakery page builder.
Darren: Being a designer is geeky, designing a website is geeky. Comedy isn’t. How did you get an interest in design and comedy, and which came first.
John: Design came first. Web-based design, then graphic design. That’s what I learned in uni, and then I just started getting out and doing open mic spots, just because a friend got me into it. Eventually, the Manchester comedy scene was really blossoming, and I took a design job and relocated to Manchester just to keep it going, before eventually going freelance.
Darren: When I became a Liverpool Comedy Festival winner, I found it massively helpful in terms of presenting, pitching and selling. Is that something that you agree with when it comes to comedy.
John: I absolutely agree with that. The ability to be comfortable and confident and have a little bit of resilience, because sales is all about rejection and comedy is about rejection, is vital.
Darren: One thing that you’ve done recently that I’m very interest in is the TedX Talk. How did you get involved with that process?
John: I did TedX Warrington, and it was supposed to take place in 2020. When it eventually got rescheduled, when I went to reapply my talk about improv had changed. In the end, the only way to put it is that I had the idea, I pitched it and I was lucky enough to be one of the 10 people selected.
John: My script kept changing, and at a certain point it had to be printed out and given to someone, and then also gets sent to the TedX officers to approve. In all my years doing stand-up, the way that I talk about stuff always changes because I bounce around, but there is no room for deviation on that TedX script, it’s not allowed.
Darren: Obviously because its so structured, unlike what comedy or improv would be, there didn’t seem to be much feedback from the audience themselves. Was that difficult to do?
John: There was an audience. There were no mics in the audience, so it was very hard to pick up on their responses. As much as I was telling myself ‘it’s alright if there’s no laughs, it’s just a talk’, it’s almost like the lack of laughs is still a big red flag.
Darren: You now go into businesses and you teach improv in workshops. What’s the theory behind you doing that and what sort of people have you helped?
John: I pivoted a few years ago. I was teaching stand-up comedy and I’ve pivoted into presentation skills, really. The way I do it, I say ‘let’s do a presentation as if it’s an open mic comedy store’, and for them it’s really a case of triumphing over adversity when they get on the stage
Darren: Triumphing over adversity is one of the key elements of selling on a stage, so that’s a really useful skill to have in front of you.
If somebody would like to get in touch with John, either for his illustration work, workshops, comedy or improv, he can be reached at John@johncooper.org.uk on email, @johncooper_UK on social media or on LinkedIn.
Huge thanks to John for coming on the show, it was an absolute pleasure to talk to him about all things comedy, improv and business. We had so much fun, we almost forgot to discuss his illustration work.
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