Lessons on Design from Jerry Seinfeld
Garr Reynolds has a nice post about presentation lessons from Comedian (Slideshare from the post above, slide number 30 is a gem), the documentary that is (sort of) about Jerry Seinfeld getting back into stand-up after his TV show (you may have heard of it?) finished.
It’s been ages since I saw the movie, which was good but not great, and was a bit of a bait and switch as much of it focused on a young comedian trying to break into the big time, and Jerry himself is only in about 1/3 of it. But like Garr I took some lessons away from it, but in my case they were about design. There are some interesting parallels beteween putting together a stand up act and creating a new design:
- There is no right answer. There are better answers and worse answers, but no absolute right or wrong answers.
- You never know when you’re done (there’s no stopping rule - you stop when you run out of time)
- Sometimes an idea just can’t be made to work and you have to have the discipline recognize the fact and drop it (Jerry has a great segment about trying to get a joke to work that he tried every which way, but just couldn’t get it to pan out despite what seemed like a nugget of an idea)
- There’s no way to cheat. If you rushed the prep, or it isn’t really your work, you will be exposed, usually ruthlessly
- You don’t come up with the whole design/routine in one go, it takes many small pieces and iterations, steps forward and back again, prototyping, throwing stuff away, lots of crap to get to the good stuff.
- Comedians, like designers, tend to swing wildly between swaggering confidence and crushing insecurity, often in minute by minute increments