How much does a comedian, even one as successful as Jerry Seinfeld, know about SEO?
A video from the New York Times shows Jerry Seinfeld walking us through the process of creating one of his jokes, ‘The Pop Tart Joke’. I was really struck by his thought process and how some of the statements he made in the video rang with familiarity. I could relate to the processes.
I like the first line to be funny right away.
We all know about making first impressions count, with Blink by Malcolm Gladwell codifying a lot of that research (questions of accuracy aside). It is so important, when we have a message or goal, to make an impact upfront. We need to invest time into making sure that we can immediately stand out from the background and grab attention.
Lesson: make an immediate impression.
What makes that joke is you got ‘chimps’, ‘dirt’, ‘playing’, and ‘sticks’. In seven words four of them are funny.
Try to achieve the highest amount of quality with the least amount of cruft. As per 37Signals, what is hard and what is worthwhile in the creative process is distillation. Crafting a message down to the barest minimum required to comprehensivelly communicate the idea.
Lesson: don’t waste time. Edit, prune, distil, and focus your message to be on point. Provide the maximum amount of value with the least amount of baggage.
They always laugh there because that indicates, ‘oh he’s telling us a story’.
As covered in Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, telling a story is one of the most powerful ways of communicating ideas and messages. People want to relate and they want to be taken on a journey. If you can transform your data or technical information into something that feels like a relatable journey, you can leverage our biological history to do the work for you.
To quote Made To Stick – “charities have long since figured out…[that] donors respond better to individuals than to abstract causes”.
Lesson: tell me a story.
So now I’m looking for the connective tissue that gives me the really tight, smooth link, like a jigsaw puzzle. And if it’s too long…[it won’t work].
Even the best opening can lead into a disjointed, confusing mess. You may have a lot of information to pass on but consider if it can’t be broken into logical chunks that can be easily, and logically, connected together. Your aim is not to pass on information – it is to inform.
Lesson: work hard on refining the message so that it links together and can be followed.
The biggest laugh has to be at the end.
We are left with what you leave us with. Make sure you put the call to action at the end. In this case, it’s to laugh – so leave the audience with the thing that you want them to do.
1. Made an impact upfront
2. Edit your message to deliver the highest amount of impact
3. Tell a story
4. Make sure the message is cohesive
5. End with the call to action
So what does Jerry Seinfeld know about SEO?
Clearly, he knows how to communicate, and create an action. So why does this matter?
From Wikipedia – “The foremost goal of SEO copywriting is to produce succinct, effectively persuasive text for a well-written web page that will motivate the reader to take action.”
Just as the steps outlined above are clearly applicable to comedy writing, I think they clearly also apply to many other disciplines; web-design, marketing, SEO – communication in general.
I really enjoyed this video and I think it is an example of how important, essential even, it is to read widely and to continually expand our understanding of the world.
Seeing the same, or similar, problem from a different perspective can help us to recognise characteristics of our own fields and to generate answers to teh problems that vex us. A fantastic example is provided by this Kaggle competition, in which intractable astronomy problems where solved by people from other disciplines, bringing new perspectives to the problem. As written in the blog – “It is clear that sometimes to solve an everyday problem we need to analyse it from a new perspective.”
Watch the whole video and see if you agree ( embedded below, or available here ).
What did you think? Tell me in the comments or tweet me (I’m @kerno_)