Think content marketers and comedians don’t have much in common?
Sure, content marketers may write web copy for businesses while comedians write jokes for tipsy comedy club goers, but there are actually many similarities between the two professions.
Here’s what any good copywriter can (and should) learn from comedians:
1. Take Audience Attention and Run With It
One thing every great comedian knows is that they need to grab the attention of their audience early and hold onto it. One comedian that’s great with that is Ali Wong. Known largely for her “Baby Cobra” special, Wong made an immediate impression on her audience by not only being largely pregnant when she walked on stage, but making her entire act about it. If you’ve ever heard the “Secret Garden” bit, you know what we’re talking about.
2. Make Your Audience Think Differently
Jim Gaffigan is one comedian who is great at making his audience feel differently with him. His bit “4 Kids” is a great example of this.
When talking about the birth of his fourth child, he says, “If you want to know what it’s like to have four kids, just imagine you’re drowning and someone hands you a baby.” He also says, “My wife had the baby at home, we had all the babies at home, just to make you uncomfortable.”
Gaffigan knows that when addressing topics that seem strange or uncomfortable to his audience, he needs to know how to pull their attention along with him and make them relate.
Copywriters can learn a lot from this: Don’t be afraid to dive in headfirst, get your audience to see your point of view, and though you may not be professionally funny, try to give them a laugh or two along the way.
(Gaffigan whisper voice: Geeze, this post is heavy on pregnancy jokes. Is all comedy pregnancy comedy now?)
3. Be Original
If you want an example of originality in comedy that can also be applied to copywriting, look no further than Kyle Mizono. Comparatively diminutive and laid-back compared to other, more intense comedians, she uses her awkwardness and low energy to create amazingly funny drawn-out bits that are totally unique to her.
Here’s an example of Mizono talking about the creation of her first screen name:
So, what can copywriters learn from Mizono? One simple truth: Be yourself and don’t be afraid to be original. There are thousands of voices out there in the copywriting world, trying to sound like someone else is not an option.
If you want to stand out, you need to be original.
Let your personality show, display your perspective, and trust that your audience will respond — and vice versa. The more you can master this, the more natural and successful your life as a copywriter will be.
4. Duplicate Content Is a Mortal Sin
If there’s one thing copywriters and comedy writers should never do; it’s stealing material. In the world of copy as in the world of comedy, “stolen jokes” are a major issue that can easily ruin someone’s career. In comedy, stealing jokes makes you a pariah, in content marketing, it’s called “duplicate content” and it can lead to penalties from search engines and hurt your SEO.
As if all that wasn’t enough — it’s also seriously embarrassing.
With that in mind, stay far, far away from duplicate content. If you can’t come up with anything original, do your research and figure out what your competition is doing, but then take the time to distill it, make it your own, and add value to it. Anything else is just cheating.
5. Develop a Distinct Brand
This dovetails with being original and staying true to yourself in your content. If you want to stand out as a writer, you need to take the time to develop a distinct brand. Think of how Jerry Seinfeld did this in the world of comedy:
Jerry Seinfeld captured a moment in comedy, and while many have tried to replicate his comedic style, his distinct delivery and structure are uniquely his.
Why you ask?
Because he took the time to develop a distinct brand. As a copywriter, you can benefit from doing the same. This includes everything from your actual branding (logo, design, etc.) to your voice and writing style.
While it won’t happen overnight, developing a distinct brand is one of the most essential things any good copywriter will ever do. In addition to ensuring career longevity, it also helps you stand out from your competition and carve out your niche.
Just like Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t do Jim Gaffigan’s material, no copywriter should (or should desire to) copy another’s material or brand.
The School of Stand-up: How Comedy Can Make You a Better Copywriter
Copywriting lessons are everywhere, and paying attention to other creatives, like comedy writers, is a great way to learn some valuable lessons about everything from your process to your positioning. With this in mind, enhance your copywriting efforts by taking a few lessons from some of the best comedians out there: Grab your audience’s attention, make them think differently, be original, don’t copy other content, and take the time to develop a distinct brand.
Not only will your career take off, but your grandma won’t be offended, either.
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