E98. How Everyone Can Tell Stories with Humour with Kathy Klotz-Guest
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Francisco Mahfuz 0:00
Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.
Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Kathy cloths guest Kat has a speaker, author and comedian who spent 16 years leading story development and tech in almost 24 years crafting stories and improv and comedy stages. Today, she helps leaders transform using comedy tools, and her clients include Amazon, Cisco, IBM, United Way, and many more. All of that sounds amazing. But there's just one little problem. KENNETH his brand is based on her being a storyteller in being funny. And being a funny storyteller is exactly what my brand is about. Is there room for the two of us? Or is this just like the movie Highlander? Where there can be only one? I guess? We're about to find out. Ladies and gentlemen, Catholic world's guest Welcome to the show.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 2:00
There can be only one. That's right. Oh, that's too funny. That's that right there. All right. I'm loving that intro. I'm loving the intro. They can't be rude, right? Wouldn't it be a better world of everybody lightened up a little bit when they're telling stories. And they embraced even if it was just not even it wasn't like me slapping funny, but it was just more fun and just had a lot more of a lighthearted sensibility. Wouldn't the world be better? Well,
Francisco Mahfuz 2:30
I think so. But a lot of the work you and I do is with professional people, you know, the corporate types. And there is this thing I heard from from a good friend of mine who has a great presentation skills trainer, although he will get angry if I say that he's a charisma booster. He is not a presentation skills trainer. And he always says I think he said this. But anyway, that the speech can never be too short. Or too funny. Maybe I've added the two funny there but too short or too funny. And I truly believe that in most people agree with the two short, but they push back on the two funny, I don't feel you are going to push back but what what are you? What's your take on that? Oh,
Kathy Klotz-Guest 3:14
no. See, I agree. I think you know, humans by nature are flawed and idiosyncratic and we make mistakes. And we have flawed heroes and heroines, right? So what if we actually embrace that? So I believe in funny, and I think we overthink it. So I have a very I agree with your friend. I think the fear is what if I'm not funny or oh my god, I'm, I'm I'm scared. And I think there is a point at which if your humour and your funny overtakes the message, then yes, because we've all walked away from Funny Commercials. And they were we were like, Oh my God, that's so hilarious. And what was the product? What was that? And and so there is a point where yes, if the humour overtakes the message, and yet if the message is very clear and crisp, and so front and centre, humour can only lift it. So you want to find that point, you know, I want to I want to get nerdy you want to find that tangent point on the story curve, where you are at the apex of you have a powerful message and humour gives it lift. And if you can do that, then you are in the right place at the right time. So yes, all of our stories could use a boost from just allowing that humour that natural humour, not force but the natural humour to come through. There's there's nothing better
Francisco Mahfuz 4:33
sort of the reflex I get when when I hear you or other people that work with humour is one of the main tools. Part of the reflex I get from having worked with with speakers for a very long time and having done some of this work myself, is sort of this resistance, not against humour because humour is a big thing for me. But there's this resistance with the idea that isn't when you will try to already go for storytelling, but isn't humour Were one lift too many. Because this has been my my experience is that getting people to start to tell stories is already a challenge in itself. Now, if you're getting people that are slightly more advanced, this is not the first time you worked with them. And now is saying, Okay, let's make this a bit more fun. No problem there. But don't you find that trying to get both of those things done? If you haven't spent a lot of time working with these people already, for some people is just too much.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 5:30
Yes. Yes, I understand. Agree. So my approach is, is really different. It's, I think, you got to get your story nailed down. First, let's, let's get what is your message because without the message, you're, you're a comedian. And, you know, I do stand up comedy, and I do improv and I teach it, that's different. Now you're a comedian, and that that's great. But the difference between a really grounded, amazing storyteller, that's funny, and a comedian is there's there's a powerful message, although the comedian could have powerful messages, too, it's just that their primary thing is to make people laugh. If you're telling a story, you know, your primary message is to get to people's hearts and minds, right? And, you know, if, if you're kind of going, Gosh, I'm a little bit torn. Which do I concentrate on first? A you and I all know this. It's like, get the story nailed down. First, if you have a great story, if you have a great message. Now. Now we can go back and ask ourselves, what humour tools can give this lift? Can we have blocking, where the character just keeps falling down and keeps getting back up, and they can't help it. And really, the only difference between comedy and storytelling, is that in comedy, that, that hero or heroine is so compelled to keep chasing that one in need, and they keep getting blocked, but there's humour in seeing somebody, they can't help themselves, they're going to keep getting back up, because they are so compelled. You know, what doesn't matter now, how many times they get blunted, there are tools we can use. So that the key to what you just said is like, let's get clear on what you want to say. And what is that story? What is that message because once you know that, I think the humour becomes a lot more organic. And typically I find where there's, there's humour, fear, it's because they're over focused on the humour, without really knowing the story that they want to tell and what that transformation for the audience will be. Once you're clear on that, adding the humour tools that will heighten it, because Because comedy is really storytelling on steroids, we've just heightened it. But without the storytelling backbone, it doesn't really matter. And I think what's, what typically happens is if I am working with with corporate types, and we know that actually lays a lot of their anxiety, because I think the, the, the, when we say let's be funny, everyone gets panic stricken like a deer in headlights, because they're like, I have to make people laugh, not really, first, get that story nailed down, then let's find a way to transport that message through humour that is natural for you, then people go, Oh, I can do that. Exactly, exactly.
Francisco Mahfuz 8:10
I like how you say that you and I know that the message needs to be nailed on first and not the humour because I suffer from this problem that you might suffer from too, which is the humour is so much fun, that part of my brain is going but he's just funny enough. It's great masssage But it's not funny enough, maybe I shouldn't use this word story I'm gonna find a different one that is funnier. Been guilty many times of of, you know, just enjoying the making people laugh so much that I think the message is a bit flimsy. But I've got this three great stories that I can put together. And again, this is not my this is not a professional stuff. This isn't I was doing speaking or it's like in Toastmasters or something I was like, I've got three really funny stories is that any possible message that I can use to kind of connect them to pretend that this is really a speech and are three separate stories? And we were like, the message was a bit wishy washy, and I'm like, Did you laugh? Yes, a lot. Great. My job here is,
Kathy Klotz-Guest 9:16
you know, what, if it's always a balance, right, it really is because we fall in love with different little bits that we love. And we're like, How can I work that in? How can I work then, I've always felt that if your message can stand on its own without those bits, and then is just made better with those bits, then you've got that great. And we've all we've all been there Francisco because I can relate. There's times I'm writing something and then I go this is really funny. And then I have to ask myself, does it serve the story? Does it advance the story and then I realised that it really doesn't is a funny bit. So that I think to myself, Okay, is there anything I can take from that bit, and then put it into another story and where that story really serves The transformation that I'm I'm aiming for. So sometimes we have to be really hard critics of ourselves. And yet, I there is nothing wrong with allowing a bit to stand to get a laugh. I think that is a beautiful moment of human connection with your audience. It is a beautiful, profound moment. And sometimes we do have to make those hard choices. But it's beautiful when we don't have to when we can go, You know what, okay, this bit is a warm up. It's not central to the message. But it's so profoundly human. That it's a great segue. And as long as you can have a an on ramp to your message, and it doesn't derail the message, I say, How fun. How fun. Don't like don't overthink it. Yeah, yeah.
Francisco Mahfuz 10:41
Oh, I never overthink that or that or anything else. That's not a risk.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 10:49
You don't want to overthink it. Because you and I both know that if we overthink it, we can talk ourselves into and out of so many things. But we just want to be in the heart of that. That story. So connected. And if the humour connects, then it's okay. It's okay to have some of those things. I call them just for me, just for me bits. If they make me laugh, and I can sell it, then I think there's something about the audience going you know what? That was genuine. That made me laugh. There's nothing wrong with that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Francisco Mahfuz 11:18
Do it. There's something that I think might happen to you, that doesn't really happen to me. Which is this idea of people feeling scared or reluctant of the of the comedy of the humour. Yeah, but I think I think in your case, one of the reasons that might happen is because you do two things that most sane people don't you do stand up, which is one of the most terrifying things ever. And you do improv that a lot of people, myself included hearing go, oh, no, I really don't want to do anything remotely close to that. Whereas, whereas my approach to humour is, I'm just like, a very poor excuse of a grownup, and I make horrible, horrible decisions on a regular basis. And I just don't hide them. That's essentially the basis of my humour. And we were like, well, what do you mean? And I said, Okay, let me give you an example. This was maybe two or three months ago, I was going out to teach at the at the MBA that I normally teach it in, as I'm just doing that last check in the mirror, before I leave the house, I realise that my, my pants are a bit a bit wrinkly, I just like I don't, I really don't have time to like, get the pants off, iron them and all that. So I turn the iron on, I get one of those little water sprays. I spray my pants, and I start ironing them while wearing them. And while I'm doing that, and I'm getting to some of the sensitive bits, and I'm going, I don't think this is a good idea. This strikes me as the type of thing that could go horribly wrong. Any moment. Now, another time I'm doing and going, but I'm still doing it. My hands are still moving towards my pots with a hot piece of iron. Why am I not stopping? I'm not sure.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 13:17
See what I will that story is hilarious. Because we've all been there. Like we've all been there, right? It's like, I don't have time to take this off. And I'm gonna try to like, you know, iron around, I'm gonna iron around the parts that I should be aware. Well, here's the thing. I think there's a common misunderstanding about what humour and improv really are. Comedy is just storytelling. And the beauty, which you sort of illustrated so nicely is that, look, I think the misunderstanding is that we have to be somebody we're not that we have to be this comedian, we have to, you know, whatever that is, and we have to, you know, have this, you know, official title or whatever it is. And it's not the case. Yes, that is my experience. And comedy offers us a lot of tools that we can break down and use and that everybody can use. However, here's the thing, comedy, like storytelling is all about the truth. That's all it is. It's learning to tell the truth in a very comedic Lee heightened way. That's all it is. So you meet anybody, even if they don't, you know, they're not a comedian. That's great. Use your organic sensibility about the truth because when you lean into the truth, you will be funnier. You just told me a story that was just so funny because it was true. Like, if you lean into what's true, you are tapping into the most powerful humour there is which is just being human. So here's my tip. For those of you who overthink and think oh, you know, it's it's, I've got to be a comedian. No. Because all comedy starts with truth with just telling the truth. You know, I just celebrated you know, 24 years later. You know, voluntarily to the same guy? You know what, and I never considered divorce when things were hard murder? Yes, yes. Divorce? No, he's not getting half my stuff. And if we just talk about what it's like to be a human and to be married a long time, we're gonna have kids, right? It's like, I was such a great mom before I had kids. It's like, you know, it's my husband, I decided, you know, with COVID being so hard, we decided we didn't want children, I'm just not sure how to tell our kids, because they're not going to take it. Well, if we just talk about the human things. It's funny. It's funny, because it's true. So I want people to remember this, because it's such an important point, when you can just tell a story from a very honest, vulnerable, fully human and you accepting and embracing your flaws you accepting and embracing, you know, the humanity of whatever situation, your audience will still relate to you. And in that moment, you can't help but laugh because it's true.
Francisco Mahfuz 16:02
One approach that I find that tends to, I'd say, get people closer to what happened to me, because I did tend to have a list of kind of weird things that I ended up doing just because in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, this might be an absolute tragedy, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be funny. So I'm going to do it anyway. And a lot of people don't don't function that way. But But I find that if you ask people, okay, what embarrassing things have you either gotten yourself into over the last few years? Or almost gotten yourself into or thought about getting yourself into because sometimes you don't do this stuff? Sometimes you have better common sense than than I do. But you do think about it's like I what I really want to do right now is this thing, and then you don't do it, but you still thought about it, in that thinking about the horrendous thing that you really wanted to do. That alone is probably where the humour is. Now if you actually did it, you might be funnier. But you know what, don't ruin your life for the sake of a joke. No. For the sake of many jokes, maybe not one drunk,
Kathy Klotz-Guest 17:07
maybe, maybe not one. It's not worth it. The payoff has to be big. Yeah, just even you know, one of the things that a great place to mind for really wonderful humour and stories is exactly that Francisco. It's our inner monologue. What's happening up here when we let people in on that we all have that. Like for me, it's like it reminds me of Gosh, Elizabeth Gilbert had that Eat Pray Love book. And there's a there's a movie that was done about it with Julia Roberts and I, it's so hilarious because she tries to do meditation. She goes to this Ashram and she tries to like it. She can't turn my mind off. And she's just like, you know, trying to like, concentrate. khazri Ooh, lunch, who dinner? Ooh, there's a flyover. Ooh, wine, what kind of wine? Should I call that guy? I don't know. And like her inner monologue. And it's very funny, because it's just true. And so one of the ways that we can tap into that is it doesn't even have to be a story about what we did. But just if we're revelatory and vulnerable about just our own human thoughts, audiences love that because we all have conflict. And sometimes the conflict in a story can just be inner conflict. It doesn't have to be an external manifestation of conflict to heighten it can be our own inner monologue. You know, it can be the way we find ourselves. It can be the very funny imperfect way that sometimes we do things we don't want to do. Like, we go over like friend's houses, or we go to events. And inside, we're like, I don't want to be here. Oh, my God, how do we get out of here and we're looking at the watch. And these are very human moments. So mine that for so much richness, because there's something there that will connect you.
Francisco Mahfuz 18:44
Perhaps what happens with humour is very similar to what happened and is in stories. It's what happens to two stories, which is, a lot of people have this highfalutin idea of what a story is. So when you tell them Whoa, didn't you know? Did you ever have, you know, something? Did you ever have a bad boss? Okay, tell me about one experience with a bad boss. Okay, that's a store and the goal. Is that a story? I think something similar happens with with humour. Whereas if you say to them, you know, have you ever gotten yourself into an embarrassing situation? And they go, Oh, is that what you mean by funny? I was like, Yeah, I'm not expecting to get up there and tell a joke. I don't even tell jokes. I mean, occasionally, they turn things into jokes. But but they're all coming out of it's always situational comedy. In my case, it's not like, you know, some funny thing with language that I did there. Usually, it's usually just like, I put myself in a weird position, and then I did something even weirder to get out of it. But it's not like it's not fiction. I'm actually doing those things. But people do or think about doing them all the time. And I think people just don't get that. Oh, you think that would be a funny story? Yes, yes.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 19:54
Right. No, it's exactly that I think. I think there's a lot of again myths about humour. One is that he humour is our comp is comedy or jokes, being funny, being funny is jokes. No. Jokes are one part of being funny. You can be funny in many different ways, many different ways. But humour and being funny are not the same thing. They're not the same thing. So if I, if I say, Hey, be funny, that puts pressure on you, because all of a sudden, you're thinking I have to serve up humour to make someone else laugh. I want to reframe it. Well we have to do is ask ourselves what something true humour is about truth starts with the truth. What's something true about myself, about my inner monologue about a situation that I experienced that I can share? And when we lead with the truth, there's always a way to make that humorous. So lead with the truth and lead with making yourself smile and laugh first, because there's all of a sudden is, Am I funny? Now, all of a sudden, we've decided that the jury is outside of ourselves, and it's our audience. But how can the audience laugh at something that we ourselves aren't confident about? So we have to own that humour for ourselves first, is it true? Is it true? Is it human? Is it goofy? Is it like, because I mean, we all have stories that are like, oh, man, that was crazy. That in nope, no universe, should that have even happened? So when you start with what made you smile, what is crazy? It trauma, you know, comedy is just tragedy plus time, if your distance from whatever it is, and you know, from the storytelling work that you do, if you're on the other side of that hurts, you can talk about it, you can't talk about it while you're in it, we're still processing. But if it's in the rearview mirror, and you're through that hurts, get to what's truthful, what has happened to you what your weird thoughts are, what's weird about your life, what's what's, you know, silly, what's whatever, and focus on what that message is, the humour lies there. And I want us to stop stop putting pressure on ourselves and saying, Is it funny, you'll get to the funny part, only when you accept the truth about yourself. The reason so much of what comedians do works is because you'll notice that a lot of times they're poking fun at who themselves they've owned and embrace their own imperfection. And there's room for that. So, so find what's what's makes you laugh? What is true for you and be really rigorous about, is it true? Is this is this vulnerable? Is it true? And if you kind of, you know, go through that you're gonna get out of this sensor. That's whether or not you're funny that that is not the question we should be really asking ourselves.
Francisco Mahfuz 22:51
And when it comes to thinking about things that make you laugh or smile, and not worrying about everyone else's. I think it's important to put this out there for all the all the all the people who like me, are overgrown men, children, that I don't think fart jokes are the way to go there. Because they make they make me laugh. They make my children laugh uproariously. But there he says, things that make you laugh that you should share. That is the type of feed that perhaps you want to keep it in the house or with your friends. It's a good barometer. But is not the only check you have. What's your humour? That's bad. And some other things you know, or bedroom related? might be best to keep to your friends.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 23:43
Remember that? Remember, it's is it true for you? And is there a point? I mean, for me, it's it's, you know, I live in this world every day, you know, you have to ask yourself, is there a point to this? Yes. Again, humour is not jokes. So as far as fart jokes go, sometimes they're funny, but it's context, right? You're going to tell those fart jokes with your friends. But you know, it doesn't serve your story. Does it serve your no. So you always want to ask yourself, you know, is it true for you? What is the what is the intent behind connecting and sharing this with your audience? What is the connection and the if your intent is to just set up a big story or to heighten a story, then it really has to serve that. So when I say what's funny to you, I really mean be have some discretion about what is vulnerable and true for you. That also makes sense for the story that you're serving. So you have to be you know, I would think most people would err on the side of being too conservative. They would go the other way, Francisco they would be like
Francisco Mahfuz 24:51
yes, yes, I am aware of that. I am aware of that. I also have been married for a long time. Not everybody In my house shares my sense of humour.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 25:02
I get it. It's all it's all men in my house. So even the dog is male. So I get it, I get it
Francisco Mahfuz 25:09
all women in my house, but I've co opted to have them. So all I have is odd numbered.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 25:19
Nope. See? And that that makes for a lot of very funny storytelling, right? What's it like to be outnumbered? Be the only you know guy in the house like, you know I talk about what it's like to be the only woman in my house and like just you know what I want for my wedding anniversary, which is two weeks ago, the only thing I want is to wake up and walk down the hall in the morning. And like, have the boys shut the bathroom door when they're, you know, when they're taking a pee just like please can we can we just do that? Because that would be a great first.
Francisco Mahfuz 25:45
It's hard to talk when the door is closed. You can talk into those clothes. And if they need to show you something, then it just takes so much longer. I mean, it's just you know, this isn't a practical,
Kathy Klotz-Guest 25:57
practical, it's not I get it, I get it. But those are the kinds of things that anybody who has kids completely relates to right. We're all just like, yeah, totally, totally get that. And and those are the human moments that are just, you know, it's not a joke. It's just you telling the truth about what happens in your house. And I think those are the things that people go oh, my God. Yeah, me too. Me too.
Francisco Mahfuz 26:19
So one thing you said earlier, you may use this expression a few times, I think you said you call them comedy tools. Because I think a lot of people the biggest challenge I find with most people is just after the in the centre of the story actually is or what we looking for when we say story. They don't know where to find them, or they don't know that they have any, then you help them find them lots of tools for that. And then, you know, let's say they found a story it is a good one has a point in meets the objective that they want. What sort of comedy tools? Could you then apply to that story? To make it a little more a little more entertainment entertaining, if that's what you were trying to do?
Kathy Klotz-Guest 26:58
Yeah, absolutely. And I have a video which I'll post later today on LinkedIn about this exact topic. So there's a couple different things that you can do. So understand that humour requires heightening, which is like taking it up a notch. So there's one of the foundations of great comedy, we have this concept called the rule of three. So if you want to block and blocking is a great strategy. Like, you know, you want to show a very human protagonist that failed, right? So what are the ways we can block a protagonist so a protagonist maybe goes and looks for funding and trying to get you know, her startup off the ground in Silicon Valley. She gets denied, you know, four times she goes to the bank and gets denied and then that third one is like heightened heightened heightened so she gets denied by the head of this big corporation who happens to be her dad. And he says no, get out of here like rule of three just keep heightening, heightening and heightening. And typically when you're blocking that third one is the surprise. So you know, if I want to do a joke, just off the top of my head, it's like okay, using Rule three, it might be something like, you know, people say that I look young, you know, for my age. Well, it's important, you know, I eat REITs I moisturise and I lie my ass off about my age because it keeps me young it just really does so heighten heighten and then that third choice is like I didn't see that coming
Francisco Mahfuz 28:34
on question because you've you've used this term a few times and I it's been used in a term that is in a way that is different than I'm used to it. You said blocking now I'm used to blocking as a stage thing which has to do with movement on stage is how exactly are you using that because I'm I have a feeling other people listening or why is she saying blocking? Yeah,
Kathy Klotz-Guest 28:53
blocking on stage is it there's there's several things in theatre when we use the word blocking we mean stage where are you upstate upstage? downstage, where are you on the stage? What I'm using blocking in is in writing. So when we talk about comedy writing blocking means that the protagonist keeps encountering conflict such that that that protagonist does not get what he or she wants, every protagonist has to have a want a clearly defined want. Now what blocking in writing is not staged blocking. So when we talk about blocking your writing, what makes it funny is that this hero or heroine is just getting denied their wants want fulfilment
Francisco Mahfuz 29:35
it's blocking the same way we use cock blocking
Kathy Klotz-Guest 29:37
a sort of Yeah.
Francisco Mahfuz 29:41
It's you're putting obstacles, obstacles in the way of the protagonist
Kathy Klotz-Guest 29:47
about it as caught blocking the want.
Francisco Mahfuz 29:51
But he's a guy. That's just, I mean, we need to move away from the cock blocking I think Marking the length is kind of redundant, isn't it?
Kathy Klotz-Guest 30:03
That's true. That's true. I mean, that's it's obvious what we won that case. But it but it really in this type of terminology, Francisco and I appreciate you clarifying. We're really talking about denying the hero or heroine their wants. And that is funny because every time we think they're going to get close to getting it, they get swatted away. It's very funny. If you ever watch Meet the Parents, if you've ever watched that movie with Ben Stiller, that is a great example of a character getting their their want blocked repeatedly. Right? He wants nothing more than to get Terry polos character, he wants the girl, but he's got to make the dad like him. And every time he gets close to like, making the dead like something happens, right? The cat goes missing. Right? He sets the house on fire. Before he says the house on fire. He spikes the the volleyball in his sister in law's face. And she right before her wedding, her nose is bleeding. And he's like, I can't do anything, right. And so just when we think he's getting close to getting in the sort of the inner circle with Robert De Niro, something blocks that and that creates comedic heightening, because everybody at home is going oh my god, that's so true. That's happened to me, that has happened to me. So use that type of want blocking, to make it fun for the audience. And then eventually, you'll have to release it in the end that that that conflict and that tension and have some of the need be fulfilled. But it is a great that blocking is a great conflict intention, heightening tool, and it's a great comedic tool. So that's one, but it comes in threes. That's why we call it the rule of three, I didn't create the rule of three, but the rule of three is a very wonderful device. And here's the key again to using the rule of three make that third one. So crazy, kind of normal, kind of normal. And then like so out there, that it's like, oh my god, you know, and your audience will just love it. And it just always works. So it's a very, very easy tool for you to do that. Yeah.
Francisco Mahfuz 32:09
What I said before is that for most people, the challenge is finding finding the story. Yeah. And I tend to say to most people that storytelling for the vast majority of people, normal people, business people, is not fiction writing, you're finding a story, you been clear that there is a point, then you cutting away everything that does not support the point and make the story more, you know, memorable, compelling or easy to tell. So how do you when you have so that's, that's, I think the approach most people tend to take to business storytelling. But then perhaps on the other hand, you have Okay, well, we have the story. But now we want to do this other stuff to it, that makes it more interesting. Now, I think the cynical person might go, okay, so you're now getting something that actually have been you turning it into fiction, which I know, I can have more than three things that are horrendous that happened to me, I've just picked the ones that match the rule of three, and that's fine. But in some cases, that won't be the case. So how do you balance that? You know, is it is the truth, the main arbiter there in a big capital T truth? Or how do you square that circle?
Kathy Klotz-Guest 33:16
So you know, it's no different really, from normal storytelling. When we are telling a story, like, you know, it's based on truth, do we? Do we tweak it to fit? Sure? Does it lose the potency of the story? Because maybe 5% is sort of shaped, you know, strategically? No, no. And it's no different with comedy. It's not about, we're not asking you to make things up. But it's okay to shape and make it very clear. So, you know, if you went for funding, and you did get denied, well just say that, you know, if you got denied a certain number of times, say it, comedy likes odd numbers for some reason, so maybe you get denied 10 times. But for comedy sake, we like odd numbers. Why? Because it's just funnier that way. So you might say, instead of 10 times, you might say 1717 is a funny number. It's just odd. The point is, is you got denied funding a lot, a lot of times, it's so weird and odd. So what you're doing is a really important point is that you're starting with truth. We're not asking anyone to make stuff up. Take that story, though, and think about how it lands. And it's no different from the storytelling that you would do. Anyway, you are making sure that your story lands and has a certain impact on your audience so that they see the transformation for themselves. And sometimes that means clarifying language. And I don't think that means that you're you're making it fiction, it just means that you're presenting your story in a certain way to have to have maximum impact. So don't lie. You're not lying about the story, but I want you to Think about how might we say this in a way that is very true. That's very true. Like, you know, I say all the time that you know, when I was in tech, I worked really hard. And I earned every penny I didn't make. Yeah, I'm, I'm telling the truth. I'm just telling it in a very funny powerful one.
Francisco Mahfuz 35:19
I'm sure that flies over a lot of people's heads.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 35:22
No, it does not. Because in Silicon Valley, if I'm talking to an audience of women, you know, exactly, they know exactly what I mean. They know exactly what I mean. And so it's, it's, it's how you tell that story? And it depends. It always depends on who your audiences Francisco, you're 100%. Right. Who's my audience? Willie, get this. The what's the subtext? What's the subtext of me saying I got denied 117 times? Does it matter that it was only 100? No, because once at a certain point, though, the point of a lot becomes very true. That's the truth. So when I say, you know, I earned every penny I didn't make as a woman in tech. Women are like, got it. Men are like, got it. They know exactly what I'm saying. So what's the subtext? If the subtext is really true, I think you can still honour the story. So I don't want people to overthink it. It's not about you know, making stuff up. Just take that story, though. And just as you would any other story that you are, you're fashioning for intentional impact. You're asking yourself, How does this land? Does it make sense to my audience, but you bring up a really good point, which is, who's your audience, if the audience won't get the reference, then that's where you have to be a really good editor and say, I got to take it out. Because it even my intent might be here, but the audience isn't going to get it. So I think you have a little bit of wiggle room in storytelling, as long as the baseline of the point is true. And I would say it's no different in comedy. True, true. And then the third one is like heightened truth. It's it's truth, but it's truth on steroids. So yeah, you know, but it doesn't mean that your underlying messages is not true.
Francisco Mahfuz 37:06
Yeah, I guess one way to explain this to people would be to say, you know, when you say I was starving, that is heightened truth. You know, you weren't actually starving.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 37:17
Exactly. Exactly. And, and I think audiences appreciate that, as long as you know, the point of your story is still really crystal clear. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Francisco Mahfuz 37:29
So a couple a couple of other points when it comes to humour, in particular, in the in the corporate world. So one is this thing that over the last few years, must have become much more of a thing for you, then he used to be, which is the minefield of the whole can and cannot know, this, this is gonna sound wrong, who might or might not be offended by the humour you make. And you know, I, I'm very aware of that being a white men and I, there's things that I used to joke about fairly freely. And I find that today, they are trickier for me to joke about so I, I said, I was married for a bit over a year with a girlfriend that I had when I was in London, and we got married, really, because she needed a visa. That was the whole purpose of it. At least that's what I believed. I think she believed something slightly different. When we decided to, to break up with my prompting, we kind of had a super friendly divorce and everything we actually true story, we actually bought a Tesco, the divorce case from a supermarket, because that is the thing. Apparently. In six, six months later, I was talking to her we were friendly. So I was talking to her and I said, Listen, I have to tell you something. I've got a girlfriend. And in she said, so have I and I was like, Oh, you've got a boyfriend? No, I've got a girlfriend too. And I you know, there's a whole thing is the whole story is to tell about that how you know, I, I used to say something to people, like I've only ever had four girlfriends, I married two of them, and one of them was a lesbian. And I found that I could say that without any problems five years ago, 10 years ago, it's become trickier to talk about that now because all of a sudden the fact that she was lesbian, it's like, Well, why is that funny? It was like it was fun that I married someone who didn't have your resume that stretches that is no problem at all. But I found that stuff like that has become more sensitive and is like I don't want to get myself into trouble right that there's all the jokes I can make. Or there's other funny stories I can tell. So you have any hard and fast rules. You tell people like listen, Let's not mess about this stuff. This is this you cannot do ever and this you probably shouldn't do.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 39:54
Yeah, it gets tricky and I don't like to get into all the things you can't do because that makes people more scared. We're already scared of humour. So I don't want to give a whole bunch of don't do that it's already kind of humour has the fear for too many people. I'm going to keep it simple. Okay, I would say first rule, you know, never punch down and audiences know what that is. So they sense meanness and you know, so punching down just means your jokes cannot and your humour cannot be at the expense of people without power. So, generally speaking, if you are a white male, you should not be making jokes or, you know, references to anybody really underneath you, because that's pretty much the whole world.
Francisco Mahfuz 40:43
My father in law is immensely upset with that one, right? I can't make this joke. No, you can't. What about this other joke? No, you can't. Whatever. No, no, no more jokes for you. You live a long life. No more jokes. You told all the jokes you're gonna tell.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 41:00
It's like Sorry, buddy. Y'all colonise the whole world. You don't need to colonise comedy, get out, get out. But I think I think that's a safe bet. And I think it's because for too long, you know, your father loves probably a great guy. It's just for too long that those jokes were you were done way too much. And they were hurtful. So yeah. The other thing is, if you are not a member of a group, don't comment on the group. I am not a black woman. I shouldn't in no way be commenting on black women. You are not a woman in no way. Should you be making references that in some way could be misconstrued about, you know, punching down, you know, to women and being misogynist.
Francisco Mahfuz 41:41
Can I make jokes about Americans? Is that okay? Sure, sure.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 41:45
So here's the general rule, punching up is fine. That means power. So like, if you're making fun of government, if you're making fun of bosses, if you're making fun of people who have more power than you, then that's okay. If you're not a member of the group, no, you don't get to comment on the group. The other rule of thumb I always have is, because, again, humour is more than jokes, I want to be very clear, it's storytelling. But you don't even have to tell a story about that group if you're not in the group, and be careful about it being a relevant fact. So I'll give you an example. If you go there, there has to be a point for that detail in your story. But you'll appreciate friends Francisco, because you're a storyteller. If you drop a detail, it better be relevant and set up something else in the story. So I was working with an executive, and he was telling the story about his nephew. And he kept saying my black nephew. And here's, here's the challenge. It was not relevant. And so my challenge to him was, unless you come back to that point, or there's a point you're gonna make later about lifting people up, or you know, how your family's very mixed, and you love them or whatever. You don't need that detail, because that detail to the audience is like, well, that's interesting. He doesn't say my white nephew, he just says my black nephew. So they'll ask yourself, is there a point to it? So be very, very, very judicious and careful about it? The general rule is this. Here's the general rule. Make fun of situations, not people. I think if you make fun of situations, and not people 99.9% of the time, you won't go wrong. Just what's the situation because typically situations Francisco or universal, parenting, crappy bosses, shitty people, bad customer service, anything that we as humans, in laws, anything that is that is universally experienced, that tends to be a safe kind of thing. I say stay away from people. Unless, again, you're punching up people who have more power than you. So really, I think that leaves pretty much the whole world open. But really be honest with yourself, you know, be honest, is it necessary? Do I need this? How does it serve my story? And I think if you're tapping into a universal experience, then go for it. Just go for it. Yeah. But be very careful and be you know, if you're going to drop a detail, like you know, this executive that your nephew is black, okay, great. But why why do you point that out? Have a need for it. Otherwise? No.
Francisco Mahfuz 44:27
Yeah. Otherwise, you end up in a very complicated situation, which is way more complicated and apparently most people understand it to be of the case which is somewhat famous in America. Probably no one else in the world knows about it. But the Central Park Karen, where she's calling up this this she's in the park, there is this she was walking her dog where she shouldn't be there some guy telling her that she's shouldn't be there. And when she calls the police, she immediately says this black person is threatening me and out of it's a very complicated stuff like I've listened to documentary series about it's way more complicated. And apparently most people saw on the news. But that is the point that really complicates her stories at that moment. There didn't seem to be any explanation for the detail, apart from a very unkind interpretation of how you feel about like, people. It is more complicated than that on that one. Yeah, the detailed need otherwise, it's just like, why are you telling us that? Why do you want us to think when you tell us about
Kathy Klotz-Guest 45:28
exactly, exactly. And I really think if people just and that's a great example, and it is more complicated, and you're right, but that's a really good example of like, what that's interesting, that's in a not in a good way. It's like, oh, you you put that in there, not in a good way. So I think really, honestly, I don't want to make things harder for people because we're already afraid of humour, and we shouldn't be because humans are funny, we do funny things. Embrace your truth. Embrace your own idiosyncrasies and your own imperfections, make fun of situations, not people, make fun of your own inner monologue. Great. Make fun of situations. Keep it away from people. I think if you really keep it away from people, unless you're poking fun at yourself, you're probably going to be okay. Honestly, I don't want anyone to be so scared that they don't try. But I generally believe if we stay away from people, unless they're more powerful than you, then you're probably going to be okay. You will. Yeah,
Francisco Mahfuz 46:23
so I I'm a massive fan of self deprecating humour. And I tend to tell people that the you know, the best target for any humour is yourself because arguably, you know, it you need a complicated argument to complain about someone making fun of themselves, unless someone is going through the team Watley approach to humour ultimately was that character in Seinfeld played by Bryan Cranston, he was the dentist, convert to Judaism, and Seinfeld says that he thinks he converted just so he can make Jewish jokes. So my point there is, I'm a big fan of self deprecating humour, I think usually is the safest and most fun type of humour. But I have, I have heard that self deprecating humour is a beautiful, wonderful thing to recommend for men, but for women, is not quite the same. So what how do you feel about that? Or how do you tell people about that
Kathy Klotz-Guest 47:24
I have written about this, and I just had an article published on this very topic. So you are correct. There is a gender divide. So I want to be very clear. And and that doesn't mean NEVER use self deprecating humour. There are times when you make a mistake, if you make a mistake, owning it was self deprecation is a great thing. But there is a gender split. You're right. So I've written about this. Women, you overuse it, they over rely on it. And a lot of times women are using it to connect, we're trying to take our status, there's something in it's a stage term, we're using it to regulate status. So we use it because we're saying, Hey, I'm just like you, I'm not higher than you were at the same level. The problem with that for women is that too often is misconstrued as a lack of confidence. And that may not be true Francisco that may not be a lot of very confident women use it, but they use it because it's safe. That the problem is is that it can the subtext that it communicates is that they may not have the confidence to do any other type of humour and it so it is gender, we have to be careful as women, but here's where you can self deprecate. If you're going to be ladies, if you're going to self deprecating make it about something that is not your area of expertise. So I'm not a chef. I'm not, you know, Padma Lakshmi, never going to be her,
Francisco Mahfuz 48:50
which is a good thing, because then you don't have to be married to Salman Rushdie. Well, yeah. I mean, you know, we know who got the better end of that deal.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 48:59
That's right. That's right. And thank god girl she ran. But here's the thing. If I make fun of my cooking, in no way, shape, or form is a reflection of my acumen as a comedian and a storyteller, right? It's not I'm not making fun of my expertise. So if you want to use self deprecation never, never never make fun of your area of expertise. Ladies, pick something else. I'm not a gardener. I'm not I'm a really lousy gardener. But I'm not a paid gardener. I'm not Martha Stewart out there with a gardening show. So it is very true. We have to look at the gender issues there on on self deprecation. use sparingly ladies use it when you make a mistake. If you are new to an organisation, you do not have the credibility. Nobody knows you. You don't have the earned reputation to over rely on it. Use sparingly. Never, ever, ever make fun of your area of expertise. And that that is
Francisco Mahfuz 49:54
I'm sure that is true for men too. Yeah, no, I you know, I I think that the way I interpreted that, yeah, so I understand, and I'm familiar with the concept of the whole, you know, looks like you don't have enough confidence. The other way interpreted that is a way that makes the audience particularly men in the audience, but but I'm sure women too, makes us look like much worse human beings, because there is this idea that if you're, if you're a man, and you're coming across as very, you know, people think of you as competent, right? You're up there doing your thing. And you keep talking about all this, like I do I keep talking about all these ridiculous things I do. And I don't think a lot of people watch me do that and go, Oh, actually, he's a moron. They will do see though he's a, he's a person just like me. He's kind of funny. But like, they don't tend to think, Oh, this is a guy who I thought was competent. But actually, he seems like a complete, you know, idiot. Whereas, but then they might not because of me, but they might because men in general, we are not. We don't start from the point of having to necessarily prove ourselves, whereas a woman in the exact same position doesn't have from a lot of people, she's not going to have the expectation of I know, I know, you're incredibly capable. And when you tell me these things, I know this is kind of fun. A lot of people will go, Oh, so you are exactly the person I thought you were deep down inside in my horrible core. So that I thought that was the very least less charitable version of why the problem of self deprecation?
Kathy Klotz-Guest 51:31
Oh, exactly. Well, it's unconscious bias. Some of it is explicit bias. But that is exactly right, is that there's there's research over time that has shown that women pay a humour penalty, however, and I've written about this, so people want to go check out, you know, on LinkedIn, I've written about this a lot, just because there are people out there that have bias. And that is exactly right, Francisco is that we judge women differently. And a lot of times, here's the thing, people aren't aware of their own bias. So we have to navigate things a little differently. And yet, what I'm saying to women is women are just as funny and effective when they use humour. So let's kind of ease up on the self deprecation and use all the other things we're really good at, like storytelling, and we're playing wit, because we're good at it. But just because there's bias out there. And there is there is and fact, I was interviewed for Forbes a couple years ago about this very problem she has because it exists does not mean women should use humour less, we just have to be aware and be smart about it. Because women are smart. And somebody else's bias is not my problem. And it's not your problem, ladies, so I want you to own your humour and own you're funny. And yes, unfortunately, there is that bias. But you know what I say to that, you know, I'm gonna be funny, I'm trained, I'm gonna go do what I do. And if somebody doesn't like it, that's that's fine.
Francisco Mahfuz 52:58
But I got my last question on of humour or anything else pretty much in is this? So I, again, I don't I don't necessarily know how to answer this question. Because there is there's two sides to the whole using humour. The same as there is to using stories in the professional corporate world, wherever. So we're on the one hand, it is sometimes easy for people who are now on the outside of that world to say, Yeah, you should do it, you should tell stories, you should use humour. Because most presentations are boring, most meetings are boring. Now, no one is going to like if you do it, well, no one is going to begrudge you from making a meeting or a presentation more interesting or funnier. The pushback from the other side is thinking that is not appropriate, particularly humour, or some types of stories. So if people want some type of guidance there, where do you say okay, well, listen, this is this is when you definitely should try and use humour or humorous stories. And this is when you might want to try that a little more carefully. I mean, do you even make the distinction? And if you do, what do you tell people to do or not to do? There?
Kathy Klotz-Guest 54:08
You know, I honestly, I really am not a fan of giving too many rules. And I just told you why. The more I tell you what not to do, it heightens your own fear. It heightens the more we go, don't do this. Don't do that. I honestly believe humour isn't a storytelling tool exclusively. Humour is for ourselves. It's how we show up in the world. It's our own presence. I mean, every day I'm going to laugh and find and I'm going to joke around and be me. Why? Because I'm doing it for me. Why should I give up being happy because somebody else has a problem. So I'm a big believer in we, we've compartmentalised humour, like it's a checklist, okay, did I add humour? And I am saying we have to think bigger and more organically, which is the way we show up in the world we have to, again, humour is not jokes, it's, Do I make myself laugh and smile? Can I bring that to the table? So I think that the more we recognise that humour is organic, it's not something that we pull out once in a while, like Halloween, like a Halloween costume and put it on, the less fear we're gonna have about it. So I don't compartmentalise it like that. I think that show up. When you are telling stories as your best self, you're probably funny, and you're making your friends laugh. So I think you do have to read a room though, if you are doing context appropriate things where you're telling a story, just read a room and be smart about it. But I honestly believe that there were very few instances where telling a story well, with humour is not appropriate. There's very few instances, I think we unfortunately go into fear mode way more than we need to just be smart. Yeah,
Francisco Mahfuz 55:49
yes, I think that maybe maybe the board, the first boardroom meeting in a new company, might not be the time you tell the story of trying to iron your trousers while wearing them that you might want to save for, for for the second or third board meeting? Maybe not the first.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 56:07
Maybe, maybe but but if it was me, I would do it at the very first one. Why? Because that's who I am. I guess what I'm saying is bring your personality to it. I I'm a believer that if we hold back, we're holding back who we are. But be smart about it. You're not doing a comedy show, you're telling a story to the board. So if you're going to use humour, use it purposefully to advance the story. But I also do believe you should tell it like you. And if it means bringing yourself to the board boardroom then yes, yes, you should.
Francisco Mahfuz 56:44
It's a little bit of a contradictory direction there, Kathy, you say show up as yourself. But his mouth about it. Being smart about it is not really congruent with.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 56:55
I disagree. In other words, you're not there for a comedy show. So you know, if you if there's stories that you would tell your friends, this is not your friends, this is a board meeting. But that doesn't mean that you can't if you're if your natural inclination is to, you know, bring a little light heartedness to your presentations. Why would you not bring that to the board meeting, you're assuming that the board is all serious, and that the board are not made up of human beings who love to laugh, and I'm challenging that notion. I'm saying that is not true. I have dealt with board. I've been on boards, and we're human beings who want you to present information in a really profound way. And if it means human connection, then yes, so I do not believe I do not believe it's incongruent. When I say be smart about it, just understand which stories
Francisco Mahfuz 57:43
heightening the situation here, clearly. Yeah, so
Kathy Klotz-Guest 57:47
you're writing. And I think I just didn't I bring that up, because I love your I love the way you you bring that up? I think it's an important question. And I do believe when we stop treating humour, like an on and off switch, our lives will be improved. Humour is a continuum from Cisco. And sometimes we dial it back. Sometimes we ramp it up based on situation, but we never go to work, we should never go to work and turn that switch completely off. Because we're not robots, we're people. So I'm always going to advocate for humour as a as a continuum, not a switch. That's just how I'm gonna. That's me.
Francisco Mahfuz 58:26
If I'm familiar enough with your work that I believe that 92.3% of us are not robots, the rest, we are still, right. We're still in doubt about.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 58:36
Well, look, the rest of them, you and I both know, we've had some bosses that we're not really sure about. We're like, now I'm not sure you're human. But the rest of us so far, the rest of us are, yes,
Francisco Mahfuz 58:48
it would improve my opinion of humankind, if I found out they were actually evil robots. That is, I don't believe that the fish show, quote unquote, intelligence has gotten to that point yet.
Kathy Klotz-Guest 59:01
Well, I know that there are robots out there that have better personalities than some people that I know.
Francisco Mahfuz 59:08
Yes, that also might not be a high bar to jump over. And on, on that note, where do you want to send people like to have to pick one or two places for people to follow up some of your your stuff? What's the where, where should they go?
Kathy Klotz-Guest 59:26
You can go to two places, primarily, that is my website, which is keeping it humans calm. And you can go to LinkedIn, follow me on LinkedIn as well. A lot of the things that you know, Francisco and I talked about today are articles and videos that I've talked about there, because they're really important. It's really important stuff so you can connect with me there.
Francisco Mahfuz 59:47
Perfect. Kathy, thank you very much. I don't think it's been proven that we cannot coexist in the same universe without imploding or having to be had each other to pitch yourself at the very least, I can't I
Kathy Klotz-Guest 1:00:03
wouldn't want to behead you if, if I, if that was even an option I wouldn't I'd be like well who, you know, I need other funny people around me to keep me entertained and happy and joyful. So no, no,
Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:14
I'll take that. Alright everyone, thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves, and until next time
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