Published: March 31, 2020
Peter McGraw Shtick to Business Book Cover
Peter McGraw Head Shot

After more than a decade studying humor and teaching MBA students, Marketing Professor and humor scholar Peter McGraw, has turned his attention to translating lessons from comedy—some from his own comedy successes and failures—into business insights. McGraw’s latest book Shtick to Business launches, appropriately, April 1.

Four “Sets” to Learn From

Sthick to Business presents four key ideas driving the success of popular comedians—spoiler, it’s more than their jokes. These same drivers of success can be used by businesses or business professionals seeking novel ways to succeed.

First, McGraw describes how it takes more than good comedic instincts to become a successful comedian. From Seinfeld to Poehler to Chappelle, it’s the unique business and self-branding strategies that have driven the success of their careers. Even at the highest level, comedians such as Bill Murray are thoughtful and thorough in their career-management initiatives, keeping their talents relevant and sought-after in the ever-changing comedy scene.

Drawing from behavioral science principles and case studies, McGraw shows how misdirection and reversal can be powerful tools for business leaders everywhere. While comedians use reversal to successfully land jokes, companies like Google have found ways to turn their “weaknesses” into benefits, such as when the tech giant added an “undo send” feature to Gmail after they realized the long times required to send emails. The result: happier customers.

McGraw also points to collaborative genius demonstrated in improv, sketch and even stand-up as another key to successful innovation. It often takes a whole team, from directors to writers to actors, to make a successful comedy act. By looking at how collaboration breeds success, McGraw highlights these insights as actionable business lessons.

Lastly, McGraw assesses the ways in which behavior translates to success. Similar to the way comedians cannot blame audiences for not laughing at jokes, businesses should refrain from blaming customers for poor product performance.

About Peter McGraw

McGraw hosts the podcast I’M NOT JOKING, which explores insights from funny people of all types, from business, arts and sciences to comedy, and is the co-author of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. He is a keynote speaker, marketing professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, Leeds School of Business, and director of the Humor Research Lab at CU Boulder. Learn more about his work.