I was listening to an indispensible interview that Larry Wilde conducted with Woody Allen about three million years ago and I had to keep pulling the car over to jot down notes. I cut off a police car, but when I explained about Woody Allen and this blog he let me go. No he didn’t. That didn’t happen. But anyhow — here’s just one of the nuggets. Allen talked about his process — writing a ten minute routine, putting it in front of audiences, taking out the jokes he thought would work and didn’t, putting in the jokes he didn’t think would work and did. And cutting the whole thing by 40%. Then doing it again, and boiling it down to four minutes — wash, rinse, repeat. The first thing to consider here, the first learning, is that here we have the greatest comedy writer ever (I will fight anyone on this one btw) and he doesn’t trust his material. He won’t even try it out with friends. He puts it in front of AUDIENCES and lets THEM decide what works. Then, he cuts it to make it even better. All well and good and hard and smart. But here’s the real genius part of Mr. Allen’s method and what truly speaks to why his stuff WORKS.
He makes of point of saying not only does he try out new material in front of audiences to let them decide, HE TRIES IT OUT IN FRONT OF HIS BEST AUDIENCES! Not the late night, second show, Tuesday night audiences. He goes live in front of the prime, Saturday night show. Not everything, he makes a point of saying, these people deserve a show. But for his qualitative research, he doesn’t go easy. Why? Because if he doesn’t have the best, sharpest, most demanding audiences respond to his work — HE WON’T LEARN. His results will be faked and biased. Add to this, for creatives and people working on marketing plans, the fact that he tries out lots of material and works it and works it. Not just two jokes and makes them one. 20 jokes, 50 jokes, a hundred jokes. And what does this do? It makes him Woody Allen and us not Woody Allen. It makes him KILL.
To bring it back home, in this day and age of succeed or else (you don’t get the VC money, you don’t get the corner office, you don’t get the job) isn’t this little secret — LISTENING TO YOUR AUDIENCE — something we should all pay attention to?
I’m just sayin…