Welcome To the Join Up Dots Podcast with Greg Schwem
Introducing Greg Schwem
My guest today Join Up Dots free podcast interview is Mr Greg Schwem, a man who has combined two sought after talents and created something rather unusual.
He knows how many business conferences are dry, flat affairs, with keynotes presentations by grey men, in grey suits, spouting grey material.
Leaving the audience wondering when the next breakout session will be, or what happened to that cute girl they saw earlier that morning.
Instead he brings a comedic approach honed by working the stand-up routines in Chicago, with an eye for detail for the written word developed through his study at Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism.
Two distinctly different specialisms, which complement each other perfectly.
How The Dots Joined Up For Greg
But as we see time and time again where someone ends up, displaying what seem like god given talents, is quite often the last place that they envisioned at the beginning of their career.
Leaving University, he settled in Florida, becoming an award-winning reporter for NBC-owned WPTV in West Palm Beach, until when he began inserting material about business and technology into his act, audience members approached him and said, “You really should come down to my office and tell those jokes.”
And that was that. With a lot of hard work. A lot of persistence. And a desire to be the best that he can be he was on his way.
So how did this young journalist take such a detour in his career?
And why did he feel the need to take an already difficult art of public speaking, and make it doubly tough by trying to make business folk laugh at 9:00am in the morning?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, with the one and only Mr Greg Schwem
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Greg Schwem such as:
Why the ability to create a true comedy routine takes over a year of hard work and fine tuning to find the funny that delivers big-time.
How journalism has given him the skills to create material at break neck speed, something that he uses to amazing effect in his work.
Why in Greg’s opinion everybody needs to feel the adrenalin rush that you get when being out on stage making people laugh
How there is no substitution for preparation and rehearsal if you want to make something seem effortless.
How business is all based on interacting with people on a personal level. Crack that and success if yours!
How To Connect With Greg Schwem
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here– enjoy
Full Transcription of Greg Schwem Interview
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When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be but somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling and Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:48]
Yes, hello there everybody and welcome to Join Up Dots. You know, I’m loving today. I’m loving today. This is a second show that I’ve done. I haven’t recorded any shows for about three weeks, and I’m back into it. Now I’m starting to think that I am a proper host that can go up on holiday vacation and just turn on the microphone and it all comes flooding back. And that’s the key thing to what we try to do on Join Up Dots get you to believe that you can tap into your super talent, and you can do something that is enjoyable and you love doing it and also earn an income too. And that’s what today’s guest is because he’s a man who has combined two sought after talents and created something rather unusual. He knows how many business conferences are dry flat affairs with keynote presentations by grey men in grey suits spouting grey material leaving the audience wondering when the next breakout session will be or what happened to that cute girl they saw earlier that morning. Well instead he brings a comedic approach honed by working to stand up routines in Chicago with an eye for detail for the written word developed for a study at Northwestern University’s prestigious Middle School of Journalism. Two distinctly different specialisms with complement each other perfectly. But as we see time and time again, where someone ends up displaying what seems like God given talents is quite often the last place that they envisioned at the beginning of their career. Leaving University he settled in Florida becoming an award winning reporter for NBC own WP TV. Did I sound like an American there in West Palm Beach until when he began inserting material about business and technology into exact audience members approached him and said, you really should come down to my office and tell those jokes. And that was that with a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence and a desire to be the best that he can be he was on his way. So how did these young journalists take such a detour in his career and why did he feel the need to take an already difficult a public speaking and make it doubly tough by trying to make business boat laugh at nine o’clock on a Monday morning? Well, let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr. Greg Schwem. How are you Greg?
Greg Schwem [2:58]
I am great, David. How are You That was a wonderful build up by the way, I hope I can I hope I can live up to those expectations.
David Ralph [3:06]
Oh, you’re gonna over deliver because you you you touch on two of my favourite things I come from a public speaking background and I always used to like to bring comedy into subjects which quite often on a dry so we’re gonna have a great conversation today because it’s strange to me how you and I’m going to cut to the chase actually I’m going to go straight to that last question how you have developed an income in two very different specialisms which are fragile at the best public speaking is very difficult and can stand up comedy is the ultimate you die on your feet more than you have sort of successes at the very beginning. What makes you want to do it?
Greg Schwem [3:50]
You know, first of all, as far as being a public speaker I have just always enjoy getting in front of audiences. It’s never it’s never something that intimidated me. It doesn’t exactly I haven’t exactly passed that gene down to my kids because my, my daughter is a freshman in college. And she just called last night and she has this class called rhetoric in most of the classes devoted to giving speeches, and she just announced that she had to give a 45 minute presentation. And she admitted that she’s absolutely terrified of doing this now 45 minutes is typically the amount of time that I’m on stage in front of businesses, but I can’t really say to her, well just do it. I do that every day. That’s that’s gonna help and that’s what I
David Ralph [4:36]
do that night.
Greg Schwem [4:37]
Yeah, exactly. But I realised public speaking is not for everybody. Most people have a dreadful fear of it. It wasn’t. I just always enjoyed being in front of people. And as far as comedy I always enjoyed making people laugh to from a very early age and I’m talking like seven years old. I always was the the guy in in school. I tried to make people laugh and people always say they say, Well, were you the class clown? And I always say no. There’s a difference. I said, I was like the class, the class wise guy. And the difference is the class clown tries to make the other students laugh. And the class wise guy tries to make the teacher laugh. You make the teacher laugh, you can never get in trouble. That’s always what I that’s, that’s really the difference. And I just enjoyed making people laugh. I enjoyed just the reaction that I got, without being without being crazy, silly, stupid. And that’s how I got into stand up comedy. And I just enjoyed growing up. I enjoyed listening to comedians, I had a lot of comedy records. And I studied them and played them over and over. They were I always found something different in them. And I started doing stand up when I was 16 years old.
David Ralph [5:54]
So when you leave school in America, we don’t have this over here but you have those Facebook things. When I say The most attractive person or the most person is going to be achieved what? What did they say about you? What was the slogan underneath your photo?
Greg Schwem [6:08]
Well, in high school I was I was voted best sense of humour. And I think the reason it was is because I actually did stand up comedy at one of those. I don’t know if you have these in England, I don’t know if they have the the high school talent shows I’m sure you do or have something, some form of them. I actually did stand up comedy in high school, and that had never been done before. And I look back, David, and I think, to this day, I think what in the world was I thinking, doing stand up comedy in front of an audience where I knew just about everybody, and luckily, it went very well. And I think to myself, if that had not gone well, I, I probably would have been so humiliated. Just the fact that I had to come back to school the next day, I probably would have never gotten on stage again. And I think there’s an awful lot of people. There’s probably very funny There’s some probably very funny workers out there just doing regular mundane jobs, who tried it once, it didn’t go well and never went back. I did it once it went well. And from that moment on, I was hooked. Even though I never, I never thought I would make a career as a comedian in any venue. Well,
David Ralph [7:21]
we’ve had all these people in, and everybody has these people who sit next to you in offices and just make you roar with laughter. And they’re never gonna get up, but they’re just funny. And more often than not, they don’t even know they’re finally they just say stuff. And it’s just really, really amusing. Where did you find tune that ability of just being amusing to crafting the comedy because that’s a different skill altogether, isn’t it?
Greg Schwem [7:50]
It is, I mean, because eventually you do have to get up on stage and you have to get up and says, You know, I, I know those people you’re talking about? And they say, Well, you know, I’m really funny. at parties or I’m really funny in the office, or I have their co workers say that the guy that sits next to me is how hilarious he should. He shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. Eventually, though, you have to get up and do it in front of strangers who have no idea, your background, I always tell people who want to get into this. To get into this profession, I say, Go, you have to go try it. And don’t invite your friends. Don’t invite anybody who knows you because they’re not going to give you an honest reaction. Go do it in front of people who have no idea who you are. And that works two ways. Number one, then you’ll find out if you’re really funny, and number two, if if it doesn’t go well, those people don’t know you, and you can just go home and forget that it ever happened.
David Ralph [8:46]
Is anyone on stage actually truly funny? Or is it that they’ve honed their craft? There’s that famous Jerry Seinfeld video where he basically has 15 years of material. I mean, decides to give it up and then starts dying a death because he hadn’t tailored back material. So are there people that you know, personally, that can just go up there and be funny? Or is it all about trying the jokes, writing the jokes, testing them out because what we have over in the United Kingdom and I don’t know if you have it in America, but we have branched out over the last few years, if you want to see a stand up comedian, maybe 15 years ago, they would be doing theatres. Now they’re doing stadiums. And what they seem to do is he will block out the stadiums for maybe a month and do 15 nights, but over a period of year, they will right material event, try it out at a pub in front of 15 people and then they keep on building up and then they do regional theatres, and then it gets better and better and better material until they do the stadiums. So it takes a whole year to get the truth funny in it. Is that how people do it? Is that how it is sort of Lewis Kay and the Jerry Seinfeld’s do it, they just keep them working. Yeah,
Greg Schwem [10:03]
I do. And and you’re right. It was it was that’s always been the way you start in a small venue and you you hone it now, on that note and and some of the comedians that you’ve just mentioned Louie ck, and Seinfeld and Chris Rock had been have kind of bemoaned the fact that the art of crafting material is disappearing. And the reason is, is that everybody has a an iPhone now and thinks nothing of recording everybody’s act when they’re doing it and the Chris Rock says, You know, I, I want to go he goes when I go into a club with new material, I know it’s not gonna be hilarious. I’m working on it. I’m working on things and and I you know that that is true when you when you work on comedy. It literally does take an entire year to develop a good 20 minutes, I think. But you have people in the audience now filming this and then posting it on their social media sites and saying I saw some Such and such comedian last night. Boy was I disappointed I didn’t laugh once. And and what they’re seeing is really just a they don’t realise they’re seeing just a workshop. And it’s very difficult. It’s and for somebody like me in the business community that works for business crowds, I feel like it’s even tougher because I the the expectations are very high I think, well, they’re they’re high on me, let me backtrack a little bit. I think the expectations are low because I’m something very unique. You mentioned at the beginning that these corporate meetings are full of, you know, grey men and grey suits, giving great presentations. And that has unfortunately become kind of what the business community is used to when they go to one of these meetings. So when somebody like me comes out and makes them do something totally different, that it’s something they’ve never seen before. So in that respect, if they left, that’s more than they’ve done, maybe the entire morning and mid afternoon. On the other hand, I am dealing with people who, you know, when you go to a comedy nightclub, your audience is there to be entertained. They’re there at night, they’re done for the day. Now they’re out there ready to have fun. A lot of my presentations are done during working hours. And you know what it’s like now, I mean, you’re never really away from the office. So I my biggest challenge is to get people to stop texting to stop checking their email, to stop walking out of the room to take a phone call. That’s something that as a as a business entertainer, a nightclub entertainer doesn’t have to deal with things like that. But But as far as getting back to develop material, so I have to I have to go in there and hit them hard, because I realised the attention span of, of corporate corporate individuals is very small. It’s very it’s very short.
David Ralph [12:51]
But let’s play a clip of you doing but dude, getting out there and delivering the material as only you can do this is um, I’m not sure This is I’m gonna play it and you can tell us afterwards. This is Greg doing this stuff.
Greg Schwem [13:05]
So what I do know about you is that you are a fun group. And you know what? Speaking of fun, I don’t even know why you bother hired a comedian based on all the fun you’re gonna have at this conference. I mean, I’m sorry, I’m not here tomorrow. Did you see what you were doing? Mark? Did you see this? You scheduled transcatheter aortic valve replacement.
Three approaches to total hip arthroplasty and surgical management of female pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. All in the same day. I mean, seriously, Roy? I don’t mean to tell you how to run your event, but maybe next year spread the fun out people.
David Ralph [13:51]
Now when you were doing that, Greg, were you aware that the material was going to go down like a house on fire as you could hear Or are you literally stepping into the unknown each time?
Greg Schwem [14:04]
You know, I, I, that one, I knew that was going to get a big response because just saying those the names of those breakout sessions, it just sounds funny. It sounds funny in in just because it’s so complex. And what I try to do in my show is to kind of say the things that people wish they could say, but they can’t. I I try to put myself in their shoes and think oh my gosh, you know, we’re here by the way that was that was recorded in San Antonio and the audience were medical technicians and medical technicians are the people that maybe stand next to the surgeon in the operating room and set up all the instruments that they need, and hand them to them and sterilise them and dispose of them when they’re no longer needed. those are those are what Medical Technicians Do and surgical technicians, but I should say, and I just I just looked at their agenda, and I saw what a typical day was for them. And I just started reciting these things. And it just it. I was laughing as I was saying them in my mind. And I thought, here’s a guy me who’s gonna just come in who’s not one of them. And just basically tell it like it is saying, okay, you’re here in San Antonio, and you’re away from your hospital. But let’s be honest here. Let’s just see what you’re doing today. See how fun this really is. And that’s, that’s kind of the attitude that people have because when they go to these corporate events, it’s sure they’re in beautiful locations, and there’s probably a golf course right outside and maybe they might get a chance to play it. But the bottom line is they’re going to be sitting in a conference room. And, and, and taking part in sessions that sound like this for most of the days that they’re there. And I just basically bring that out. I just basically say, let’s, you know, let’s let’s not beat around the bush here, here’s what you’re doing. So yeah, I knew that was gonna get a big laugh.
David Ralph [16:10]
So if you don’t sort of standard material that works, you just change the name of the company or is it a brand new routine every time you do it?
Greg Schwem [16:19]
Well, it’s not a brand new 45 minutes I couldn’t possibly do that I couldn’t come up with a 45 minute set. It’s a combination, David, I mean, I do have what I consider to be a template. These are tried and true bits that I do where I do just kind of insert the names of the names of the organisation or the industry that I’m working for. But at the same time, I would say probably a third of my act, maybe about 10 to 15 minutes of a 45 minutes set is is is brand new. And it is something that revolves specifically around them that that I found on their website, and That I’ve been trying for the first time in some form.
David Ralph [17:03]
So So do you think as I said in the introduction, but the fact that you graduated as a journalist, it gives you a good eye for detail, the fact that you can go to their, probably their company, profile their about page or whatever and find something but you can use the journalism help you on your route.
Greg Schwem [17:25]
Absolutely. It did. It helped me I think journalism teaches you how to research. It teaches you how to write very quickly. And it also teaches you how to sort of find something that’s a little bit different. I think I mean, you you know, I’m sure when you do all these podcasts, you when you have guests on you, you want to ask them a question that they’ve never been asked before. As a journalist. I’ve always wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to interview people and I wanted to ask them, make them talk about something that even if they’ve done 100 interviews that day that they’ve never heard before. I feel the same way. When I craft my act, I want to bring something to the stage that my audience has never as a never heard before, and yet will be able to relate to will enjoy listening to. And that’s the kind of things I like. And I think journalism really prepared me well for that. And it also taught me journalism also teaches you to work very quickly, which sometimes I’ve had to do. And, you know, I’ve had some, some shows, where I’m not doing a keynote where I’m emceeing for three days. For an entire meeting, the client might say, Hey, you know, maybe tomorrow, we’re gonna be talking about this. Do you think you could work a little bit of this into your remarks tomorrow?
David Ralph [18:43]
And do you go Yes, that’s brilliant. Or do you go oh, my God, okay, right. It’s Netflix is gonna be told off and I’m not gonna watch the pornography in the hotel. I’ve got work to do.
Greg Schwem [18:57]
You know, it’s weird when I A little bit of both Actually, I, I do say when I MC dates, and I’m there Well, one thing I like about hosting a meeting that takes place for three and sometimes four days is I really do get to know the group and they get to know me. You know, they’ll see me walk around in the in the lobby, and, you know, there’s a comedian, there’s the guy that started off the meeting, and that was really funny. And, hey, here’s something you didn’t talk about that you might want to talk about tomorrow, that, you know, they’ll they’ll, they’ll approach me and and want to help me and that’s fine. And now I basically tell my clients as long as you’ve got me there, use me in any capacity you want. I love to do I love to do what you’re doing. I look at my own porno films, couldn’t you?
I wish I had time. But funny ones, funny porno films, David.
David Ralph [19:49]
That’s odd. Watch that one. Yeah,
Greg Schwem [19:51]
there you go. Nobody. That could be that could be Yeah, it could be your next podcast.
David Ralph [19:55]
I probably made a few of those myself without turning the camera on.
Greg Schwem [20:00]
So but I mean, I will, you know, video, it’s getting very easy to make video on the fly. I’m going out to Napa next week and I told the client, I would be more than happy to interview their customers at the opening cocktail party and ask them a little bit about the event. And that night, I’ll put a video together, and I’ll play it the next morning. It’s it’s a technology is amazing. And it’s really benefited what I do. Because now you can, you can do so much more than just talk to an audience, you can show them and that’s one of the things that you know, one of the things, some of the things I joke about on stage, if you just heard me saying them, you’d say, Oh my gosh, that’s that’s not true. But if I can back that up by showing them a screen grab from their website, or, or a page from their Facebook page that shows that they have one person talking about them. And it’s proof it is true. And I and I always say that I always say you know, hey, I didn’t write that you wrote it. I just copied and pasted
David Ralph [20:58]
because what I found interesting I spent some time watching or if you go over to Greg’s website is great website. There’s like a television and you can sort of watch. Well, I was planning to watch about three minutes. And he went on for quite a while. And I kept on watching and kept on watching and kept on watching. And you’ve seen a hybrid of public speaker, comedian, and television anchor, I could imagine you doing all of those kinds of things. Is that something that has set you apart the ability to move into different roles when when required?
Greg Schwem [21:32]
I think so. Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that in business, I think people want you to be very versatile. I that’s always a selling point. I think the fact that I again, goes going back to my journalism, my broadcasting background, it allows me to sort of upsell other services to clients, in addition to just being the guy that comes out and is funny for three 30 minutes to an hour, I want to be an NA I sent him I said, I want to be a part of, of who you are and what you do on there. In fact, here’s one thing that I always ask for I say, when I, when I get a new client, I always say, I want you to send me either through the mail or by email, everybody who’s attending this meeting, whatever you send them. I want to see it too. I want you to consider me an attendee at your meeting. I want to see what they’re seeing. And because that’s going to, that’s going to help me craft. Craft my remarks. So yeah, but I definitely think the the ability, as you said, being sort of a combination TV news anchor and that kind of thing. Yeah, it’s definitely how has helped me and it has set me apart. Because, you know, really, David, it’s so different. And I think there’s a lot a lot of comedians, I don’t think I know a lot of comedians make the mistake of, they’ll take, you know, maybe maybe somebody will see them in a nightclub and walk up to them and say, Hey, we’re having In a meeting, why don’t you come out and do do this show, I thought you were really funny. Come do this show for our company. And they will just take that exact the comedian will take that exact act that they’ve been doing the nightclub, which was hilarious. And they will bring it to that company and they will do the exact same thing, and they will die. Hmm. And they will wonder why. And And really, the answer is very simple. It’s just it’s it’s two very different audiences. And it goes back to what I was saying about people at night at night clubs want to be there to be entertained, but you aren’t exactly the star of the show, at a corporate meeting, and you have to realise that and then figure out a way to to make people relate to you.
David Ralph [23:44]
But but that is how business is all about, isn’t it relating to people, you’ve got to tailor your approach to whoever you are. If you went on a night in a bar with me, Greg, I’d be quite happy to have some buffalo wings, some nuts. Few puppies. And if you scratch yourself halfway through, it wouldn’t bother me. Now, if you went with the
Greg Schwem [24:07]
most at least see me at a bar, I think
David Ralph [24:09]
I have I know your soul. But if you go with the most attractive woman in the world, you’re going to tailor your approach totally different. So it seems bizarre, but somebody who is achieving a level of success in a certain field has almost forgotten but it’s about interaction. Everything we do is about interaction.
Greg Schwem [24:29]
Yes, yeah, you’re right. I mean, and I don’t think I’ve ever gonna reach the point. I mean, I, you know, here’s another thing I mean, a lot of companies because they have the money, they will hire very well known, you know, sitcom stars and over here in the in the states to come and do them and they think that’s really cool that they’re getting somebody for their own private event that that everybody watches on television every week and I’ve heard stories about these guys having a absolutely horrible shows. And, and I think a lot of times these the sitcom stars, they come into the corporate event, and they just kind of have the attitude that I’m a big, huge celebrity. Do not tell me how to do my show. I will do it the way I want to do it. And that might work for the first five minutes. But after a while, I don’t care who you are, and I don’t care how famous you are. You have to know the audience. You have to know who they are. I mean, I worked once with a I opened for a very well known comedian, female comedian over here. And they had told me they said, you know, we we gave her all the information about our company. This was a pharmaceutical company, and they were having a big event to announce that they had just gotten a new drug approved. So it was a very upbeat audience. And they said, you know, we gave her all the information about us and, and she assured us she read it and then she started her act and it was very obvious she hadn’t read any of it. She had absolutely No clue what they did. And she just started her regular Act, which was talking about all her encounters with celebrities. And you could just, you could just hear the the energy go out of the room. Yeah. And people eventually started to leave. And I felt bad for her, but I didn’t feel bad for her. Does that makes sense? Yeah, no, total, but it’s up on the plane, you had a four hour flight from Los Angeles is read a little bit as the play. And if you just put three minutes of jokes about them into your act, they would have loved you.
David Ralph [26:31]
Because I prepare a hell of a lot for this show to make it sound like I haven’t prepared. It’s a very free flowing conversation. And it seems like I haven’t got a single question in my head. But although I haven’t got the questions written down, I know enough about the guests to know where I want to take it. And it’s that preparation that makes things seem effortless. And that’s why so many people think that they can do certain things because the real listeners and I’m not saying I’m an A Lister in any shape or form, but it’s the ones that look like they are just making up on the fly. But it’s the hours and hours of preparation is the hours and hours of honing their craft when nobody has noticed. That’s what makes the difference. And now if you take that difference with the fact that you are actually tailoring it for your audiences as well, that’s the gold and then Greg.
Greg Schwem [27:23]
Absolutely. I call what you just described, rehearsed improvisation, meaning Yes, you did. You did the homework. And you have been probably before you got on the air with me, you you said this is kind of where I want to go. So you’re rehearsing. And but at the same time, what we’re what we’re doing sounds very free flowing. And it sounds like again to guys that could just like you said, just be sitting in a bar and having this conversation and that’s what I like to that’s the persona that I like to bring to the stage to it’s just me talking to this company. I’m interested in what Do I want you to tell me what you do? And I and I want to, I want you to feel good about what you do. I just had a conference with a software company that I’m working for next week. And I said to them, what I say to all my clients, I say, I’m going to have fun with you. There’s going to be a little bit of self deprecating humour, self deprecating, meaning you that there’s plenty about me to in the show, I’m going to have fun with you. I’m going to have fun with your company and have fun with your clients. However, at the end of the day, I’m going to be your biggest cheerleader. I want the audience to walk out and think I’m so glad I came to this conference. I think it’s great that this company hired a comedian when we could have had, you know, a futurist or some guy or an economist or some guy that just spouts off monetary figures for an hour, but they chose to hire this guy and I had a great time. And, and maybe that’s why I want to work with this company.
David Ralph [28:57]
And what you did there, Greg, you share that Absolute nugget of gold that I want to emphasise to everyone out there, you might not have picked up on it. But the fact that Greg was saying that it’s about self depreciating humour, both ways, Greg will say things about himself, he will talk about the audience, that is what engages, that’s what rapport is built on. And if you can do that extremely well, in a natural way, more often than not, you will find your customer base, you will find a loyalty for your product, because there’s an honesty and integrity and people just naturally gain that, that that balance somehow. Did you see that? Greg?
Greg Schwem [29:35]
Absolutely. But I also think there’s a very fine line. And this is something that I’ve really had to be very cognizant of over the years. I think there’s a very fine line when you do what I do between having fun with an audience and belittling them. Yeah. Or mocking them. Because once you do that, and I again, I have seen comedians do this, you will lose them right away because what you no matter how How boring or dry what you think this company does, and the employees that work for that company, you have to understand this is this is their life, this is what they do. This is what they’re passionate about. They go to work every day, and they try to do what they do better. And you can’t you can’t insult that. That’s, that’s what drives I mean, that’s what drives the world of business is people doing that, and it might be monotonous, and it might be something that you would think, Oh my gosh, I could never I could never sit at a desk and do that all day long. But you can never ever convey that to the audience. And and once you do, you know, once you get up there and say something like really, you know, what, who has a use for this product that you’ve spent years refining? Once you do that, you will you will lose them?
David Ralph [30:52]
Well, let’s play some words that will take us to the next part of the conversation. We’re going to take you back in time to talk about your your high school days and the ability to take that extra risk of standing up and, and putting yourself at that moment where it could go badly wrong. This is Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey [31:09]
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [31:36]
Now, you obviously have taken that chance, but the way I pose it nowadays is did you take the chance or did the chance find you? Was it something you was naturally drawn to? Although it might have been a meandering path?
Greg Schwem [31:50]
Yeah, first of all, where did you get that? Was that a commencement that sounds like like a commencement speech from Jim Carrey was it
David Ralph [31:56]
now he’s sitting here with me now I keep him in a drawer.
Unknown Speaker [32:00]
Have you chicken wings, right?
David Ralph [32:01]
Absolutely. And he scratching himself, which is quite another habit by Lego.
Greg Schwem [32:05]
Actually, it was a combination. I never ever thought I would be doing this for a living. I like doing it as a hobby. I did it in high school. When I got to Northwestern University. I did it dorms and it talent shows around campus. When I moved to Florida, and took a job as a journalist, I didn’t know anybody down there. And so I started hanging out at comedy clubs, just because it was just something to do. And, and then I got on stage to perform at these open mic nights. And again, that was just something to do. And then you quickly meet other comedians and you kind of get a friend network there.
David Ralph [32:41]
Yeah, but why don’t you do that? Greg, I can understand you a passing time going to comedy shows but there’s a difference between watching somebody a family. Yeah. So
Greg Schwem [32:50]
it goes back to what I said when I was 16. And the first time I did it, and I was hooked, I was hooked. I just wanted to get up on stage and make people laugh from that. moment on, it’s an adrenaline rush. I wish everybody could feel that. I wish everybody could get the chance to stand on stage and, and just bask in laughter because once you get that, once you have that it is it’s like a drug it You You You want it more. You just want to keep doing it you want to you want to recreate that feeling. So that’s why I was doing it. But at the same time, I had a job that I went to school to do. And I thought this is which I enjoyed to I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. And I thought that I always had this as a hobby. What what pulled me to doing stand up full time was eventually I decided I got a little disillusioned with the way journalism was going even back in the late 80s. It was starting to turn very, for lack of a better word, tabloid II not even remotely what it is today, but it was still starting to get that way. And I was I Just starting like this isn’t really, this isn’t really what I signed up for. And the more as I was getting more and more disillusioned with journalism, I was doing more and more stand up comedy. I was starting to go away and do shows for clubs on weekends. I was starting to travel out of town. I was starting to get paid for it, which the first couple years I never got paid. I just did it for fun. And what
David Ralph [34:21]
was yummy. Back in those days, Greg, what
Greg Schwem [34:23]
was it about? Well, again, I still feel like it was very much geared towards the audience might the when I was living in Florida, probably the best material that I had was about living in Florida which was a which was the Wild West at the time it kind of still is Florida’s got a little bit of everything. But you know, I did jokes about the the the senior citizens who were living in all the condos and driving 20 miles an hour in the left lane and you couldn’t see their head over the steering wheel and, and I was I was doing jokes about some of the political climate in Florida the influx of refugees. That was kind of a tricky subject, but it was something that people were talking about. I can’t remember the jokes I did I, again, like everything else, I don’t believe they were mean spirited. Like, you know, these people should go home type of jokes. But it was just so again, even then it was trying to relate to to the audience, what did they think is going to be funny? So that’s the kind of material that I was doing.
David Ralph [35:28]
Because I can say, Oh, I can see that with Florida. But yeah, it’s it’s literally it’s amusing just being there, isn’t it? As you say, I’ve never seen so many white socks and sandals until I got to Florida. And you’ve got no sense of what time it is because the old people seem to have lunch at nine o’clock in the morning and dinner at four in the afternoon is, is it’s like you’ve gone back in time somehow. So I can imagine the material just found you in it.
Greg Schwem [35:53]
Exactly. And yet at the same time, that’d be you. You’ve painted one picture of Florida and then yet we have a show over here. In America called America’s Most Wanted, and everybody who makes that show that eventually is found is found in Florida. We have not just the White Sox people walking around, but you had some of the most wanted criminals mixed in among them.
David Ralph [36:19]
Large mouse. I bet that’s how they feel that way. I don’t know what to think about that. That would be bizarre when they go in there. I was in Disney World once and this is absolutely true. And Mickey Mouse got stabbed. And if any kids are listening, just put your fingers in the ears at the moment, but they couldn’t sort of give Mickey Mouse or medical help. I had to carry him off into the Magic Castle where the magic Pixies would help due to that reason but fancy bats dabbing Mickey Mouse
Greg Schwem [36:51]
having Mickey that Yeah. Wow. That’s that’s something I would like you think signed up for that job. You think okay, this is maybe a pretty safe job, but apparently nobody’s safe nowadays.
David Ralph [37:03]
When I on and I’ll bring this up in conversation. I wasn’t gonna think about this but being a journalistic reporter, as we record this today, which is the 27th of August this week, there’s been a terrible tragedy in America, where a couple of reporters were were shot dead live on air, which obviously, unless you’ve been in a cave, Greg, you will know about it, as we have over here, is that something that still shocks you that we can get so much connectivity? And the news reports, we’ll just go around the world as quickly as he has, leading to people almost get infamy overnight.
Greg Schwem [37:42]
Yeah, it does. And it was it was tragic. And I was I was, I was absolutely glued to news reports yesterday. I’m an early riser, and I get up around 530 in the morning, and that literally happened about 15 minutes after I got up. So from early morning, I was Following reports and I just I, you know, you go back and you say, you know, I was I was one of those people at some point. And it was just to me it was just mind boggling that something like that could happen. And it’s it’s really it’s really hard to deal with that I, you know, just kind of proves that you’re not safe. You’re not safe at all. I mean, even as even as what I do I have to carry insurance. I have to I carry insurance that protects me. If, if people if if people want to sue me for something that I set on stage. Now this is obviously physical, but if somebody wants to sue me because they didn’t agree with something I said on stage, I have to carry insurance for that. And I do. It’s not something I enjoy paying the premium on twice a year, but it protects me. Because we just we live in this society now where we live in a very litigious society. We live in a society where people feel It is totally within their right to get an A, an entertainers face. I mean, this is a whole nother conversation. I would
David Ralph [39:06]
just have a comment, though, that says you hired me. And that was it. I would just give it out if anybody tries to sue me.
Greg Schwem [39:13]
For you, you hired me. Right? Yeah. And that that is sort of the knee jerk reaction. But, you know, I just I feel like there’s a way to maybe just to maybe soften that a little bit. I mean, I feel like I can. I feel First of all, like, I have a very safe act. I take pride in the fact that I’m not going to antagonise an audience. I look at my material very closely. And I think anything that I come up with that I think might might red flag, somebody I take it out now again, I can’t be right 100% of the time. I did a show for a company. And I made some jokes about engineers. And and somebody came up to me afterwards and said, You know, there were some engineers in that audience and I’m not really sure they really would appreciate that. Wow. Okay, I and I always say you know, I can’t read I didn’t get the audience biography cards that apparently you all filled out and handed to me apparently that that got a lot I didn’t they didn’t get shoved under my door. I can’t I can’t put myself in everybody’s shoes all you can do is just hope that that what you say is is funny first and and. And they see it for being funny as opposed to something that’s personal to them. Yeah, I read a really good they
David Ralph [40:30]
didn’t engineer him up to you did he end Oh, was it just somebody because
Unknown Speaker [40:33]
oh, that’s the
Greg Schwem [40:34]
thing. It wasn’t it was somebody It was like a marketing person which made it even more ludicrous. And I thought you know, what, who are you to speak for them? That’s what I want. You know, just if let them come up to me and say that bothered me and then I might listen because then I would have a better sense of why did that joke bother you? But but don’t. And I think that this is something that again, this is a problem. With comedy is that, unfortunately, I mean, comedy is in a very strange position right now it’s very interesting position. And I don’t know what it’s like in the UK but over here, everybody wants to know what comedians are saying about everything. Everybody wants to know what comedians are saying about the presidential race and and you know, every morning there’s there’s clips from comedians on the late night shows talking about certain things. So comedy is very hot. And yet at the same time, if if the comedian says something that somebody doesn’t like, then it’s there’s a big brouhaha over it and that was that crossed the line and that shouldn’t have been said, and that was offensive and, and it’s like, you can’t have it. Do you want to laugh? Or do you want to get offended at everything because you can’t have it both ways.
David Ralph [41:47]
And the bottom line is that I know we all like to be very PC, but all of us in secret will see things that are pretty non PC and love that there’s this Finally in but isn’t it it’s just that public persona, but we don’t want to actually admit but certain things are funny, but they are funny. We love it when somebody falls over and hurt themselves, that that is a national, global truth. You see somebody fall over. It’s funny. But you can’t stop that, can you you can’t stop operating in a way that becomes totally vanilla. And I think if you look at the people that have really done their thing, whether you love them or you hate them, they are doing their own thing, and they will find their tribe and the tribe will love them. And the classic one, I suppose ROM from the United States is howard stern. Now he’s been going for years and years and years. And if you ever saw he’s been on private paths. He battled against
Unknown Speaker [42:45]
that that has
David Ralph [42:46]
been branded vanilla all the way through his career to the point that people went, Oh, just let him do what he did. And now people listen to him if they want to. And if I don’t want to they don’t end the story.
Greg Schwem [42:57]
Right. Right. Exactly. He stayed true to who He was, and I admire everybody. Like I admire anybody like that. Louie ck is another great example. There’s a guy that, you know, just struggled for years and years. And all of a sudden he hit it. And he found it. And he’s, he’s, you know, he has a show here on a big cable network. And he writes every episode, he edits every episode, and I believe he might direct every episode and that’s it. It’s just That’s what he said. That’s how I’m gonna do it. He edits adult he has his own show on a Mac. And you think who does that who who of his stature sits down and says, Oh, yeah, you know, I can’t be on your TV show. I can’t get this talk show because I got to edit my own show in a certain amount of time. And I find that to be just amazing. And I my hat is off to him. Because he again, he stayed true to who he was. It is getting very difficult, but I think at the same time comedies, I always say more do comedy is the biggest hit and the toughest sell at a corporate function? Does that make sense? No,
David Ralph [44:09]
I think I think absolutely. If you do it right, everybody will remember you. And if you do it badly even, or even, you know, I used to do training courses. It’s my thing. And I always used to like to bring in comedy and sometimes looking back on it, I went too far. And I would say a few things that were funny. And then I kept on going. Finally, finally, finally, and at the end of it, I look back on it and think, Oh, I almost got the content, which you should never do. You should just stand up there, right? Making people remember why you’re there. Absolutely. But at the end of the day, I still have people now 20 years down the line that come up to me and go, Ah, that was the best thing of that day. So you you make that interaction. You You touch something in them, which makes it memorable. They don’t remember the content. They remember how you made them feel. And I think that’s important.
Greg Schwem [44:57]
Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. When I They say it’s the toughest sell. I mean, I get that before. I mean, I always I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve worked for where I’m talking to somebody and they start a sentence out with this. They say, we hired a guy three years ago. And, and I always say, Stop, because I know exactly what’s coming here. You’re going to tell me that you you asked him specifically not to discuss this topic. And you asked him specifically not to use profanity on stage and he did both correct. And they go absolutely. And, and then they look at me, like, I’m going to do the same thing. I always thought when I heard those stories, I always thought okay, well, that’s one less comedian I have to compete against. So that’s a good thing. But then I thought, you know what, no, it’s not a good thing. It’s a bad thing because that guy made all of us look bad. Yeah, he made because now we’re all lumped into that same that that same little jar. We’re all stuck in there where you don’t have a comedian don’t have don’t bring laughs don’t bring humour into your event because it’s It’s gonna go wrong, because and I am living proof because I hired a guy. And I have to I have to convince them that we’re not all like that. And once I do that, and I say, Just trust me. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I’ve worked for some of the biggest companies in the world. I wouldn’t be doing this this long. If, if that was me, because no one would hire me word would get out.
David Ralph [46:26]
And we’ve all been on bad dates, and haven’t we, where you turn up there and you just get on never go out with that person or that kind of person. But he still happened doesn’t
Greg Schwem [46:36]
mean you’re gonna stop dating, right?
David Ralph [46:37]
No, absolutely. You know, I’ve been on some dreadful dates and now I’m married. And you know, did it get me to the point that I was ready for marriage? Probably because you just want to you want to be safe. And that’s what you want to be, isn’t it? Ultimately, they they’ve done their dating, they haven’t found the right one. So they’re sort of like they’re wanting you to over deliver somehow they want you to be married to them. They want To be your bride for that, that period of time. That’s correct. Yeah,
Greg Schwem [47:04]
that’s that’s absolutely right. That’s a great, that’s a great analogy. It’s a great way to put it. Right.
David Ralph [47:08]
Okay, well, I’m gonna do I am going to play but words at the whole show, and then we can ask you the profound question that we asked every single one of our guests. What is your big.in life. So this is Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs [47:20]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [47:56]
So I think we’ve already got to the point that you can join up your dots Looking back, but what would be a big deal? When you look back on everything that you’re achieving now? Was there a moment? Was there one stage spotlight that hit you? Or was it maybe not up on stage? What was your big daubers led you to this point?
Greg Schwem [48:15]
I think probably the biggest dot that I had was the fact that I when I realised that humour is is something that everybody everybody loves to laugh, and I know that sounds that sounds that sounds sort of like a Well, duh moment, but until you hear that until you realise the satisfaction that people get from laughing if you are providing until you realise that you’re providing that feeling to people. Then that would that was my connected moment. That’s when I realised this is something that I want to take through my life. This is something I never I have this ability to make people laugh to make them feel better about themselves to make them feel better about their day. And I want to use that every moment that I can. I don’t want to just be, like we talked about earlier in the programme. I don’t want to be the guy that sits in the cubicle and is just funny during working hours, and then maybe goes home, you know, by himself or something or he’s very serious until he comes back to work the next day. I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be somebody who does this for a living, who spends every waking moment trying to, if not making people laugh, trying to figure out how to make people laugh. That’s that was my connected moment.
David Ralph [49:39]
I think you are totally on your path, aren’t you is not even your path. It’s the one that was made for you. And I love it when I’m talking to somebody. And you think yeah, this is it. This is it. You could, you could go off in any direction, but it would still be your path. You could release books. You could have your own chat show. You could have your own sitcom. You can have a sitcom I’ve just bought this actually, about a plumber, you could be a plumber called sink or swim
Unknown Speaker [50:06]
would not be good.
Greg Schwem [50:11]
That’s I think that would be a good I think that would be a good podcast title to start with that we could then turn it into a sitcom sink or swim. I like that though. That’s very good. Well, I’m gonna speak. I’m speaking to a group of plumbing manufacturers in Las Vegas. At the end of this month, we had the September, maybe I should bounce that off of it. You may get some financial backing.
David Ralph [50:33]
Yeah, you put it in there. I won’t want any sponsorship for that at all. I’m not going to trademark it. You can have it sir. I won’t forget you, David. Like over to the UK, I will pay for the first round of chicken wings and nuts. That’s good. And I will scratch myself in honour of you. Well, this is the end of the show now. And this is the part that I’m going to send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to young Greg, what advice would you give and what Ah would you choose? Well, I’m gonna play the theme tune. And when it fades you up. This is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [51:19]
Greg Schwem [51:30]
Well, Greg, it’s nice to meet you. It’s nice to meet this 17 year old version of yourself. And by the way, we won’t mention anything about what you did to the car last night. But since you seem to be getting into stand up comedy, and you really seem to be enjoying making people laugh, here’s some advice for you. Don’t let other people tell you what they think is funny and therefore what you should be doing on stage. Trust what you think is funny and trust the way That you deliver it and continue to do it that way. Don’t let Don’t let people say you should be more like Jerry Seinfeld or you should be more like Jim Carrey doing Jerry Seinfeld if he were going to be in a Tom Hanks movie, because you will never ever make people laugh doing that because you will be so confused up on stage. If you think it’s funny, and you trust that you think it’s funny, eventually that might not happen right away. Other people will think it’s funny, but you’re never going to succeed unless you’re doing something that you think is the correct way to do it. That the advice I would give you,
David Ralph [52:40]
Greg, what’s the number one best way our audience can connect with you, sir?
Greg Schwem [52:45]
I would say to go to my website, which is Greg Schwimmer.
com You can also Google me and find me on youtube if you you mentioned I have you like enjoyed my website that has some performance clips. I bought So having a YouTube channel and I’ve taken a lot of pride into showing myself in a lot of different types of situations, and different ways that I can be used at a business event, that’s what you’re going to see on YouTube. So check that out as well.
David Ralph [53:13]
We have over links on the show notes. Greg, thank you so much for spending time with us today. joining up those dots. Please come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Mr. Greg Schwem. Thank you so much,
Greg Schwem [53:29]
David. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me on.
David Ralph [53:34]
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