How Being a Comedian Teaches You Product Management
There’s a surprising level of overlap between selling out stadiums and selling out subscriptions
As a comedian, you learn how to time your jokes, set people up for a punch line, and deliver exactly what delights the audience in an unexpected way.
As a product manager, you learn how to time your releases, set users up in a funnel, and deliver a delightful solution to a user problem in an effortless way.
“I’m never get married” as a standalone statement isn’t exactly funny. But “…and that’s why I’m never getting married.” after some intriguing and relatable storytelling can bring a room to joyful tears.
Similarly, introducing Apple Pay alone would have a steep curve to adoption. But introducing a sequence of features including Apple Wallet, Touch ID, and NFC-enabled phones set up the punch line for contactless payments.
As a comedian, you may push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. It’s hard to get an ab-inducing laugh from something that you hear every day. The gold comes in thinking of everyday things in a new way or in discussing what isn’t an everyday topic.
As a product manager, you may push the boundaries of what is technically feasible. Your innovation begins at the end of what’s possible. The gold comes in thinking of everyday things in a new way or building what isn’t currently available to an everyday user.
Know Your Audience
As a comedian, the same joke told the very same way will land you a standing ovation in one room and a restraining order in another.
As a product manager, the same product marketed the very same way will land you a huge investment in one room and be met with laughter in another.
Understanding for whom what you are offering is for allows you to discern the difference between whether what you are offering actually isn’t a solution that anyone needs and whether what you are offering is what someone needs but you are not meeting them where you are offering it.
All the best comedians will tell you that they tweak every joke, trying it night after night; they may change the tone, the setup, a single word in the punchline, the accompanying story, or switch out the entire joke for an entirely different one.
As a product manager, you will tweak every product, shifting it byte after byte; you might change the technical implementation, the visual design, the feature list, the payment pricing, the legal agreements, or switch out the product on the roadmap for an entirely different one.
Iteration makes us better. The best comedians and the best companies respond fast to their constraints and their consumer in order to emerge as the best solution, either to a person’s pain or to a user’s painpoints.