The 5 Best (IMHO) Comedians to Come Out of Second City

If Saturday Night Live is the major leagues of sketch comedy, then Second City is its Triple-A farm team in California’s Central Valley, the one that lets future stars hone their craft until they are called up to the Bigs, i.e. the stages of NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Center.

The list of Second City alumni that have become stars on SNL and other TV and movies is impressively large, too long to possibly list here.

Second City Communications is the offshoot of the original Second City, focused on bringing similar values (though different comedians) to corporate events and meetings. We’ve asked Second City Communications to perform at our coming slate of Avaya Evolutions conferences in North America, to humorously depict the collaboration problems you may be facing today, and how you can solve them. Second City Communications entertainers will be performing in the San Francisco Bay Area on February 5th, Montreal on February 27th, and many more cities throughout the spring. Check out the Evolutions promotional videos created by Second City Communications:

In the meantime, I thought I’d list my personal favorite comedians to come out of the original Second City comedy troupe.

5) Amy Poehler

This was a toss-up between Poehler and her comedic soul sister, Tina Fey. While Fey may be funnier in person and on paper (I read her book Bossypants literally in one night), she only had one good character on SNL (Sarah Palin) and her show, 30 Rock, could’ve been just as funny in podcast or audiobook form, it’s THAT TALKY. Poehler is hands-down a funnier, more versatile performer.

Still, the clip I’ll show of Amy comes from the 2014 Golden Globes awards ceremony, which she actually co-hosted with Tina.

4) Bill Murray

Murray makes it on my list for three movies, each from a different decade. Caddyshack is one. My male elementary classmates repeated its jokes for years. Groundhog Day was a classic, and showed Murray’s ability to tell the funniest jokes with the straightest face. In Lost in Translation, Murray was even more hangdog, if that’s possible.

Suntory Time!

3) Jason Sudeikis

I always thought of Sudeikis, Andy Samberg and Bill Hader as the Three Amigos of Last-Decade-SNL. Hader has his flashy impressions, Samberg, the cupcake rap video and now the TV show (Brooklyn Nine-Nine is pretty funny), while Sudeikis seemingly just had the high-profile actress girlfriends. It seems too early in his career to put him on any ‘Best Of’ list, but I’ll dare to, since underneath that Midwestern farm boy’s haircut was a pretty wacky comic willing to don a goofy permed wig, orange tracksuit and bust a funky move:

This is a pretty solid list of funny skits featuring Sudeikis, though it omits one of my favorites: Taco Town.

2) Mike Myers

Forget Shrek 9, the last Austin Powers movie and (shudder) The Love Guru. Myers, who seems to be re-inventing himself as the Canadian Ken Burns, used to be very funny, all throughout SNL, when he would specialize in playing eccentric British characters (his father is English), as well as most of his films made before the year 2000 (yeah, I know that’s almost a decade and a half at this point). Still, check out this clip from the original Wayne’s World for some silly meta-fun:

1) Fred Willard

The 80-year-old Kentucky native is the male Betty White: an ageless comedian who only seems to be working more and getting funnier now that he’s an octogenarian. His ability to say the weirdest, most inappropriate things in the same loud, earnest voice (Does he ever laugh? Is he like the anti-SNL-era Jimmy Fallon in that regard?) is what does it for me. Here’s a good (slightly NSFW) clip:

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Guy Kawasaki at Avaya Evolutions: Humor, Insight and Innovation

Guy Kawasaki

It’s not every day that you sit down to listen to a keynote address, thinking, “Hey, I really like this guy – He’s funny! I actually did laugh out loud!”

But then again, there’s something really likable and unique about Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, who recently spoke at the Avaya Evolutions event in Toronto.

The former Apple Chief Evangelist, who leveraged his charisma to help establish Macintosh computers, is also the author of 12 books, including the recent “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.”

His glowing Amazon reviews include rare endorsements from the likes of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

So, what makes Kawasaki so engaging?

Maybe it’s his humor:

“I worked for Apple as Apple’s Software Evangelist,” says Kawasaki. “I [was in] in the Macintosh division. [It] was probably the largest collection of egomaniacs in the history of America.”

He continues, “We had a great travel policy: Any flight over two hours qualified for first class. My interpretation of that was that the two hours begins when you leave your apartment.”

…Or maybe it’s his candor:

“I’ve been in the tech business for about 30 years,” Kawasaki says, “and I’ll tell you that other than speakers from Avaya and a handful of companies, most tech speakers suck. And they not only suck, they go long, which is a bad combination.”

Thankfully, Kawasaki is neither dull nor long-winded, and he actually has some really compelling things to say, culled from his years of experience rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in tech.

Kawasaki has a knack for creating memorable, pithy maxims out of what could be bland, complex business strategies.

Let’s look at just a few.

  • Decide to Make Meaning

“Decide to make meaning – as opposed to money,” he says. “In Silicon Valley, many companies start with the goal of making money, and I’ve noticed that those companies typically fail. The companies that succeed typically had a much deeper purpose – They wanted to change the world.”

He says the best motivation for innovation “is to make meaning to change the world.”

  • Make a Mantra

Do you know your company’s mission statement? It’s probably 50 words long, according to Kawasaki.

He suggests making a mantra instead.

“In the United States, we focus on making ‘mission statements,’” he says. “This is the fundamental flaw of mission statements: Nobody can remember them! If you want to be innovative, make a mantra. Why does your innovation exist?”

He says it should be summed up in just two or three words.

  • Don’t Worry, Be Crappy

“When you are a curve-jumper, it’s okay to have elements of crappiness,” Kawasaki says.

When the Apple Macintosh first came out, it had a number of limitations, being something new and different. It was a learning experience, Kawasaki explains, but at least they did it.

“Don’t ship crap, but if you are jumping the curve, it’s okay to have elements of crappiness to it.”

There’s a lot more good stuff where this came from. You might say Kawasaki is full of it – I think he’d get a kick out of that.


To watch Guy Kawasaki’s complete Avaya Evolutions keynote, click here.

You can also download the complete podcast here.

Photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc

Q&A with Economics Guru Todd Buchholz on Innovation during Shaky Economies

Todd Buchholz is a former director of White House economics policy, the CEO of educational startup, Sproglet, and an all-around mover and shaker in the economics policy world. He is keynoting at a number of Avaya Evolutions conferences this spring, including the Avaya Evolutions San Francisco show last month. Below is a transcript of our conversation, which focused on the need for innovation in all economies, but especially today.

Todd Buchholz Avaya Evolutions SF 2014

 Todd Buchholz

Photo by Andres Larranaga/Avaya

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This Avaya CONNECTED Blog is also available as an MP3 Audio File

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What did you talk about at your Evolutions keynote?

Buchholz: Well, let’s face it. The economy is very confusing to everyone. I think the President of the United States is probably as confused as the Federal Reserve Board Chair, as every investor, every business person. So what I try to do is kind of make sense of how to think about interest rates, where they are, the debt situation, and how Wall St. is looking at the world right now, and also to give some advice to folks on how to succeed in business even if the economy is pretty darn tricky.

I think the economy is getting better, but at a very slow pace. And there’s little reason to think things are going to pick up. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we as business people should be despondent, because there are still huge opportunities for us and what we need to do is (a) pick the right partners to do business with and (b) differentiate ourselves. Show that we have something different to say or to sell, and that can allow us break out from the pack and create some profit margin even in a climate that isn’t very friendly to prices.

So if you’re just hanging out and doing nothing, you’re just going to wither on the vine, right? You have to make some strategic investments when times are tight.

Buchholz: You have to be hungry for innovation. You just think about it this way: if you were literally hungry during the day, you’ll go to some buffet and you’ll seek out some food and say, “Well I haven’t had that before, but I’m going to try it because I’m really hungry.”

(laughs) Not if you eat at the buffets near my house.

Buchholz: (laughs) Well I won’t be dropping by. And if you’re not hungry for innovation, it doesn’t come. There are companies called Kodak, Polaroid, and others that were on top of the hill, on top of their game, it seemed, for decades, but you can’t stay on top of your game and on top of the hill unless you’re looking to create innovation within or acquire it from others.

I think there are examples of a lot of companies that get so big they dominate a market, they dominate technology, and I think, maybe it’s just laziness. They lose their drive. They lose their energy. They lose their focus on innovation. And they get to a point and they stop.

Buchholz: That’s right. I read a book called “New Ideas from Dead CEOs”, and I talked about General Motors. I also did a more recent book called “Rush”. General Motors obviously was a great, conquering company in the United States and around the world. And then sometime in the 1970’s, they got lazy. You used to be able to distinguish a Pontiac from an Oldsmobile from a Chevrolet in the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s. In the 1970’s and 80’s, you couldn’t tell the difference between a Buick Regal and an Oldsmobile 88, or even the Cadillac. They were basically the same steel stamping, and all they did was change the crest on the front. Well, they lost the desire to distinguish within themselves. You also need competition within an organization. If everyone is just sitting around getting along, and no one is willing to be a standout, then the company itself will not stand out.

So I’m the only guy that podcasts inside Avaya, so I have a secure job then, right? (laughs)

Buchholz: You have a secure job, (laughs) but someone may come along with smaller microphones.

(laughs) Certainly a better looking host.

Buchholz: (laughs) Well that’s why you and I both do radio and do so well at radio.

Got a face for radio, absolutely.

Avaya Evolutions arrive à Montréal!

Si vous n’êtes pas déjà au courant, Avaya est en tournée.  Nous tenons des événements d’une journée appelés Avaya Evolutions. En fait, il s’agit de plus que des événements, ce sont des expériences. Nous réunissons des gens brillants, afin de discuter d’idées brillantes, engendrées par une technologie brillante. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous pouvons dire que c’est un succès.

French Spot Final from Avaya On Demand on Vimeo.

Mais nous ne faisons que commencer. Après des arrêts au Mexique, au Chili, au Panama et à Toronto, nous ferons un arrêt incontournable dans la belle ville de Montréal.

Nous avons au programme des conférenciers incroyables, des ateliers et des discussions animées. Pour nous, l’essentiel est de découvrir les technologies de communications d’entreprise de prochaine génération, de connecter avec les collègues et les clients et de collaborer avec les experts Avaya et les chefs d’entreprises.

Voici quelques-uns des leaders que vous aurez le plaisir d’entendre:

Guy Kawasaki, cofondateur d’Alltop.com, un “kiosque de magazine virtuel” qui traite des sujets populaires sur le web, et auteur du livre « Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. » Auparavant, il était évangéliste en chef chez Apple.

Ward Chapin était responsable des technologies de VANOC. Il était à la tête de l’équipe technologique qui a implanté et géré chaque système requis pour la mise en place des Jeux olympiques et paralympiques d’hiver de Vancouver en 2010.

Nous serons ravis que vous vous joigniez à nous. Le tout se déroulera le 27 février 2014 au Palais des congrès de Montréal. Inscrivez-vous maintenant!

Rob Daleman est directeur national du Marketing chez Avaya Canada. Il a pour but de fournir une perspective typiquement canadienne aux tendances émergentes de télécommunications, en voulant toujours aider les chefs de petites et moyennes entreprises à mieux comprendre technologies actuelles favorisant la productivité. Avant de se joindre à Avaya, Rob était à la tête des stratégies pour les entreprises de taille moyenne pour Dell Canada.Il est surtout intéressé par la direction et la cadence des convergences technologiques lorsqu’elle se rapporte à la mobilité, la téléphonie, l’ordinateur et les applications nuagiques. Rob détient une maîtrise en administration des affaires de la Schulich School of Business.