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Clinton’s Funnyman Offers Political Humor Tips
The man who President Clinton relied upon to make people laugh about his foibles and flops shares some insights on why humor is so critical to politics. By Carolyn Kriss
Comments () | Published April 6, 2007

Speechwriter Mark Katz specializes in crisis control through comedy. The veteran of Bill Clinton’s eight “Silly Seasons”—the period in spring during which the President delivers several humorous addresses at black tie press dinners—and the author of Clinton and Me, Katz continues to consult politicians, movie stars, and other members of the elite on how to deliver laughs when times are tough.

The Washingtonian interviewed Katz in his New York-based one-man think tank, The Sound Bite Institute.

Carolyn Kriss (CK): How do you go about beginning a piece. If someone comes to you, what’s the process like? You have, what you call, the “Comedy War Room.” How do you assemble that?

Mark Katz (MK): Well, the Comedy War Room was the name that I gave to the people in the process that created the president’s humor speeches, President Clinton. But that model still exists. I mean, for eight years, every time there was a humor speech that came up, it seemed always to come… The Clinton White House was a sine curve of accomplishment and crisis, and the White House correspondents dinner always seemed to come at a moment of crisis. And all these dinners—from the Alfalfa Club to the regular television correspondents dinner, and the Gridiron club, and the White House correspondents’ dinner. So, they were exercises in solving problems with humor, so the Comedy War Room was a laboratory where problems needed to be solved by way of humor and that’s how I came to understand how to use humor as a tactic of strategic communications. So, you know, the first question when I sit down to do an assignment, it’s always, the common denominator is kind of bringing comic sensibilities to a strategic arena, or an important arena, or, at the very least, to a room of opinion leaders, and the first question is always, “What’s at stake? What’s the problem? What needs to be addressed?” And the amazing thing about humor is that it speaks subtext in a way that no other part of our language does. So, you can use humor to talk about any topic, just about, and certainly in a way that can’t be addressed using simple, declarative sentences. So you can get at things that otherwise are un-got-at. And by doing so, you can communicate a message, reinforce a message, contradict a message that you’re trying to nullify. It’s part comedy and part gamesmanship, and that, to me, is the most interesting thing about it.

CK: If it’s about getting at the subtext, is it easier to write for people who are very stiff and need to get things out there that have a lot of subtext? For example, you talk about writing with Al Gore, and you made lots of stiff Al Gore jokes. Or, do you find that it’s easier to work with people who have so much stuff out there that they almost have to do damage control?

MK: Those are all individual variables. The most important element is, what are they willing to say. What are they willing to concede? What point are they trying to make? Humor is a risk/reward ratio, and the further you’re willing to go, the more risk you’re willing to take, the greater the reward there is to reap. So, whether you’re stiff, or whether you just screwed up in some fundamental way, or whether you’re bald, or whether you did something embarrassing. Those are all specifics. The more important, the more salient detail, is what are you willing to risk? What is it you want to say, and how much are you willing to risk. Using humor, it actually looks riskier than it is. There are ways to touch a white-hot, nuclear topic with your pinkie, get credit for acknowledging that the topic exists, and do nothing more than acknowledging that it exists, and yet you have “taken it on.”

CK: Do you think there’s ever a point of diminishing returns, where the risk is not worth the rewards for a joke?

MK: Sure, absolutely. And I’ve been to plenty of meetings where the political advisers say, “Well, you can’t go there.” Wherever “there” is, they draw the line. And, part of me immediately starts thinking, “I must go there. And I must find a way to go there.” And sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t, but very often, I’m able to get at it in such a way that it pushes out the parameters of the possible just a little further than the people in the smartest people room thought was possible at the beginning of the meeting. And at the end of the meeting, they’re like, “Ok, that I can see.” And all of the sudden, you’ve pushed out the parameters in a way that they never expected. You know, there’s a line, and they draw the line. And I don’t always disagree with the line, that barrier. But I believe strongly that the right joke walks stridently up to the very edge of that line, and says, “Hi there,” in a fearless way. So you can be fearless with your own, self-made boundaries, and look brave.

CK: What about the limits on humor in the wake of tragic events?

MK: Sure, there are all kinds of sensitivities, and you have to be absolutely aware of the sensitivities. And there are jokes that are right for the moment that are right for the moment, and jokes that aren’t right for the moment. There’s a joke that would be funny six weeks from now that you can’t do today. I mean, these are all, it’s a changing line. To be really good at this, is to work with people who know what they’re doing, for starters. And to have a sense of what’s the right response to this moment in time. Whether it’s humor, or a serious statement. Humor is like any other form of writing. It’s about pitch. And to be a good humor writer, and to be a good writer, is to have good pitch.

CK: How do you pick that up? How do you judge pitch?

MK: How does a good singer walk out the middle of a stage and hit high “C” without an accompanist? It’s a sensibility that you have, that you bring to your work. Good writers have it, and I aspire to that standard.

CK: What do you do to keep in touch with what’s going on? If it’s all about timing, how do you keep up with the times?

MK: You know, I’m on the internet 27 hours a day, like everyone else. You know, cocktail party chit-chat. You’re synthesizing a moment in time all the time, is what you do.

CK: Do you have any favorite outlets? Are there any favorite humor sites that you like?

MK: I watch The Daily Show almost every day. Through the miracle of TiVo, I can do it in about seventeen minutes, depending on who the guest is. And the Colbert Report. Humor sites, you know, honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time on humor sites. I spend a lot of time on news sites, on analysis sites. It’s important to understand context. The least useful thing for me to do is watch a strident partisan show, you know, like when Crossfire was on the air. That was a waste of time for me. What is very useful for me is watching Gwen Ifill’s show on Friday night, Washington Week in Review, or Russert, or George Stephanopoulos. Any show that brings context, or a larger understanding to a topic helps a humor writer because humor is perspective. Go back to Jonathan Swift—to the giants and the liliputians. It’s all about perspective, and context, and to write good humor is to understand the context.

CK: Do you have any favorite blogs?

MK: No, I don’t have any favorite blogs. I skip around. No. I read Slate a lot. I think that’s an outstanding magazine. Politico has been very good so far. It’s been good to me. You know, the news weeklies, The Economist, even thought it’s kind of right-leaning, it’s good context. Also, because it seems not so imbued in the American mindset, too. But you know, I skip through The Huffington Post and click on what’s interesting.

CK: So, once you’ve gotten the pitch of the times, and you know who you’re writing for, you describe sort of a trance-like state where you’re huddled over the computer.

MK: Well, I have this practice where, when you’re trying to come up with the perfect sound bite, this silver bullet of a sound bite, I have this exercise I started doing in the Rapid Response Team of the Dukakis campaign, if you can believe that. I know it’s a stand-alone joke today. It was actually my job some 20 years ago, and I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with George Stephanapoulous, which you know, you read the book. But I would imagine that the perfect sound bite existed already, and it was my job to find it. It was just an exercise, but it made me think about, what does it sound like, can I think of a word that might be in it, how do I feel once I’ve heard it. I imagine I’ve heard it. I have no idea what it is, but I imagine I’ve heard it, and I imagine what my response to it is. And you work backwards from there, and I found that to be a useful tool for me. And you’re just kind of filling in the blank.

CK: Is it harder or easier to work for political people or for entertainment industry people, or for people in commerce?

MK: That’s interesting. You know, they’re certainly comparable in a lot of ways. I mean, there’s an inherent caution involved with all of these people because powerful people understand that the right joke that they tell will make the rounds for two or three days and the wrong joke that they tell will re-printed in their obituary. They know that, ok. It’s even more true of politics because in politics especially, it’s more true today than it was ten years ago, and it was very true ten years ago, which is, they play for keeps. And people use what they can to take on their adversaries. So, the wrong joke gets whipped around the blogosphere and bubbles up, and the next thing you know, you are either apologizing for it or resigning.

CK: What did you think of the Kerry joke right before this round of elections?

MK: The famously botched joke?

CK: Yes. Did you think it was a joke, first and foremost?

MK: Yes, yes. You know, to me, the peril that it revealed was not fully understanding what the joke was. You know, you can’t read a joke phonetically, which is what he seemed to do, and transliterate it as though it were from another language, and communicate the essence of it. You have to really understand the idea that gave it birth in the first place. So, to read a joke off a page or a blackberry that a staffer e-mails you and not understand it, and not be there or be engaged in a conversation about why it’s funny, what the idea of it is, and talk about the idea, is dangerous. If you ever sit down to write a joke, you quickly arrive at the idea that a joke is about something. It’s not a gassy release into the room that makes people laugh. It’s about an idea, and it’s an idea that lives in people’s head, or a piece of information that lives in people’s head, that you are accessing in some left-handed way that accesses that piece of information, that allows them to close the logic circle in their brain, and they emit laughter as their response. It’s about something. So, what that joke showed me, is that he probably didn’t spend enough time thinking about what that joke was about but only about reading it off the page, which is a recipe for failure. When I work for someone, when we did Gridiron speeches with whoever it was, we would spend an hour or two in a room talking about the speech, going through the jokes, talking about and very often improving upon the jokes because, like I said, you examine the idea, and once you’re talking about the idea, then someone says, “Well what about this way?” and it takes you into another direction, and maybe the joke gets sharper, but at least you’re talking about the idea.

CK: How do you think this process is the same or different on candidates on different sides of the political spectrum?

MK: You know, constituency politics is the same on both sides of the spectrum. The specifics are different, and the sensibilities are different, but primaries are about hitting micro-constituencies with regards to the larger electorate, and energizing them. And very often when you’re talking to constituencies, you are talking in coded language. And that’s an excellent opportunity to use humor, to speak in code. Democrats like to think that they have an inherently better sense of humor than Republicans, and I’ve made that case, but I don’t actually believe it. To me, someone who’s willing to engage in humor sends a signal that they are not afraid of their own thoughts. And when you are speaking to orthodox groups on both sides, you have reason to fear your own thoughts if you fear that they might object to them. So, humor kind of conveys a fearlessness and comfort level, even if it’s fake. But the right joke… You know “joke” is such a pejorative word that I hardly like to use it at all because it’s so dismissive, I think. When you talk about humor as a type of communication, people dismiss “joke” and “schtick” and when I hear people use those dismissive words, to me, it suggests that they don’t understand the real potential of using humor. So, when I hear someone say “schtick,” I understand that they only understand 10% of the power of humor. I appreciate that they use the Yiddish word, so I’ll bump it up to 12-13%, just as a professional courtesy.

CK: Is it harder for people who don’t often write political humor to write political humor?

MK: It’s a specific ear. I will say that. When I was running the Comedy War Room, we reached out to a lot of talented people. I have the highest regard in the world for Albert Brooks. He is a god among comedy writers. That being said, I can tell you that he once sent me in a page of material that was brilliantly funny, had us in stitches, and yet hardly a syllable was usable. There was maybe a word or two that we could have used that could have come out of the president’s mouth. So, that, to me, was very instructive. Here you have an unqualified comedy genius, who didn’t demonstrate an ear for the right kind of jokes for the president of the United States to use. So, it is a specific kind of skill, and a specific brand of humor, and if my career has proved anything, you don’t have to be that funny this stuff.

CK: I know you have a bias one way, but do you think it’s easier for people who write political humor to write sitcom humor than it is for sitcom writers to write politicl humor? If you can write speeches for a president, can you do a sitcom?

MK: Sure, writing is synthesis. Humor is synthesis, more than anything else. Boiling down an idea, crystallizing an idea, especially in politics where sound bites rule the day, writing a memorable line is a cousin of writing a funny line, and my career has kind of split the difference, I hope. But, comedy is its own animal, and that has more to do with narrative and structure and storytelling.

Now, I will say this, which is interesting, and especially with regard to President Clinton. One of the lessons I learned over time. The first speeches I wrote for him would organize one-liners by topic, and he would go through it like a menu, checking off which jokes he wanted to do. But someone smart in the White House, Don Baer, pointed out to me that President Clinton did best with narrative stuff. When you constructed it as a story, as a narrative, he did better with it. And he was absolutely right. And with that realization, with Don’s help, I came to understand that his best humor speeches, his great skills, were best put to use when a humor speech was constructed as a narrative. Writing in a narrative is not un-related to writing comedies and sit-coms. So, they’re all cousins of one another.

CK: Which do you like writing more, the narratives or the one-liners?

MK: I do like narratives. Actually, one of the things that I took away from my White House experience was frameworks for humor, as opposed to just a joke. A one-liner is just a noun, a verb, and a direct object, ultimately. But a comic premise is powerful. And a narrative gives structure and context, and a beginning, middle, and end, which are important aspects of any written work. So, I’ve actually come to really appreciate that.

CK: It’s like short-form and long-form improvisational comedy in a way.

MK: Um-hm.

CK: Do you think the advent of blogging has changed the way that humor writing is perceived? Before, humor was such a stark contrast to whatever you could read in the press. Now you can read Wonkette, or whatever, and there’s Jon Stewart. There’s always a humorous lens that you can get your news through.

MK: I find it’s shorter form. A blog can be three sentences, so the barrier to entry for what is a unit of messaging is smaller today. The blog is like the advent of the postcard compared to the long letters of yesteryear. There’s Thomas Jefferson’s very famous quote on the subject, “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” It gets at the crystallization of messaging that’s getting more precise every day.

CK: Is there anyone in the [2008 presidential] race that you’re working for now?

MK: I am not working for anyone in the race right now.

CK: Would you want to?

MK: You know, I’m listed. But no. I’m a committed Democrat, and I’d be honored and thrilled to help the next Democrat be elected President of the United States. Short of that, I’ll be happy to walk into a voting both and do that. I’ve been carving out a space for myself where comic ideas meet strategic communications, and it’s actually a very exciting time. I’ve been doing this for over ten years now, and this feels like a very exciting moment in this idea. I think people are coming to this idea. People understand, people who watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report understand that humor can be put to use for serious purpose, and is not prima facia silly. And more and more of my projects are about communicating messages and less and less about we need to do a roast and we need to do a funny video. It’s more about can you help us communicate our message using the language of humor and 99 times out of 100 the answer is yes.

CK: So you would, possibly be interested.

MK: I’m here to help. I’ll talk to just about anyone. You know the joke that people would always ask me was if I would write humor for George W. Bush, and I would answer is that the Republican National Committee actually has enough money to hire me to write for George Bush, but they wouldn’t have a lot leftover after I cashed the check.

CK: Who do you think needs political humor writing help the most?

MK: Like I said before, it’s a risk/reward for everyone, and everyone has to assess the risk, and everyone has to assess the reward. You know, you see Chris Dodd, who I wrote a speech for in 1997 and have great personal affection for, and we had a great experience doing it. You see him on Imus [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036713/] three times a week. He’s not in the front tier, and he can take more risks and speak his mind. He has more freedom. With Senator Clinton, playing it safe ultimately may be the most dangerous thing she can do. And she may or may not come to that realization. But, if she does and if that’s the right analysis, then humor’s a great way to show that she’s not scared of her own ideas. When I was writing for President Clinton, I would relish the idea. It was a hyper-partisan time, and in that room, while we were watching it on C-SPAN, I knew that there were people who vehemently disliked him, and I also knew that there were people who loved him beyond their capacity to express it. But, the perfect joke, the best speech, would have this effect. Of course, the people who loved him would cheer loudly, but the people who disliked him most would sit in the back of the room, shake their heads and say, “Damn this guy is good. F***.” And practically against their will, for a millisecond, like him as the words come out of his mouth. And they have no idea how to process this. Their head starts spinning because for a millisecond they like this person and then they have to go back to hating this person. There is a humor execution that would have that same result for people who don’t care for Senator Clinton, who don’t care for Senator Obama, who don’t care for a democrat. The real power of humor is to put a crack in otherwise hardened opinions, and if you’re polarizing, humor has the capacity to mitigate that effect. You know, it’s not a solution. Humor’s not going to ultimately be the answer to any problem. You know, in any given day, in any given news cycle, humor is more like an aspirin than chemotherapy, to use a tortured metaphor. But it can help. It can absolutely be a part of the solution. I remember in 1998 when President Clinton was going through Monicagate and all that stuff. Had a horrible, horrible spring. I mean, a relentless, impossible spring. And if you go back, and you could argue, and I would, that his very first good day of spring of 1998 was the day he stood at the lectern of the White House correspondents dinner and gave a speech that everyone marveled at and said, “This guy’s good. In the midst of this crisis, to come out here and put on a fearless speech like that. That’s something.” And go back and read the speech, I’d encourage you to. And go back and look at the news clips of march, april, and may of 1998, and you tell me a better day he had in 1998 than he did on the day of the White House correspondents dinner. And your first good day is a very important good day when you’ve had a couple months of bad days.

CK: You talked about a speech Garrison Keilor gave at one point, and you talked about how it challenged of what you thought the limits were of what comedy can do.

MK: That’s right.

CK: Do you think that comedy can go beyond that moment of thinking “maybe this person’s ok,” before you retreat the other way?

MK: Well, you know, humor opens doors. It opens new ways of thinking. He gave a speech that was equal parts smart and funny and interesting. But, the interesting thing about humor, good humor, smart humor, gives people a license to believe that you’re a smart and thinking person. On a personal note, I remember when I was thinking about applying to law school, which I didn’t, thankfully, do, I was telling some girl I went to college with, some woman I went to college with, and she said, “Oh, no problem, you’ll get into Harvard. You have a 4.0.” I was like, “I do?” Rounding up to the nearest integer, I did not have a 4.0. I was like, “What made you think I had a 4.0.” And she said, “Oh, you’re so funny, I just assumed you were smart.” And that always stuck with me. People are willing to believe that the right kind of funny is a window into an engaged and intelligent brain. And you’re willing to listen to an engaged and intelligent brain. And once you’ve established that, the next thing out of your mouth has people paying that much more attention, I think. I believe.

CK: Do you think the majority of America is compelled by an engaged, intelligent brain?

MK: Absolutely, oh, absolutely. My thesis about humor and why it is so powerful is that it’s the anti-spin. Humor flatters where spin insults. And you read this in the Politico thing. Spin is, I think you’re just dumb enough thing, and then you say the…. Humor is, I think you’re smart enough that. Let’s find a way to at least wink at it.

CK: Coming from a city magazine, what made you decide to live in New York as opposed to DC?

MK: You know, I’m New York born and bred. New York is my home. God knew what he was doing when he put me here. I spent two years living in San Francisco and moved back when I encountered my first sourdough bagel, and I just realized there was just something very wrong. No, New York is home for me, and, you know, the only reason I was able to last for eight years in the Clinton White House was that I parachuted in four of five times a year, which allowed me to bring an outsider’s perspective, also. I was less in the bubble than the other people who were in the bubble. And I think that enabled me to do the full tour of duty from 1993 to 2000. I’m sure there were other people there the entire length of the term, and again, I was not on staff, but from inaguration day through the last party at the White House in 2000, I was there and on staff the whole time.

CK: So would you say that it’s better to be on the outside of Washington?

MK: Also, I’m a huge Yankee’s fan, and back then certainly satellite packages were very expensive. I priced it out to watch all the Yankee’s games in the summer. So, it just was not cost-effective. Even with the price of living higher in New York, if you counted the price of living higher in New York, if you counted the satellite subscription I was going to have to get to watch the Yankee games, it was actually cheaper to live in New York.

CK: In general, for humor writing, do you think it’s better to get someone from outside DC?

MK: I’m geographically agnostic. It’s not important. New York is home for me. It’s the right place for me.

CK: Do you have any favorite things about Washington? Or least favorite things?

MK: I have a bunch of things, but I don’t think they belong in your magazine. I will tell you this. I went to Cornell, and my best semester at Cornell took place in Washington. There’s a Cornell in Washington program on 22nd and 0, and when I was 20 years old, I came down from Ithaca and got an internship in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, which was the most exciting thing to happen to me in my life. Let me put this in perspective: the previous summer, I was a counselor in a summer camp.

CK: I understand this perspective very well.

MK: So I was suddenly introduced to the top tier of Washington political media culture, and it was a fabulous education. So I was taken with Washington, especially coming from Ithaca. In Ithaca, I had this odd habit. I would walk around campus until four or five in the afternoon clutching a New York Times. This predates the internet, mind you, of course, since I graduated in ‘86. So it was how I felt connected to the world. Ithaca, to me, felt like Elba that some judge had sentenced me to. And when I arrived in Washington, the loud pulse that I felt was deafening and wonderful. I’ll never forget the first time when I moved to Washington for a year when I was in college, it was like the Wizard of Oz. Everything felt it was in technicolor. So, those are my fondest memories of Washington.

CK: Would you go back to D.C. if there was another Democratic president that you could write for?

MK: I would parachute in. I would parachute in. You know, I wore out the seats of four or five suits on the Amtrak train from 1992 to 2000. And I would go out for some stronger suits and maybe take the Delta shuttle every once in awhile, but I logged in a lot of miles on that thing.

CK: It’s pretty easy, though.

MK: Yeah, and you know, the truth is that 8 times out of 10 it’s actually better to take the train than to fly. Because at least you can get work done on the train, and then you don’t have to worry about taking the cab into the city, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, you’re kind of landing in ground zero for lack of a better term.

CK: So, just so I make sure that I’m understanding, you’d go to DC for all of the silly season events...

MK: Look, I am an advocate of using humor as part of the political dialogue. I started out as the 22-year-old kid writing funny entries in the campaign hotline for the Dukakis campaign. Everyone one of those campaigns will have another 10 kids just like me. My real hope is that one of those kids has the same kind of experience that I had. It doesn’t matter who it is. But the opportunity to bring a humor voice into a place where it has only recently been introduced, I think, in a serious way, is an amazing opportunity. To open up the political discourse, you can be a 22-year-old kid, and with the right touch, with the right joke, with the right sensibility that makes it through the many rounds of edits that go into a White House correspondence dinner speech, you can actually open up the political discourse. I believe that. You can say things that have been previously unsaid, and that’s no small accomplishment. And any 22-year-old punk with a good sense of humor on a campaign has that same opportunity, and I encourage them to take it... and pay me 10% of what they make.

CK: One thing I was struck by was how fast you worked. There were a lot of scenes in your book where you were given ten minutes, and you come back with ten jokes. To me, that seems very difficult to churn out that much that quickly.

MK: It’s pressure. I will never forget the person who invented me. He was one of the all-time great Washingtonians: Kirk O’Donnell. Did you read about him in the book?

CK: Mm-hmm.

MK: Kirk explained to me and helped me to understand what humor could do. You know, he came looking for me. I was a 22-year-old kid working on the Dukakis campaign and he came down to the press office looking for me and said, “Where’s the kid who writes the jokes? Where’s Katz?” And he took me, came looking for me, and put me into the center of the message-making operation of the Dukakis campaign. Now, we all know how that worked out. But the idea was valid enough. And that’s the big idea. I forget what point I was driving towards. What was the question you asked me?

CK: The time pressure?

MK: Ah, so when I was getting into this and came into the realization that of 1,000 jokes, 999 were going to die, I re-defined my job. My job was to write the jokes that made Kirk O’Donnell laugh. That way, I could get through my day. So, I was just desperately trying to please Kirk. There was nothing I wanted to do more on this earth than to write the jokes that would make Kirk laugh. He was a hero to me because he was a big deal on the campaign, and I was a punk writing press releases and getting people lunches. But because he engaged me, I engaged myself in a conversation about what it is that he saw, and what was important about this silly idea of humor. And that’s when I first had my awakening about what the big idea behind these little jokes were. So, you motivate yourself as you need to, but when I write a speech, the secret weapon is having strong feelings about the person I am writing for. It is practically a mind-meld when you are working with someone. You are sharing their persona. You are both standing in their shoes, and you are trying to explain to a room full of people what is compelling, funny, interesting about their biography or about their circumstance. So, it’s a shared experience, and the degree to which you like them is extra motivation. I knew from the minute I met Al Gore, I liked Al Gore. I just felt I had a special connection to him. He had a special affection for humor that was a surprise to everyone and was the real secret weapon in why he did so well with these humor speeches. But I wanted to write a great speech [for Al Gore], not that that wasn’t true for the president. But the president is the president. And Al Gore was Al, to me.

CK: How did you found the Sound Bite Institute?

MK: What happened was, I was fired from an ad agency on a Tuesday. That Friday was my ten year high school reunion. And as I’m sitting there being fired, they had just lost the Coca Cola account, and as I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, oh F***, I have to go to my ten year reunion as an unemployed person, which really pissed me off. Because there were a lot of girls there that I wanted to see that they had made a big, big mistake by rejecting me ten years earlier. So, the Sound Bite Institute was my first exercise in crisis communications. I needed a business card and a cover story to go to my ten year high school reunion. So I went to a print shop and came up for the name “Sound Bite Institute” and had business cards made up and went to my ten year reunion as the resident scholar of the Sound Bite Institute.

CK: And it has flourished ever since.

MK: Yes, it’s been keeping me busy ever since. And actually now, as I said, this is a unique moment in getting a lot of traction on the idea that this is a brand of communications. It’s not just an exercise in humor writing. And I think that the Sound Bite Institute a year from today will look significantly different from what it looks like today. There’s a growing awareness of the power of humor in communications and there’s a growing need for people who understand how to use humor to communicate ideas. So, check back with me a year from today, and we’ll see if this prediction comes true.

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