Basic Info

Name:
Andrew Tarvin
Contributor Status:
AdVantage
Initial Contribution Date:
06/05/2019

Career Info

Primary Industry:
Entertainment - Other, Writing
Personal Career Headline:
Founder, Humor That Works & Best Selling Author

My AdVert

Career Snapshot:

I am the world’s first Humor Engineer teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. Through my company, Humor That Works, I have worked with thousands of people at 250+ organizations, including Microsoft, the FBI, and the International Association of Canine Professionals.

Combining my background as a project manager at Procter & Gamble with my experience as an international comedian, I reverse engineer the skill of humor in a way that is practical, actionable, and gets results in the workplace.

I am a best-selling author, have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and FastCompany, and my TEDx talk on the skill of humor has been viewed over 4 million times. I have delivered programs in 50 states, 20 countries, and 1 Planet (Earth). I love the color orange and am obsessed with chocolate.

AdMission Statement (AKA Personal Brand Pitch):

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with efficiency. Even my name is efficient. My full name is Andrew, but I go by Drew because it’s only one syllable. Efficient.

As an IT Project Manager at Procter & Gamble, I led multi-million dollar projects for a $350 million brand. As a super-nerd (computer, math, engineer, sci-fi and video game) I was all about getting results. While there, I discovered that you can’t be efficient with humans, you have to be effective. I didn’t have the skills I needed to be effective with people, but I had started doing improv and stand-up, and realized that work wasn’t just about what you did, but how you did it.

So I left P&G to become the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to use humor to get better results and have more fun at work.

My AdVantage

What do you do best?:

I think I’m good at reverse-engineering abstract topics. That’s what I did at P&G, and in a way, that’s what I’m doing with humor. By doing so, I’m also able to explain those topics in a way that people can understand. Also I love writing puns as my twitter feed can attest.

What makes you the best version of yourself?:

A growth mindset. Long before Carol Dweck’s fantastic TED talk, I always had a belief that if I couldn’t do something, I just couldn’t do it yet. And that with practice, guidance, and hard work, I could achieve most anything I wanted. And I say most anything because no matter how much I wanted to be, I never did become an international hip hop superstar.

What are your aspirations? (Personal and Business):

Personally, I’d like get married, have kids, and build a dope family. Professionally, I’d love do a Netflix special on the value of humor.

Biggest Success?:

First would be my TEDx talk hitting 4 million+ views. Second would belaunching my book out of a catapult just so I could say I did a literal book launch.

Most Challenging Moment?:

My father passing away. We didn’t always have the best relationship but he sacrificed a great deal to help me build the life I have now. The fact that he can’t see some of those successes is challenging.

Motto?:

Err on the side of awesome.

Favorite People/Role Models?:

Ellen DeGeneres and my mom.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

Anywhere new. The Grand Canyon. Graeter’s Ice Cream.

Favorite Products/Objects?:

Todoist, Evernote, and G-Suite run my life. I’m a huge fan of Tasker for phone automation. And I love anything chocolate.

Current Passions?:

I’m really excited about a few videos that I’m working on, including a (model) rocket launch of my latest book and reacting to comments on my TEDx talk (they’re pretty hilarious). Oh, and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

What Else To Know

My Goal of the Day:

Make someone smile.

My Thought of the Day:

How will you be better today than you were yesterday?

My Action of the Day:

Laugh.

My Deed of the Day:

Write someone a thank you note.

My Tip of the Day:

If you put all of the like silverware together when you load a dishwasher, you can save about 20 seconds on the unload.

My Pic of the Day:
Tell Us More:

My Pic of the Day: I was drawn into a children’s book and I think it looks pretty cool.

How did you get into the industry?

I have always been an engineer. As a kid, I liked to take things apart and put them back together again, things like clocks, radios, and my brother’s sanity. Becoming a humor engineer was much more happenstance.

In college, my best friend wanted to start an improv comedy group, needed people, and forced me to join. And when I first started, I was not very good. But over time, with practice and repetition, I got better.

Once I started working at Procter & Gamble, I found that some of the same skills you need to be effective as an improviser are the same skills you need to be effective as a leader. I eventually proclaimed myself the corporate humorist of P&G to combine my two passions: engineering and comedy. I assumed, at some point, someone would stop me. Someone from HR or legal would say, “Hey, you can’t just create your own job title.” But no one ever did. Instead, people just started referring to me as the corporate humorist.

I fell in love with the work and started Humor That Works part-time in 2009. I spent the next three years building it into a business while also testing ideas through blog posts and internal training events at P&G. By 2012, I decided to take the leap from the corporate world and focus on the company full-time, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Any emerging industry trends?

The corporate world is shifting. Previous generations who felt like work had to feel like work are getting replaced by younger generations who actually want to enjoy what they do (which makes sense given that the average person will work 90,000 hours in their lifetime). In fact, millennials are the first generation to seek fun as a core value of work.

It’s no longer enough to provide a good salary to retain good employees. They have to find meaningful work, feel like they are appreciated by their efforts, and have fun while doing it.

This isn’t a bad thing, by the way. There are more than 30 benefits of using humor at work with people who use it being more productive, less stressed, and happier; something employees and managers alike can agree is a good thing.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

There’s a great opportunity for any organization who is willing to accept, and adjust, to the fact that our workforce is still very human. And until robots overtake every single job on the planet, creating an environment where people feel like they can be their authentic selves at work will be vital to success as business changes. The organizations that focus on their people will thrive, the organizations that treat their people like machines will likely die.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

When I started at P&G, no one ever told me to use humor, but no one ever stopped me either. Along the way, co-workers would tell me how much they appreciated the way I was making things fun, and I realized that we were missing an important part of training and development. We go through school, get on-the-job training, and take continuing education courses in order to learn how to do our job, but no one ever teaches us how to enjoy that job.

I realized there was a gap, not in what we do, but in how we do it. So, I decided to combine my two passions of solving problems (engineering) and talking funny (comedy).

The last 10+ years have been an incredible journey in talking about the value of humor, complete with over 500 events, two books, a TEDx talk, and countless articles, podcasts, and explanations of what “humor engineer” means, all with the goal of helping the world be a funnier place so that it might also be effective-r.

What’s next for the Business in the near future?

The next 18 months will be focused on building the footprint of Humor That Works. That means more trainings in local markets with certified facilitators, an app or two in the future to help people add humor to their work, and hopefully completing my goal of speaking on all of the continents (only Antarctica is left).

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

The biggest contributor to my success in my business has been relationships: connecting with mentors, peers, and mentees has been invaluable for the growth of my company. Not only have a variety of people helped me learn how to run a successful business—I’m an engineer, if you’ve found something that works, I want to reapply that in my business—but they’ve also helped me through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. They’ve consoled me when things were tough, congratulated me when things have gone well, and kept my ego in check when I’ve read one too many positive comments on YouTube.

Your most difficult moment at the Business?

The most significant challenge I faced with my business was in explaining what I do. The fact is, no one cares about humor in the workplace. It took me a long time to realize that. But they do care about the results that using humor can provide: increasing productivity, relieving stress, increasing engagement, decreasing turnover, and on and on. I had to learn what my clients cared about, what kept them up at night, and position my services in a language that they understood.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

What I hear from past clients is that they like the duality of my approach. They like that their people have fun in my programs, that they laugh, and that they get to interact with each other. But even more, they like that it’s actionable, that afterwards, people have strategies that they can implement immediately to actually start doing their job better. My goal for every program and product we sell is for it to be entertaining, educational, and effective.

How do you motivate others?

Here’s a dumb question: would you rather do something that is fun or not fun? Chances are, you said fun. Well it’s my belief that if we make things a little more fun for people, they’re more willing to do it, so I try to motivate people by connecting their actions to a larger goal, and encouraging them to find ways to make their work more fun.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Get “stage time.” Any comedian will tell you that the only way to get better at stand-up is to get on stage. I think that’s true in just about every endeavor. Whatever it is that you want to do, keep practicing it until you get, as Steve Martin said, “so good they can’t ignore you.” Then practice some more. And if you don’t know what you want to do, try a bunch of things out. As the adage goes: action precedes clarity.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

My favorite part about NYC is walking the streets in the summer with a friend and a milkshake.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Chicken and waffles from Amy Ruth’s in Harlem.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Sleeping.

10:00 AM Speaking or working on something creative (ideally).

12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

A sandwich and chips from somewhere quick.

7:00 PM Eating dinner or prepping for a stand-up show.

11:00 PM Winding down on reddit or watching a movie / show.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Water. Lots of it.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

Most used app: gmail, followed by todoist.

What should everyone try at least once?

Improv. Ideally more than once.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In conversation with a friend.

What Else to Know? 

Follow Me: LinkedIn | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | MySpace (yes it still exists

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