John is a nationally recognized corporate comedian and emcee who draws on his condition as being a recovering big four CPA to deliver messages that hit home with corporate audiences. John’s customized performances and observations of everyday corporate America help teams break down barriers, foster unity, and strengthen bonds. With over 1800 performances, he consistently gets rave reviews from teams and company leaders alike, with a lasting impression on employee morale and team building.
I recently had the opportunity to interview John for the Sage Advice podcast. You can listen here, or read an edited version of the interview below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
John Garrett: I graduated from the University of Notre Dame and worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers for several years. At night, I started to do some standup comedy at comedy clubs all over the country, just for fun. Everyone needs a creative outlet. I don’t know if you know, but the accounting profession Is not always the most creative. They frown upon that a little bit. I was doing standup and was doing so good that I started to take a vacation to get paid. Eventually, in May of 2005, I quit altogether. I refer to it as my Bastille Day, where, “I’m out of here. Who’s with me?” And I turned around and I was all by myself.
Ever since then, I’ve been doing comedy shows and opening for the bands like Train and Louie Anderson. About three years ago, I started to focus more on the corporate events for firms and companies that need engagement at their events. Also, a really unique message that dovetails with my story. I had a partner who remembered me 12 years after I left that PwC office He saw my list of the name of speakers that were coming to an event he was at and he told everyone, “I know John Garrett. He’s the guy who did comedy at night.” It was 12 years.
I was floored by that because I had no clue who he was because we had never worked together. I couldn’t get over the fact that 12 years later I’m on a short list of people that you recall and also for nothing work-related, thank you very much. All the time and effort in blood and sweat and tears that I put into this and you remember the guy that told jokes for no money as a hobby. Great. It’s a cool thing but I just encourage people that, hey, what are your clients and coworkers going to remember about you 12 years from now. I promise you; it’s not work-related.
Why do you do what you do? You alluded to it a little bit, but do you have a “why”?
John Garrett: I want everyone to be able to get to their full recognition. We’re always shining a light on the professional side. You received a certification or you got a degree, or you got whatever, but nobody ever shines a light on your hobbies and your passions and who you really are. Because no matter what job you have or what position you have in that company or firm, that passion goes with you everywhere. It can be anywhere from skydiving or playing minor league baseball to binge-watching Netflix. It doesn’t have to be something crazy, but it’s you are. That’s the stuff that really makes you sticky and memorable. Because no one’s going to remember you if you’re the best technician at your job. It’s just not going to happen.
Why do you think it’s so important for people to share their hobby at work?
John Garrett: It’s because then we are able to understand the person that’s there, as well. Plus, there’s a lot of brain science this also. Norepinephrine is a chemical in your brain that gets released when you come across something novel or unique or interesting. Sadly, in corporate America, pretty much anything at all outside of work is interesting. Norepinephrine is great because, interesting people, you’re interested in. Sort of a concept. Right after that is triggered oxytocin. That’s where trust and bonding and engagement happen. When times are good, your connections become stronger. When you go through tough times or in the accounting world busy season, then the lows aren’t as low because you have these stronger bonds amongst everybody because you know each other.
Do you think that that makes for more profit in the end? In the long run, could this make a company an even a better place to work and better from a financial perspective?
John Garrett: Absolutely. It does for sure. Turnover’s going to be lower because people enjoy coming to work. They enjoy the people that they are around. If you have a hobby, and someone else has the same hobby, you’re automatically best friends for no reason whatsoever. Also, when you’re at work, and you’re able to talk about the things that you really love doing, your eyes light up, you’re more energetic, and there is oxygen in the air. You’re more excited to be in the office. Turnover’s going to be lower. Productivity’s going to be higher. Innovation’s going to be higher. In the end, people are going to want to work there and then you’re going to need to hire more staff. talent because you’re not going to be having to fight for it. They’re going to be wanting to come to you.