Process Improvement: Louis C.K.’s Secret to Success

Process Improvement: Louis C.K.’s Secret to Success

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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Process Improvement: Louis C.K.’s Secret to Success

The arc of Louis C.K.’s career is unusual.

Most comedians start small. They perform in front of tiny crowds, get a few dry laughs, and hone their material. After a few months, the laughs get a little louder. The crowds get a little bigger. And if they’re lucky enough to have the talent of a Richard Pryor or George Carlin, their hilarious observations about life eventually reach millions of people around the world.

Or they don’t. There are those comedians who spend years toiling away in front of a handful of bored spectators, telling jokes that no one laughs at until they decide to step away from the microphone for good, before taking a job selling sunglasses at a kiosk in the mall.

The latter is much more common than the former – for every Eddie Murphy or Jerry Seinfeld, thousands of comedians throw their hats in the ring, put their heart into their art, and flame out before making their mark.

Louis C.K., inexplicably, played both roles over the first two decades of his career.

He spent 15 years telling the same bad jokes to small audiences who weren’t interested.

“I was going in circles, spiraling downward,” he said at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival. “I was going in circles that were like a degenerating orbit, where you’re getting closer and closer to burning in the atmosphere. And I wasn’t happy.”

He had reached an early apex in his career. It was the point when most comedians realize they aren’t destined to be the next Robin Williams or Bill Hicks. But only four years after that realization, Louis C.K. was named one of the 100 funniest comedians of all time, and he was well on his way to selling out stadiums and revolutionizing the craft of comedy.

What changed?

Louis C.K. started using a process he credits to George Carlin. At the beginning of the year, he discards all the comedy he created in the previous 12 months. He starts from the beginning, writes new material, and slowly rebuilds his repertoire of jokes so that it’s stronger than the year before. It sounds counterintuitive, but C.K. uses it every single year to make himself one of the biggest draws in comedy.

C.K.’s process of creating new comedy sketches is similar to the methodology of DMADV – a Six Sigma fundamental. The methodology stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify. Businesses use DMADV to create high-quality products, while at the same time, satisfying the customer’s expectations throughout the process.

Applying DMADV to Comedy

C.K.’s process sounds relatively straightforward, but here’s what’s really happening – the nuts and bolts of his process improvement strategy:

  • Define what the customer’s most important needs are. After decades of experience, C.K. understands why people seek out comedy, and he brainstorms new jokes that meet those expectations.
  • Measure how your customer responds to your early efforts. C.K. does this by testing new material in small clubs throughout the year. The bigger the laugh, the better his material.
  • Analyze and test the data you collect, so you can measure improvement as the project progresses. C.K. throws out any new material that doesn’t hit the mark, and he’s constantly iterating based on audience response.
  • Design the new product or service, so that it correlates with the customer’s needs. When C.K. is done testing new jokes and measuring their impact, he strings them together to create a brand new hour of comedy.
  • Verify your product has met the customer’s needs, and make adjustments to improve it. This is the most important step in C.K.’s process; he builds on what he learned when designing a new hour of comedy, and at the end of the year, he throws it away and starts fresh at the Define phase, striving to meet (and exceed) his audience’s expectations every single year.

“I thought,” he said, about his challenges as a young comedian, “either I’m going to quit comedy, or I’m going to … throw everything out and start again, over and over again. And it worked.”

Of course it worked. Comedy is a process, and Louis C.K. is a comedic process improvement master.

The post Process Improvement: Louis C.K.’s Secret to Success appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

By: James LoPresti
Posted: November 7, 2017, 2:34 pm

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