Ep 39 – On improv comedy, cross-cultural communication and team building – with Mike Staffa

mike_staffaIf you think that being funny is challenging, improv comedy takes the challenge to another level. You can’t really rehearse jokes. You have to deal with what the situation gives you. You can’t overthink. You just have to let go.

My guest this week is Mike Staffa, the initiator of the first bilingual improv comedy show in Japan. The Pirates of Dotombori (in Osaka) and The Pirates of the Tokyo Bay (in Tokyo.) With now more than 10 years of activity, his troupe did some 300+ events, in seven countries, performing in front of diverse audiences, from TEDxTokyo to governments.

Mike explains the fundamental characteristics of a good improv actor. Having various ideas, Being willing to not be at the center of attention, trusting your peers etc. are all necessary ingredients to deliver a strong performance.

Recently the Pirates have extended their business model by providing training sessions for corporations. Mike believes that he can leverage the improv skills to help companies improve their cross-cultural communication and reinforce team building. He shares with us the main problems he usually witnesses at companies and explains the types of workshops he’s organizing.

Mike is the perfect example of somebody with a day job who can be an entrepreneur at the same time. He calls himself a “slow entrepreneur.”  He explains how his experience at companies helped him better manage his personal venture and vice versa. Probably a trend that more and more people will embrace in the coming years.

Questions: How to overcome cross-cultural communication problems? How to encourage team building? (reply in the comments)

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  • (0:24) Various types of performances
  • (5:13) Starting an improv comedy
  • (7:32) Group comedy vs solo comedy
  • (8:17) Being funny in a foreign country
  • (10:32) What does an improv show look like
  • (14:42) The thought process of improvising
  • (17:27) Best personality to improvise
  • (21:47) Company training sessions
  • (26:58) Addressing different communication styles
  • (28:20) Recurrent problems at companies
  • (30:29) Business model
  • (35:45) Having a business on the side
  • (38:47) Working like an organisation
  • (40:57) 10-year vision
  • (43:58) Quick-fire questions

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