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Lessons learned from Standup Comedian Russell Hicks

Richard Lucas
8th November 2017
This blog post is to go with my podcast interview with Russell Hicks – which goes live  today.  There will be the first airing of my new pre-roll,  a new ‘old’ music voice over, and very different content. I was very, very pleased to have Russell on the show and it was a great pleasure to have a long conversation with a comedian whose work I genuinely admire.
So, who is Russell?   Russell Hicks is a successful American Standup Comedian who lives and works mainly in the UK.
I saw him perform at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017, and so much enjoyed his shows I tracked him down. I  hope to get him to perform in Poland –  with the support of Krakow Standup Comedy  and Ash Deppeler  who spoke at TEDxKazimierz this year and is the founder of the Krakow Fringe Festival . To make it work will not be easy, but if we pull it off, I’ll be very pleased. We will probably set up a tour with Wrocław, Warsaw, Prague and Berlin, but this is all a year ahead of us now.
If you only do one thing,  enjoy his comedy –  see and listen to his talent here  – after 25 comedians have been booed off the stage,  he manages to bring the baying crowd back- and regain control. More than a million people have enjoyed that Youtube video. There are many more of his videos here    (if you are not into English language Stand Up Comedy, just listen to my interview – interviewing Comedians is an idea I got from Stewart Goldsmith, who was the first Professional Comedian to grace the Project Kazimierz digital stage here). Comedians can be really interesting, even if you don’t like comedy, and usually, (surprise surprise), they are entertaining.
You may well be surprised by what you learn from the podcast. We dive into what Russell knows about Krakow, which leads us to Jaws, not the shark, but the metal toothed giant – from the James Bond films  “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker”.  Jaws had a real (fictional) name Zbigniew Krycsiwiki  – and was from Krakow.  (I’m not sure the author spoke Polish).
Zbigniew Krycsiwiki a.k.a. ‘Jaws    – – from Krakow!!

After his failed basketball career, Krycsiwiki was arrested during the (also fictional) 1972 bread riots – and was so badly beaten by the communist secret police in prison that his jaw was smashed beyond repair. Krycsiwiki then escaped –  and after many  operations – his  jaw was restored using steel components – creating the famous razor-sharp teeth.  As Michael Caine might say – not many people know that.

Russell had no idea that Maus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maus was a controversial film in Poland. Poles were represented as pigs. Maus re-enforces the myth of Polish complicity in the holocaust, which is especially bitter when coming from a German artist. But Russell had no idea.

It was only when Russell was 26 that he realised that he was meant to be a Standup Comedian.  It is a magical thing to happen to anyone, to realise why they exist.  As he he got really good at getting people to laugh,  he discovered  he wasn’t enjoying it . He changed his approach, understanding that the only way to do comedy properly is to make sure you enjoys and believe in your own jokes. This means taking serious risks. As the room realises you are taking risks,  the pay off gets bigger – if it works.  If you listen to his podcasts,  which I recommend Off The Grid Podcast with Russell Hicks. Also check out his short “Art for f**cks  sake”  podcast series.

He does what’s going to make him happy on stage – his natural style  – even if it gets nowhere, and people aren’t laughing, he’s still  happy. The fact that he has a paying audience validates his approach – It he didn’t get paid bookings, this position would not hold water (in my view).  He doesn’t want to tell other people how to live, his approach works for him.   He believes that making concessions to the “comedy  industry” is a trap – people who do that can end up bitter. If comedians are really into well prepared written jokes  – if that is their thing – that’s fine, but you have to be yourself and follow your own art form.
He’s a huge TED fan, and I invited him to TEDxShoreditch (but he didn’t come ? ) As a foreigner in Britain he loves London and Britain and regards the anti immigrant attitude as the last gasp of dying generation, in his view young people are much more liberal, open, and accepting of diversity.
Finally, Russell says he wants to be interviewed by Stewart Goldsmith for the Comedian’s Comedian podcast.

I promised him I’d send Stewart a note, and I’m going to.  I hope it works.
That’s all I want to share, below a a wide range of links that will be useful if you want to follow up on podcast topics. I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as I enjoyed doing the interview.

Links. which may not make sense, unless you listen to the podcast.

If you want to get an insight into the way he thinks start with The Sad Clown Paradigm” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJTAygodXlM

If you want to book him his agent is  Delphine at Beyond Compere.
https://twitter.com/BeyondCompere
TEDx Shoreditch  http://projectkazimierz.com/katie-underwood-s4ep3/
John Cage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTEFKFiXSx4
Louis CK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fxl2U5DSz9w
Bill Burr
 https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bill+burr 
Joe Sinclitico – Karate (Stand Up Comedy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp72HPBmtNg
Pippa Evans www.pippaevans.com   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippa_Evans and Sunday Assembly http://www.sundayassembly.com  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22pippa+evans%22
Glengarry Glen Rose https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glengarry_Glen_Ross_(film)
Tim Minchin – UWA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoEezZD71sc
Cal Newport So good they can’t ignore you www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOdU02SE0w
How to start movement Derek Sivers
https://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movementBad Lieutenant   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_Lieutenant
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Sick

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Entrepreneurship Investing

Five things I learned from Asaf Navot – Founder – Home Made

by Richard Lucas 1st November 2017

This post is part of a series to go with the Project Kazimierz podcast. This interview is on line here.

Asaf Navot is the founder of Home Made in London, a fast growing residential property service which is both cheaper and better than existing services.

Prior to founding his startup Asaf did an MBA at Insead, was a consultant with Bain Private Equity Group and Wilson Perumal, and served in the Israeli Armed Services

My goal is to have a post on my blog here supporting podcast interviews when I have reflections to share – though these thoughts are mine, not Asaf’s).

Skype interview with Asaf
I don’t post video footage of the interviews but when the internet connection is good enough I prefer to video Skype – using Call Recorder software – as communication is better when you can see each other.So what five insights would I particularly especially like to share from this podcast ?

1 The value of military experience in leadership development. I was so wrong about this in the past. It deserves a separate article in the future.
2. The importance of leadership in any business. I discovered this way too late in my life. If you don’t know anything about leadership in startups, click here or ask me to write another blog post.
3. The importance of unit economics. Asaf talked about this at the British Computer Society Cambentrepreneurs Event in London where I met him. It’s so basic and so important. When you acquire a customer, how much money will you be making. The gap between revenue and costs. What I call chapter one of the “Ladybird Book of Business”
4. The value of operational excellence as a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review were writing about it here just a few months ago
It’s important. Forget the Nintendo, beanbags and frisbee. Get things done fast, efficiently, and as well as possible at the lowest cost without compromising on quality and you will win.

 

5. He has great insights into interviewing and recruitment. You have to listen to hear them all, but I love he explains why it is important to hear who a candidate believes he or she has inspired or influenced. His approach to people management, one -on-ones and personal development is very aligned with Manager Tools (also run by ex Military people) of which I am a great fan.

Apart from these five points. Asaf shared a new thought or rather piece of advice with me. If someone tells him they are thinking of starting a business, he says…

“If you are thinking of starting a business – don’t”

It’s counter-intuitive but powerful. What he means is “You should only really start a business if you are so driven by the idea, you can’t stop yourself.” If you are that driven to open a business but are unsure about the company formation process, don’t let that put you off – there are businesses who offer a simple company formations process so that you can still achieve your dream.