What a year in comedy taught me about User Experience / by Joseph Palumbo

I recently got an opportunity to speak at Generate NYC, which is a conference for web designers. When I was first approached on giving a talk, I wasn't exactly sure that I could contribute anything of value. I know how to code and I've built some cool things for the web, mostly for personal use, but I've never been a professional web designer or developer, and certainly didn't think that I was in a position to stand up in front of them with a lecture. 

The more I thought about it, the more I started to connect dots in my head. Web designers do more than just wireframe and write Javascript. Ultimately, they're trying to solve a problem for their users. How did I know this? Because the only reason a business exists (or should exist) is because it solves a problem for somebody. Ideally in a way that people are willing to pay money for that solution. 

OK, I know a thing or two about solving problems. And I definitely know something about building products that solve real-world business and technical problems for customers. But hasn't that been done? Is there a way I can present the information from a completely new, somewhat unexpected angle? Well, actually, yes I can. 

In 2016 I walked away from the corporate world to pursue a lifelong dream - to be a standup comedian. And not just somebody who does open mics a few times a week so they can say they do comedy. I wanted to be a professional standup comedian. I wanted to be able to pay the bills off of my ability to make people laugh. 

Fortunately, comedy is a craft that can be learned by anyone. Trust me, you don't even have to be funny to make people laugh on stage. Secondly, putting together a comedy career isn't that different from a startup. You have an idea of an opening in the market (another comedian) and you need to put together a product that fulfills that need in a unique way. 

Ultimately, what I stumbled upon is that comedy is about user experience. You can approach comedy (a joke, a set, an act) in much the same way you would approach putting together a digital experience or a customer success program. It's all about the customer journey. And if you're humble enough to listen to your audience (customer), you might just be able to pull it off. 

So, I give you my 40 minute presentation on What Comedy Taught Me About User Experience