Podcast Notes: Jerrod Carmichael on the Tim Ferris Show

I refreshed my Instacast feed and was delighted to see that Jerrod Carmichael was a guest on The Tim Ferriss Show. When reading Judd Apatow’s Sick in the Head, I was hoping Carmichael would be in it. I also should have checked the table of contents instead of thinking he might just appear a few hundred pages in.

Ferriss is a fan of comedy. He’s had a few comedians as guests and has mentioned that he enjoys seeing earlier sets to see how comedians work on an unfinished product. After reading Tools of Titans and Sick in the Head one after the other, I wrote a couple posts connecting the two. Jerry Seinfeld does something similar to star-gazing and Michael Che and Jocko Willink keep positive perspectives even if their situations are much different.

Successful comedians have a great toolbox. Comedy writers have great efficiency with words—they craft sentences in the right way to get people to laugh. Stand-up comics place little bets in every performance and become some of the best public speakers.

Still, even the greats bomb. Carmichael says he bombed the very first time he was on stage. How’d he deal with it? He says he lied to himself and said it wouldn’t happen again. Don’t dwell. He shares a lot of other wisdom in the podcast.

Don’t be a bad comedian with an excellent website
Or: don’t be Kwame Brown trying to palm two basketballs. (Michael Jordan was unimpressed.) Rookies probably don’t need to worry about poster poses. Startup founders probably shouldn’t be telling the designer “Two pixels to the left” if they can instead be talking to customers. I should probably be drawing instead of configuring digital brushes.

Carmichael says to focus on the content and to focus on exactly what you’re putting out.

People focus on the wrong things. There are a lot of comedians who aren’t funny at all or who don’t have stage presence. But have excellent websites. You know, they have excellent websites. And the shiniest business cards and the headshots are impeccable. And… who gives a fuck? You know what I mean?

It’s about the work. He says that he’s always had that mindset, even when selling shoes at Footaction. He approached it thinking okay this is my job, let me see what it’s like to try and be the best at this.

Don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter
Fewer decisions means you can focus more energy on the important decisions. Personal trainers take the decision-making out of workouts (and also why you should be picky). Morning rituals help remove decisions also (Carmichael has eggs and blueberries). He also used to wear a uniform.

I was wearing the same… I bought a lot of the same… white sweatshirt, gray pants… Timberlands. Everyday. Every day. It worked in any place that I went. That’s what I liked. It worked everywhere. I’ll go to your wedding in this thing.

Wearing the same thing is another step toward reducing your decisions. Lately it’s been popularized by Barack Obama and Steve Jobs. In the past it was popularized by those kids in school who didn’t care what they wore. He says he doesn’t currently wear a uniform—his show requires wardrobe selections so he thinks about clothes and clothes can be fun.

I’m slowly getting into a uniform myself. A couple weeks ago I got a Uniqlo oversized shirt and a pair of their khaki joggers. A couple days later I got another set. I’m thinking of picking up two more sets to get a good rotation going. Soon I’ll just have Doug’s closet.

Don’t start your day with bullshit
Ferriss mentions that Carmichael in person isn’t as dark as he is in his stand-up. Here’s some proof: he starts most of his days in the least dark way imaginable: he calls his mom.

“I don’t want to start my day with bullshit. I don’t like noise. You know? I don’t like too much noise. My mom has a great spirit. One of the purest people that I know. She doesn’t over complicate anything.

I’ll talk to her for a few minutes and then I’ll do other calls. But you want to start it in a peaceful place, and then yell about marketing for an hour.

Maybe you don’t have someone to start every day like that. (He also calls his sister if his mom isn’t available.) The point is centering yourself in some way.

Don’t listen to anybody
Ferriss asks him about bad advice that’s given out frequently. Carmichael says to watch out when advice begins with “You gotta…”

It’s usually people who aren’t where they want to be. The person who just readily hands out advice is usually not where they want to be. You know, busy people aren’t just around in the back telling you what you gotta do next.

You gotta listen to this podcast!