Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” is one of the funniest comedy routines of all time. It’s also in the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
And no, it didn’t involve owls…
But it does teach some important marketing lessons.
For starters, its basic premise– wordplay involving funny names– was not original: the idea goes back to turn-of-the-century burlesque sketches. The routine was tweaked and polished by many people, including Abbott and Costello, but the actual writing credit is unknown.
Lesson #1: It takes time to develop good content. You can’t just dash it off if you want it to have a lasting impact.
Lesson #2: You can repackage an old idea, but you have to give it a new spin and make it your own.
Lesson #3: Collaboration can pay big dividends. Lots of different people contributed bits and pieces to the routine. Two or more heads are better than one.
But what if you’re a small business and it’s just you who’s creating all the content?
Collaborate with yourself by repurposing old content. Go back and look at it with a fresh eye. Update it. Rewrite some of it. Add new thoughts. You’ll be keeping the content fresh, and making it stronger.
Lesson #4: Humor pays. You can write serious content and still incorporate some humor. Doing so helps retain your audience’s attention. Humor also helps people relax and be more open to what you’re saying.
“Who’s On First?” succeeded because it was the perfect vehicle for Abbott and Costello: it was zany, and it required a straight man plus a comic who specialized in deadpan looks and exasperated outbursts.
Lesson #5: Content has to fit the brand and align with the brand’s goals.
Lesson #5 Corollary: If you work with collaborators (either a content team or outside freelancers), the collaborators also need to embrace the brand’s goals.
Lesson #6: All good content is “theatrical” in a broad sense: it requires rehearsals (polishing, tweaking), and it needs to sound natural and spontaneous, with no hint of the hard work that went into it. If it sounds labored, you’ll lose your audience.
And if all this makes you want to see the routine, here’s what’s generally considered the best filmed version of Who’s On First?:
Illustration by Mark Armstrong.
Originally published on Mark Armstrong Illustration.
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