In honor of the WGA recently naming their top 101 best written television shows of all-time, (http://tiny.cc/0998xw), I’m inspired to talk about a phenomena that has become wildly apparent to me these past few months—that there are a lot of similarities between an advertising start-up and a television sitcom. (Or at least between our start-up and a sitcom.
1. Like sitcoms, start-ups have characters who are true characters. At any given time, on any given day, this place is graced with some of the most interesting, amusing and flat-out funny people (intentionally and unintentionally) you’ll ever meet. Wise-guys like Seinfeld’s George and Dick Van Dyke’s Buddy, nerds like Liz Lemon and MASH’s Radar, neurotics like Larry David and Arrested Development’s Tobias, hard noses like Lou Grant, brainiacs like Lisa Simpson and (pseudo-) intellectuals like Frasier. We got ‘em all, and they all happily co-exist, while also adding to the atmosphere and moving the plotline forward.
2. And there’s just the right amount of them to keep track of. Like the Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players, the number is right. A start-up is just big enough to provide the variety of personalities that make things interesting, but still small enough to keep track of who’s who and what everybody’s role is. A troop, a team, an ensemble – call it what you will, we have a real cast of characters.\
3. Like sitcoms, start-ups have plotlines that border on the implausible, unpredictable and the inane. Like the episode where we “borrowed” the entire, unused and raw 2nd floor of our building to host a full-scale client meeting, only to get busted mid-meeting by our landlord and a posse of prospective tenants. Or the time we spent the day dialing every zoo and animal shelter in the city of Chicago in the hopes of donating the 3,000 bananas we had used as props for a promotional video the day before. Writers make this stuff up, we don’t.
4. Like sitcoms, start-ups laugh a lot. What’s the fun of being in a sitcom if you don’t laugh, and we do that plenty. Both with and at ourselves. As an agency that promotes the importance of humor in our work, it’s a lot easier to be funny when you’re already laughing. For us, the dynamic is like we’re both writing the show and being the show at the same time.
Just to make it clear, in case it isn’t, we love being in a sitcom for all the reasons above and many more (with these reasons no doubt coming up in future postings). We embrace the comparison. Advertising is supposed to be fun, not heavy, light-hearted, not life-threatening. So, given the choice, we’d rather be a sitcom than a drama any day. We’ll happily leave the drama to somebody else.