More Things Meeting George Carlin Taught Me About Your Brand and Saying Farewell to Dave

In my last blog, I wrote about my doing stand up in the 80’s and then meeting Carlin months before he died in 2008. As promised, here’s more of what that meeting taught me about brands that actually stick. It’s lifted in parts from an original blog I posted:

Six years ago, I stopped for lunch in Santa Monica. I lucked out to get the last seat at the counter, looked over and saw George Carlin waiting for food at the take-out station. I likely went into a trance.

Finally he looked right at me and said what only Carlin could say without words, “WTF?” I felt my lips say three words back. “I love you.”

“Thank you,” he said sincerely and sort of shyly and headed to leave. But then he came over to my chair. “That was a really kind thing you just did,” he said.

I don’t remember all I said, but we talked for a while, no jokes and I still remember how I felt-completely natural.

We were connected. I felt like we were peers.

Great brands make you feel like that celebrities or not. They hold up a mirror for us to see who we are and let us know we are part of them.

“Take good care of yourself.” he said as he was leaving, like a grown-up who knows every moment is precious.

Then he spotted something on the floor.

“Hey look!” he bent down to pick it up. “A lucky penny!”

I thought this was shtick and he’d give it to me. What did Carlin need a penny for?

“Mine,” he said clenching it with the genuine joy of a five year old.

I didn’t get his penny but I got this: Hold onto some joy. It’s not corny idealism.  Many don’t know that George Carlin, who appeared to be a total cynic wrote, “I am in fact a very joyous individual.” And he’s given so much joy back. You can’t give what you don’t have.

So now it’s May 21, 2015 the month that would have marked Carlin’s 78th birthday and after the last night (don’t make me weep); of Late Night Letterman. And I know these two things more than ever about our brands thanks to these two comedy (and brand) geniuses:

  1. It’s your job to be looking for at least a penny’s worth of joy if you’re going to have something great to offer; no matter if you’re selling comedy or funeral plots. That’s what people buy; know it or not. To find yours-“think off center."
  2. You can throw watermelons from the top of a building down onto West 53rd street, but that doesn’t make you Dave Letterman. Or even funny. It’s about perspective. To find and capitalize on the one that’s uniquely yours, you’ve got to dive deep.

Off-center thinking and diving are the most valuable and skipped over strategies and assets most companies have.

If you need help identifying and expressing either in memorable ways, ’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading.