#btconf Düsseldorf, Germany 08 - 09 Nov 2021

Jeff Greenspan

Jeff is a comedian, activist, and artist. Since he also enjoys eating and having nice things, he freelances as an advertising writer and creative director. Basically, he helps brands talk to people without seeming like jerks.

Jeff was BuzzFeed’s first chief creative officer, worked closely with “Zuck” at Facebook to launch Timeline, and wrote for filmmaker Michael Moore. Currently, he’s focusing more on being happy than on being right. It’s making him miserable.

Want to watch this video on Vimeo directly? This way, please.

The Pandemic Didn’t Kill You. So Now What?

During lockdown, Jeff found himself alone in a small Brooklyn apartment. With no work or shows to be had, and no partner, pets or roommates to share time with, there was little reason to get out of bed. Many days, he didn’t.

To give himself a sense of schedule and purpose, he began an experiment. He offered his help, free of charge, in 15/30 minute increments to people who mostly wanted creative and professional guidance. He called it Quarantime.

After a write-up in FastCo, he received a surge of responses, eventually meeting (virtually) with 60 people from all over the world.

This project gave Jeff a peek into the anxieties, challenges, fears, hopes, and goals of many people across a wide swath of creative industries as the pandemic forced them to reevaluate their lives.

Jeff shares some of the insights gleaned by talking with so many who were reimagining their place in the world, and what happened when he took his own advice and “doubled down on himself.”

Transcription

[Music]

[Audience applause]

Jeff Greenspan:

[Audience cheers]

Jeff: Yeah? Are you excited not to have any masks on, here, for the most part?

Audience: Yeah!

Jeff:Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:

Oh, this is cool. I say stuff and it comes up here.

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Jeff: A long time ago...

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Jeff:In a galaxy far, far away...

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Jeff:

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Jeff: [

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

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Jeff: Home of Kraftwerk. Yay! Yeah.

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

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Jeff: Thanks for joining us here. I have a talk. As Marc was saying, I was kind of last minute.

Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:

By the way, congratulations for not succumbing. Yeah.

[Audience applause]

Jeff: [Laughs] How many people have kind of a before and after pandemic life, here? Yeah? Okay.

A lot of us have probably been through some pretty profound changes.

Audience member: No.

Jeff:

Laughter]

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Jeff:

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Jeff:Laughter]

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

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Jeff:


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Jeff:Laughter]

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Jeff: After Facebook, the resume gets worse. I went to go work at Buzzfeed.

Audience member: Wow!

Jeff:Laughter]

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Jeff:

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Jeff: [

Hey, my middle name is Ira. I can get away with it. Watch it.

The way I got these jobs was by doing projects that were pretty shared widely on the Internet. One of them was hipster traps.

[Audience laughs and applause]

Jeff: These are bear traps that I set around New York City. They were baited with things that hipsters like. These were made of cardboard. They look very real. No children or hipsters were hurt. Hipsters are just--

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: [

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Jeff: And then my projects got a bit more political. I had worked with another creative partner. I had a statute of Edward Snowden made, and we had it cemented in the middle of a park in New York City.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:

[News clip played]

Jeff: I like how they were looking for DNA like I just pleasured myself all over the statue or something.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:

Then after the statue was taken away, some other artists (without our collaboration) went and reinstalled it as a hologram. They had scanned it while it was still up there. Eventually, a very well-known attorney fought for us and got it back from the NYPD. Here it is being returned to us and eventually wound up in the Brooklyn Museum, which is a pretty prestigious museum in New York City.

Here is the head of Pfizer here. Each portrait was displayed with two lists of crimes: the crimes committed by the incarcerated artist and the crimes committed by the company. Here is the head of Chevron. Here is the head of Monsanto.

It got a lot of press. Here are the Koch brothers. Only one of them is still with us now.

Eventually, we made a book. We made 1,000 books. We sold them online. We sold out in a week. We made about $13,000, and we gave all the money to this guy. [Laughter]

[Audience applause]

Jeff: Thank you. Thanks.

[Netflix video starts]

Jeff:

Let me tell you something. Mexicans are not going to take your jobs. Robots are going to take your jobs.

[Audience applause]

Jeff: Once the robots have all the jobs, trust me, Mexican robots are going to take their jobs.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Lazy Mexican robots.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Sleeping on the factory floor.

[Netflix video ends]

Jeff:

Audience members: Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, very cool.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: I was going to take his apartment and do all the shows that he usually does, and he was going to take my apartment in Brooklyn and do all the shows that I usually do.

The New York Times thought this was a really interesting cultural exchange, and they were going to do a whole piece on it. I had my ticket to go to Berlin, and the pandemic hit, so everything was canceled.

I was trying to do things to kind of stay engaged. We tried to do a comedy show from the balcony of the apartment. We had a whole bunch of people hanging out the windows. We called it Captive Audience. That was the name of the show. The admission was just one roll of toilet paper or a smile, so it was pretty reasonable--

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: -- I thought, you know.

But then it was getting very cold and life really slowed down. I was trapped in that apartment.

I kind of went from being Jeff Greenspan to a different version of myself. [Laughter] I was really losing my mind. I had no job. I had no shows. I had no reason to really get out of bed. I had no schedule.

And so, I created something called Quarantime, where I offered anybody 15- to 30-minute sessions on Zoom to help them with anything I could help them with. A lot of people wanted to get their own personal projects off the ground, and I shared with you a few of the ones I had done, so I thought, well, maybe I could help some other people as well.

Some people just wanted to do--

But, basically, what I promised people--

That seems to connect with people, and so a lot of creative people really wanted--

Thankfully, so many people were good. [Laughter] Some people were very bad. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:



I would tell them all the pitfalls of some of the projects I showed you. Hipster traps:

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:Laughter]

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Jeff: Just worry about the head. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs and applause]

Jeff: Just do the head.

The other thing I noticed was that a lot of creative people, and maybe it goes outside the creative community too, were really good at packaging.

It was really exciting to walk these people through all of these projects. Hopefully, some of these points that I pointed out are things that you might be able to take home and think about for yourselves, as well.

Some people just-- On 4/20, one guy just wanted to get in touch with me and smoke weed together, which was fantastic. I was really happy to do that.

This was happening over and over again. The project got written up in Fast Company, and so I started getting booked all the time.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff:Laughter]

Some folks on Twitter had a fun time with him. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: He even stole my haircut. Like, come on, dude! Right?

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

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Jeff: By day 52, I just gave up and bought another puzzle. [Laughter]

Are you guys familiar with the concept of roasting people? Is that a term that people use?

Audience members: Yes.

Jeff: Okay.

[Humanaut video starts]

David Littlejohn:

Comic: Any chance you guys are interested in a dude who looks like Vin Diesel if Vin Diesel got sick? Is that something--?

[Audience laughs]

David:

Comedian: Hefty trash bags:

Comedian: --which is just what Democrats bring to a barbeque when they want to start a fight.

Comedian: You know, at least strudel got like a fancy name. Like, what the heck is a Pop-Tart?

Comedian:

David: And the Humanaut team will take their sick burns and insults and turn them into insights.

For the price your agency would normally charge for a bunch of stupid banner ads, you can get genuine, honest insights that you can use to be more authentic, self-aware, and less full of complete and total shit.

So mean. [Laughter]

So please, look inside your heart and then your marketing budget. Together, we can make a difference in the world of standup comedy and advertising/marketing/branding forever.

First come, first serve! Click the link below!

[Humanaut video ends]

Jeff:

Laughter]

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. [Laughter]

New York just really had not opened up. I was back in that 600 square foot apartment.

Then I decided to move to Tennessee. I figured, if I can do comedy here all the time, I can just pick up and move there.

One of the creators of The Daily Show -- do you guys know The Daily Show

[The Daily Show trailer clip played]

Jeff: The reason I shared all these--

Oh, okay....

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Jeff:

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Jeff:

I feel that--

Audience members: Oh, yeah.

Audience members: No.

Jeff:

Laughter] You know?

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Got big bears there. [Laughter]

I want to thank you for listening. I told Marc this is not really a Q&

Audience members: Yeah!

[Audience applause]

Jeff: Alright, cool.

[Audience applause]

Jeff:

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Speakers