#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: How y’all doing tonight?

[Audience cheers]

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

Audience: Yeah!

Jeff: No one is more excited than me. Trust me. If I were a mask with these glasses, I’d look like a hipster burglar, you know? [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Like I’m going to break into your apartment and steal your screenplay or something. You know?

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

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: A long time ago...

[Audience laughs]

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

[Audience laughs and cheers]

Jeff: Okay. It’s working.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: [Laughter] Hi, I’m Jeff Greenspan. Give yourselves a round of applause for making it through the first day of Beyond Tellerrand.

[Audience applause]

Jeff: Let’s hear it for all the speakers that you saw so far today, please.

[Audience applause and cheers]

Jeff: Yeah, very good. And let’s give it up for this beautiful host city, Dusseldorf.

[Audience applause and cheers]

Jeff: Home of Kraftwerk. Yay! Yeah.

[Audience applause and cheers]

Jeff: Who just into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. That’s pretty cool. And let’s give it up for your host, Marc.

[Audience applause and cheers]

Jeff: Okay, okay. That’s enough about Marc. Back to me. All right?

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: I don’t know Photoshop. By the way, I apologize for my face. Not that one; this one.

I usually have a beard and the beard is really the only thing that keeps the face together. But in the States, I’m a comedian. For Halloween, I was asked to perform in costume, so I went as Jeff Bezos.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: This costume is 100% authentic in that I’m completely dead and empty on the inside.

[Audience laughs]

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

I’m going to just-- Well, I’ll tell you in a little bit. Well, I’ll tell you now.

Here’s the truth. I wasn’t anybody’s first choice. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: It’s kind of the story of my life. Somebody dropped out or died. I don’t know what happened. He says, “Are you spontaneous?” He said it’s my middle name.

My middle name is actually Ira. It’s very Jewy. It’s a very Jewish name, Ira. But spontaneous, I like that. That’s good. That’s a good middle name.

This talk is “The Pandemic Didn’t Kill You. So Now What?”

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: Yeah? I have two. I’m going to just talk you through a journey that I went through and hopefully, it’s useful to other people who are still grappling with pivoting through an ever-changing world. Before I get into the nuts and bolts, just to give you a little bit of background. I spent about 20 years working in the advertising industry. Here are some of the agencies that I’ve worked for. Here are some of the logos that I’ve worked for.

Twenty years in advertising. I made all my money telling lies - so many lies. Everything I’m wearing was bought with lies. Every meal I’ve ever eaten was bought with lies. And now, I’m trying to do comedy and tell the truth and I’ve never been more broke. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: There’s no money in the truth. Go into lies. All right. If you take anything away from this day--

After working in advertising for a long time, I went to go work at Facebook. I didn’t know about the Russian--

By the way, I’m sorry. It’s Meta. I’m sorry. I forgot. It’s not--

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: It’s not Facebook. I’m terrible at Photoshop. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Yeah. People ask me, “Did you know about the Russian threat?” When I worked at Facebook, the biggest threat was Google Plus. It was a very long time ago.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: I used to work with Mark Zuckerberg. One day he said to me, “You have amazing solutions to problems I don’t have.”

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Here’s what he said that to me about. I had worked for about three months with some engineers to create an opposite button for Facebook so that, when you hit it, it would re-populate your newsfeed to show you the stories and articles from the people you had the least ideologically in common with but were still friends with. This was in 2012 when you could be friends with people you don’t agree with. It was a million years ago.

He goes, “Why would make something like this?”
I said, “Well, our data is showing us that people are moving into smaller and smaller circles of influence. They’re getting their information from fewer and fewer points. That could be pretty dangerous for society.”

I had amazing solutions to problems he didn’t have.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: You know, it’s very intimidating being in a room with a genius, which is how I guess he must have felt when I presented ideas to him. I don’t know. [Laughter]

[Audience applause and cheers]

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

Audience member: Wow!

Jeff: Yeah, you could just toss me out right now. I’m sorry. [Laughter]

Buzzfeed is a website that’s known for listicles. These are articles in the form of a list, like 13 ways you know you are a virgin. Things like that.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: I would argue, after the first way, there’s a lot of fluff on that list.

They fired me. This isn’t even why they fired me. I tried to publish Schindler’s listicle.

[Audience laughs, cheers, and applause]

Jeff: [Laughter] Twenty-three adorable Jews you won’t believe survived.

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: [Laughter] They’re too thin. They’ll just slip right through. You know?

[Audience laughs]

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: This was cemented on top of a pillar that is part of a memorial to those who lost their lives during the American Revolutionary War. The idea was to try to fuse these two narratives together. Here’s a little clip from the news - if it plays.

[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: I mean, Edward’s hot but not that hot. You know what I mean?

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.

Some other projects I had worked on was something called, “The Captured Project” where I had people in prison draw portraits of people that me and my creative partner thought should be in prison, which are the head of corporations kind of destroying the world.

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.

In the course of doing these projects, well, I guess I’m going to share this now. I went through a pretty bad psychological-- I was very, very depressed. It was getting to be almost as bad as it can get when you get depressed.

I was seeing some doctors. I was trying different medications. I said to myself, “Well, let me also try to take some classes in things that are really outside my comfort zone to try to jumpstart my brain into a different direction.”

I took a Spanish class. I took a jiu-jitsu class. I took a stand-up comedy class. I got my windpipe crushed in jiu-jitsu. I can’t even tell you “My pencil is yellow,” in Spanish anymore. But I’ve been doing standup comedy (ever since that day I took that class) for five years now in a row. Almost every single day, I’ve been doing standup - until COVID.

I eventually got a little clip on Netflix. Can I show you a little clip of some standup? We’ll see if the sound works. We’ll see here if it works.

[Netflix video starts]

Jeff: When someone laughs, even if it’s just one person, you know that someone gets you. When everyone in the room is laughing, then they get each other. You’ve created a community on some level. But when nobody laughs, it’s like, “Whoa. This is something so personal and so intimate and you’ve rejected me.” Part of comedy is learning just to move through the rejection because you can’t just stop when people don’t laugh.

It’s easy to get depressed or anxious in the world that we’re living in right now. A lot of that is due to Donald Trump. He wants us to fear everything, even Mexicans. He tells us that Mexicans are going to take our jobs.

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: So, I’ve been doing standup steadily. This is a guy named Shahak Shapira. He’s a comedian in Berlin. He’s pretty well-known in Germany. You guys know him?

Audience members: Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, very cool.

Right before the pandemic, we had a thing that we were going to do. We were going to swap apartments, flats, whatever y’all call it.

Y’all. I’ve been in Tennessee too long.

[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 wound up just staying in a 640 square foot apartment in Brooklyn. It’s a nice place, but it’s pretty small if you’re there 24/7 by yourself. No pets. No roommate. No significant other. I was kind of losing my mind.

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, often, at times, I didn’t get out of bed at all. I really had no connection to anybody else. In a way, to save myself from insanity, I said, “Let me try to do something that is both positive and gives some structure to my day.”

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--

Here’s a little--

You can’t really see, but some people just wanted to do pushups together over Facetime. That was fine if that’s how they wanted to use the 15 minutes.

But, basically, what I promised people--

I’m just going to leave-- I don’t have a slide here for this thing. This is just me talking, so there’s nothing really to look at.

But what I told people was, “Hey, I’m probably stoned. I’m most definitely drunk. I’m going to tell you just the truth as I see it as a man who’s losing his mind trapped in his apartment will tell it to you.”

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

Well, I’ll tell you some of the things that they wanted. They kind of fell into a lot of buckets. There were a lot of people who just wanted to know were they good. They wanted to show me their portfolios. “Tell me. Is this good?” Ask me if this is good. “Here’s a piece of standup. Is this good?”

I would try to tell them. I go, “If I don’t like it, it doesn’t make it bad. If I do like it, it really doesn’t make it good. But I’ll give you my honest take on it.”

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

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: I told them with no uncertain words. There was one person in particular. He was a copywriter. He sent me his portfolio. The portfolio was pretty lackluster. But his About page said something like, “Be bold. Be human.”

I was like, “You’re a writer, and this is what you’ve come up with to sell yourself? It’s pretty generic, I think.”

I was kind of like ripping his work apart. At the end, he goes, “Thank you. Thank you so much. I kind of thought it all sucked, but no one was telling me. Everyone’s kind of gaslighting me. Everyone is just so polite nowadays.”

I’m 51 years old. I come from a generation that was not polite. I learned that there are a lot of creative people really, really hungry for some honest feedback, and so I gave it to them, but I encouraged them to seek out mentors, friends, colleagues that would give critical, honest feedback to each other. That was something that I saw that the creative community was really hungry for.

Maybe this is something that resonates with you. Maybe you’ve been-- I see some nods. It was good to be able to share that with people.

The other thing I noticed was a lot of people were getting in touch with me asking (in a veiled way) for permission to do a project. They had an idea, and they go, “Well, can I do this?”

I go, “You mean can you physically, mentally do it?”
They go, “Well, who am I to do a project like this?”
I go, “Who am I to submit the statue in the middle of a park? Who even has to do anything other than just giving yourself permission to do it?”

Now, I don’t know if the culture is different in Germany. I don’t know if it’s just because maybe deep down a lot of us want to please other people. But there was this thread through so much of the creative community of really needing a green light to go ahead and do something. And so, if they saw me as an authority figure in some capacity--even though I was stoned and drunk from my apartment--I was happy to give them the green light to do their projects. I’m happy to hear that a lot of those people would get back in touch with me and tell me that they did move those projects forward.

The other I noticed was a lot of people had great idea for projects and they knew how to get them started, but they didn’t start because they would tell me, “Well, I don’t know what I do after the first step or the second step.”

I would tell them all the pitfalls of some of the projects I showed you. Hipster traps: We didn’t know if they would blow away or get stolen or be noticed. The Snowden statue: We had no idea if we’d be arrested. We didn’t know a lot of the pieces before we got started with all these projects.

I tried to encourage everyone that I engaged with through Quarantime to just do the first step that’s right in front of you. If there’s a project that you want to do, it could be really terrifying to be like, “Well, how do I get press for it when it’s done?”

Trust me. There are like 30 to 40 to 50 steps. I don’t know if you remember. HTML is parsed one line at a time.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Projects are too. Just do the next line of code that’s in front of you for your project. Don’t worry about: I don’t know the tags. I don’t know what to call those things. [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

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.

I work in advertising or I used to, at least. A lot of that is packaging brands, telling the stories. Story is a big word people like to use. All that really means is, how do I track the trajectory of what you’re about?

So many creative people, in particular, were really bad at doing it for themselves. They could do it for brands. They could do it for other people. But they couldn’t do it themselves.

It’s weird. I wonder if a plumber can fix their own sink. I don’t know. Maybe they can’t.

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.

It was great. I had a reason to get out of bed. I was actually helping people. I was excited to hear about other people’s projects.

Then it kind of got ripped off by this guy. It’s kind of strange to me. I don’t understand.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: What I love about this is his T-shirt says “Creator,” which I think is so fantastic. [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?

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: But I’m not a therapist. I’m an excellent patient, but I’m not a good therapist. And after weeks and weeks and weeks of back to back, 15- to 30-minute increments of listening to people’s anxieties and dreads about the pandemic or their careers, post-pandemic, prior pandemic, it was starting to really take a toll on me, again.

There’s this ad agency or creative production company in Tennessee called Humanaut. I hadn’t really heard of them before, but they asked me and another comedian to come down to Tennessee, to Chattanooga, and be a comedian-in-residence. I said, “Well, what’s a comedian-in-residence?”

He goes, “I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.” He said, “Why don’t you just come down here,” with this other comedian I do a lot of writing with. “Come down to Chattanooga, get out of this 640 square foot apartment, and let’s just work on some humor-based projects.”

I had never been to Tennessee in my life. I’m not a Tennessee guy. I mean I am now. I live there now.

When they sent us down to Tennessee, they put us in the Bode Hotel in Chattanooga. We stayed inside a lot. We did some puzzles. I made the poor choice of buying a puzzle that’s all one color.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: This is day 10. Here’s day 50.

[Audience laughs]

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

We were doing puzzles by day -- we were working by day and doing puzzles by night. If it’s cool with you, I’d like to share with you one of the comedic projects that we developed, what two comedians could do by working with an ad agency.

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: At Humanaut, we’ve always said that honesty is our secret weapon. We believe an authentic brand is one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. But now, we’re taking our approach to brand honesty to a whole new level.

There’s no one more brutality honest and self-deprecating than standup comics.

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: But, right now, comedy clubs are closed around the country because of COVID. These days, it doesn’t seem like there’s very much we can all laugh about. But maybe you, the brand managers, can help these standup comics do what they love, and maybe your brand is something we can all laugh about.

That’s why we’re introducing the Humanaut brand roast. Yeah, the comedy roast once reserved for celebrities is now available for your brand.

We’ve teamed up with standup comics in New York and around the country who’ve lost their stage time due to COVID. They’re going to mercilessly roast your brand and tear your strategy to pieces.

Comedian: Hefty trash bags: They’re the elephant condoms that break.

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: I think it’s a sign that you should stop when you lose your job to a nut.

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.

We’ve only got ten slots, so hurry up and give these comics your money.

First come, first serve! Click the link below!

[Humanaut video ends]

Jeff: So far, we’ve done three of these brand roasts. We did one for National Geographic. We’ve done one for Goose Island Beer and a company called New Fabrics, which distributes medicine through clothing. The comics were able to make a good amount of money. We were able to glean some really interesting insights that turned into really valuable, creative advertising work for these brands.

And then this comedian-in-residence thing was over and I went back to New York and it wasn’t good. [Laughter]

I was trying to get back into my life of doing standup. Standup had been relegated to the outdoors. Here’s a poster I did for one of their shows. Here’s me ruining 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.

After doing a show where I was physically assaulted by the host, a dog ate my mask, and I got a flat tire on my bicycle riding home, the very next morning I called the manager of that Bode Hotel, and I said, “Can I move into that hotel? If I did, would you let me keep comics in the other room?” It was a two-bedroom apartment. “Could I keep comedians in the other room and run a comedy show in your lobby?” because we had one comedy show when were down there.

I failed to mention this. Everyone in the hotel was kind of trapped in there. We had a karaoke machine. I said, “Hey, I got a couple of comics here and a karaoke machine. Let’s do a show.”

We did a show for 20 hotel guests. Hotel guests are terrible audience members. They absolutely are. They haven’t gotten dressed. They haven’t gotten a sitter. They’ve made no sacrifice to be there. They just come down from their room because they don’t want to look at their husband or wife for about an hour. They come down in their sweatpants, and they kind of just sit there like this. You know?

But I thought maybe we could make a good of it, so he said, “Let’s try it for three months.” We created the Carpetbagger’s Comedy Night.

A carpetbagger (in America) is someone -- it’s a pejorative term again northerners who came down from the north during reconstruction and took advantage of the south. That was kind of what I was doing. I was taking advantage of the openness of Tennessee. You can actually gather indoors.

We tried this show. It was only supposed to be for three or four months. Here it is, now, a year later. The show has gotten a ton of press. It’s now a sold-out show, twice a month. We’ve had 14 sellout shows.

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? Is that a thing that you have here? He thought this was pretty interesting. He wanted to try to package this idea of a show, the idea of a guy living in a hotel and running a comedy show. Here’s a little clip of the trailer he put together.

[The Daily Show trailer clip played]

Jeff: The reason I shared all these--

Oh, okay....

[Audience applause]

Jeff: The reason I shared all this with you is because I’m 51 and I have some perspective now. I’ve learned that there’s a lot of similarities between all these things: the advertising arch, trying to do projects that get into museums or galleries, and now standup comedy. There’s a lot of similarities.

I’d like to go over a couple of them because maybe it will illuminate something that’s going on in your own career. So much of it, I feel, is about finding your own voice. It keeps you from being a commodity. It takes you from having a job, I feel, to having a career.

So many people I know have trouble getting a job or keeping a job or finding a job once they’ve been made redundant. And they look at their portfolios or their body of work, and it’s competent, but it’s not different or unique enough.

I look at portfolios all the time, and I don’t get to see the person within the portfolio. I find that if you can--obviously, through projects that I’ve done and through doing the type of advertising I did--I felt like I was able to move out of the pack and continually work because my stuff was different enough.

But I don’t know what they are teaching in schools nowadays. But most of the books I see seem very, very similar to each other. I don’t know if there’s an adversity to risk, but I think, as creative people (or anyone who’s trying to find a job), I think you should move towards that risk. It means finding how you can express yourself. Those are the people, I feel, seem to work the most.

The other thing I’ve noticed is--whether it be gallerist deciding what goes on a wall of a gallery, a booker who decides which comedians go up on stage at the clubs, or a recruiter at an ad agency or a design firm--find a way around these idiots. [Laughter] I shouldn’t call bookers idiots. Bookers are great.

[Audience laughs]

Jeff: Their job, I think, is to keep things the same. Their job is to keep things usually pretty safe. What will sell is probably something that was similar to what was on the wall of the gallery, prior. What will sell at ad agency meeting is something that isn’t too different so it doesn't scare the client.

I feel that--

I’m trying to do comedy in New York. The bookers want you to do things a very certain way. But you can always create your own scene. The comedians I know who are working created their own independent shows.

The same thing with the projects that I did, create your own projects. Create your own scene. Get a group of people together that feel the same way that you do. And if you’re not getting the exposure that you want, create your own platform.

If it’s art, rent out a space and show your own work. If it’s comedy, put together your own show. I know a lot of people here are probably Web developers. I don’t really know that world but find a way to do your own thing with your own group of people. Find a crew. I feel you’re much stronger in a pack.

When I do comedy, I have a group of people and we help each other. We push each other. We book each other’s shows. We produce our own shows. By doing that, we were able to get the attention of the bookers of the clubs.

The same thing with those art projects. I didn’t go through a fine art background. I’m not trained as an artist. But I was able to get into the Brooklyn Museum and a couple of other really good galleries in New York City and San Francisco, so I encourage everyone to try to find those networks of support.

But the biggest thing that I feel that has happened, at least to me through this pandemic, was this doubling down on myself, betting on myself. I encourage you all to do that. If you made it through this terrible, terrible, terrible year, believe in yourself. You can do the things that you think that you can’t do.

Moving to Tennessee to do comedy-- I was doing comedy steadily in New York when I was doing ad work. The pandemic really made me see, at least in the ad industry in America, it’s incredibly abusive. I don’t know what the work system is like here in Europe, but the hours are insane. It’s always an emergency. Emails and phone calls at nine o’clock at night for turn arounds the next morning. Is that something that you guys experience here?

Audience members: Oh, yeah.

Audience members: No.

Jeff: No? Okay. Let’s go to whatever country that person is from. Please.

I found-- Now, I wouldn’t have done this if it weren’t for the pandemic. But I told a lot of these people just to fuck off. And when I did, I found myself getting more work. It actually opened up a space to work for the types of people that were healthier.

I’m sure some people have been in dysfunctional relationships with women or men. Yeah? And when you get rid of those people, it hurts in the beginning, but then you realize you opened yourself up for the connections that are right.

By telling these people who are pushing me to do work -- I didn’t even believe in this ad work, to begin with. Now they were forcing me to work double-time for the same amount of money. I was able to tell these people--

Because I was really pushing myself to move towards comedy in a way that I never would have if it weren’t for the pandemic. Moving to Tennessee for the thing that I think--

I’m 51 years old. Becoming a comedian, I mean it’s nuts. It probably won’t work, but maybe it will. I’m going to bet on myself.

The pandemic really made me take a look at all the advice I was giving people during that Quarantime thing. I said, “Fuck that. I should take my own advice,” so I did.

Now, I live in Tennessee, like I said. I hope that if you ever find yourself in America, that you’ll pay me a visit. [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&A, but this was a very last-minute thing to come here and talk about the journey that I’ve had during this pandemic. I’m sure we’ve all been through an insane, insane couple of years. We’re probably still going through it.

But if anything that I’ve talked about now or the journey or the arc of these efforts that I’ve engaged myself in can help any of you or raise any questions, please just shout them out and we can have a quick discussion. This is kind of like a chill, end of the night session. If that’s cool with you, can we do that?

Audience members: Yeah!

[Audience applause]

Jeff: Alright, cool.

[Audience applause]

Jeff: And if don’t want to ask me a question now, you can find me at this website. That’s my website. You can get in touch with me. You can find my links there. Thanks.

[Audience applause]

Speakers