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Ten Minutes with Tim Washer

A Corporate Comedian switches from “SNL,” & "Conan O’Brien," to PIxar, IBM and The White House.




Tim Washer studied improv under Amy Poehler, comedy writing with the executive producer of “The Colbert Report,” and has appeared on “SNL,” Conan O’Brien, the Onion, and HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” He’s emceed events featuring Pixar CEO John Lasseter, Emmy Award–winner Tony Hale, and Nobel Peace Prize–winner Desmond Tutu. Washer has performed at corporate events for IBM, Cisco, Deloitte, CDC, Google, and The White House.

So you’re a comedian. Say something funny.
Well, okay, but it would require a live orchestra and sock puppets, and I don’t see them here.

What exactly do you do?
I have a day job with Cisco, writing and producing videos. Half or more of them are meant to be humorous, in an effort to humanize the brand. The goal is to try to connect with customers in order to invite them into our blogs and our videos by showing things in a humorous light. It’s good for a company to show its personality. It can be quite effective.

So they pay you to make fun of them?
Haaa! Yes, that’s exactly right. 

You are a standup comic too.
Yes, I took an improv class at the the Upright Citizens Brigade and studied under Amy Poehler, who as you know has gone on to do great things. I did standup in the clubs in the city for awhile and then found a niche emceeing for corporate events, adding humor using PowerPoint. 

How did you end up on John Oliver’s show?
Getting an agent is difficult—and I tried for years. I was working at IBM and a colleague said, “My sister’s an agent.” We got introduced and they signed me. I did TV commercials. In fact, for T-Mobile, I spent a day with Catherine Zeta-Jones on a sofa, playing a dimwitted husband who’s in awe of her. And then I did John Oliver’s show—I debated Bill Nye. That was so much fun. 

Is comedy a gift?
Yes, it’s a gift. For people who can make people laugh and bring joy to the world, it is very powerful. We forget about that in the corporate world, where we just want to be so buttoned-up. 

Seinfeld says he worked with Tony Bennett on timing. Does that make sense to you?
Very interesting. There is rhythm in music and that can certainly be shared for comedic timing. Aaron Sorkin, a dramatic writer, is very musical, and he hears the beats when he is writing for television.

Do your kids think you’re funny?
My daughter just says I’m weird. My son once said about a camp counselor he liked: “He’s funny like you, Dad.” That really made me feel good.

Do knock-knock jokes work in a corporate setting?
No. No. No. Unless you are in the door business.

You are involved at Jesse Lee Church.
I’ve been a member since 1999. My faith there has definitely grown. I facilitated a Sunday-school group about the writings of Paul. Now I work with the youth group. I actually did some comedy shows for the church. We really wanted to get people who had never been in a church to feel comfortable just being in one of the buildings. 

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