When it comes to team building, Marshall Chiles, founder of Laughing Skull Lounge has a unique approach, “People that laugh together, form a bond together.” Whether it’s opening a business, selling a product, or building a high performing team, Marshall understands that relationships are the key to success. Take an in-depth look at team building, and relationship building in this episode of the EpicCompany Culture Podcast.

Marshall Chiles

Marshall Chiles


I have built Laughing Skull Lounge to be one of the best in the country and am lucky enough to have a great team that runs it for me while I focus on Green Room, etc. A while back I realized that The Laughing Skull Lounge is cooler than me, so since I am already un-cool, I started a business consulting company.

I still perform stand-up comedy and produce videos because that is my passion. These passions are what help me help others in being un-cool together.

Laughing Skull Lounge

Laughing Skull Lounge

878 Peachtree Street Atlanta, GA 30309

The Art of Comedy
When it comes to Atlanta Comedy Clubs… SIZE MATTERS! We are the smallest full-time comedy venue in the WORLD and located right here in Atlanta! Yes, that is correct… if you can find a full-time comedy club with less than 74 seats, we will give you a prize! What is that prize? We do not know because we don’t think you can find one!

How does this size benefit you? Because stand-up comedy is a personal art form best enjoyed in an intimate setting, and you can not get any more intimate than Atlanta’s Laughing Skull Lounge! Our lounge is only 22′ wide and 32′ long with three rows of stadium seating in the back which means there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Plus we are Atlanta’s only full-time progressive comedy lounge, located in Midtown Atlanta in the heart of Atlanta’s Midtown Mile, hidden in the back of The Vortex Bar & Grill on Peachtree Street. This intimate setting, along with these amazing comedians, gives you a comedy experience that you can not find anywhere else… period! And you can come early or stay late to eat at one of Atlanta’s best restaurants… The Vortex has won best burger in Atlanta since 1992 and was recently on The Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” for their triple bypass burger.

Please be aware that The Laughing Skull Lounge is not like most comedy clubs as we do not sell food during the show, all shows are non-smoking, and our main focus is on showcasing stand-up comedy as an art form to the people of Atlanta. The best way to explain the difference between us and all other comedy clubs is that most comedy clubs focus on playing Top 40, while we focus on playing Jazz.

So if you are in Atlanta and want to experience stand-up comedy in one of Atlanta’s coolest venues, get your tix now! And then you can experience for yourself how Atlanta’s Laughing Skull Lounge is different from all the other comedy clubs.

Subscribe to the Show!

From the Podcast Booth:

Series Quick Links

Company Culture


Employee Retention

Culture Champions

Full Transcript

Build Some Tension

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast, where your host, Josh Sweeney, will give you, the business leaders, HR professionals, and company culture aficionados, the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.


Josh Sweeney: Hello and welcome to the Epic Company Culture podcast. Before I get started, I’d like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcast space. Today, we are going to be talking about team building, team building activities, edutainment, a bunch of other buzzwords that Marshall Childs, who has joined me, is going to share. So Marshall, tell us about yourself and humor wins, as well as Laughing Skull.

Series: Team Building

Marshall Chiles: Sure. So I’ve been in the comedy business for about twenty years, started off as a road comic and started dating my wife a few months before I started comedy and throughout the relationship, as a road comic, she went on the road with me a good bit. But after a while, she was like, “This isn’t what I signed up for”. So my goal was how do I perform stand up and still sleep in my own bed at night?

So I built a comedy club, I built one up in Roswell called Funny Farm Comedy Club and then that went out of business when it was at a star time, it was inside a big entertainment complex, it was called Star Time Entertainment, which was kind of like a Dave and Busters if Dave was a crystal meth head. So they went out of business, luckily I just started a club in Atlanta, in midtown Atlanta called The Laughing Skull Lounge. And now we’re going into ten years with that.

Background: Marshall Chiles

About two or three years into it, I was like, “Look, man, I’ve got kids, this is an 80 seat comedy club. I’m not going to make a million dollars with this. I’m not going to be able to pay for college with this. I gotta figure out what’s my skillset? What’s my unique value proposition to this world? And to the business world”. So I know funny, I know how to write funny, I know how to spot funny and I know business.

So for years I’ve had, started off as Skull Marketing because we were doing ad words for other comedy clubs. And then it went into a pivot of green room et cetera, where I was like, “Hey, we’re going to make comedy based marketing videos and comedy based marketing”. Then I started to dip my toe in the water with that, did some there and then realized that business sucks. That is a very competitive business, the agency world and I was like, “Hey man, I just want to write jokes, I don’t want to be involved in all the backstabbing”.


Humor Wins: Bringing Laughter to Work

And so then through trial and error, it’s like basically, I had to change the name again, now it’s called Humor Wins. And the tagline is bringing laughter to work. So I’ve done stuff like Atlanta’s funniest real estate agent, Atlanta’s funniest lawyer, laugh your ads off, Atlanta’s funniest apartment. And so it’s like a stand-up comedy show with ten people who are lawyers or real estate agents or work in the ad agency world. And we work with them to come up with five minutes of stand up comedy, work with them a few weeks, have writers, blah blah blah. It’s a great event done at the Fox Theater, Bucket Theater.

It’s been fantastic, but man is that a heavy lift. And so that was also great team building. So people do that as an internal comedy show. So now, how would you like at your next corporate event, instead of hiring entertainment you are the entertainment? And these people, I mean those [inaudible 00:03:15] comedy shows are the most exciting shows I’ve ever been to on a consistent basis because I’ve seen people get standing ovations going on the stage. On the stage, it’s crazy because what we do is we make these posters that are comedy show posters and we have the headshots and we make it like, hey this is a big thing.

And then these people become rock stars. We worked with one company, I can’t remember the name of it, but one of the ones we did, the person had been at the company for three months and they did this and they signed up for it and now they blew up in the company. Everybody knew who they were, everybody was coming by their desk to tell them how amazing they are. And I think they got a promotion, I can’t blame it on me.


Comedy and Presentation

Josh Sweeney: But you got a little cut on the back end.

Marshall Chiles: Yeah there’s a little bit of something, and so then that’s a heavy lift. And then, through the marketplace, they’re talking about internal comedy show and also we do these best of Atlanta things for companies. Like, well we don’t have the budget for that, we only have this much, what can you do? I’m like, “Oh, well do a comedy show”. And then through talking with people like, “Well can we do the comedy show mixed with your presentation?”. Because that’s, a few years ago I wrote a book called Your Presentations a Joke, Using Humor to Maximize your Impact.



Laugh and Learn Experience

And that book is now actually a textbook at the University of Alabama. Which was really cool, but it’s actually the University of Alabama Birmingham, so don’t get too excited.

Marshall Chiles: Yeah, but it’s still a textbook, right? It validates that what I teach works. I’m a type A personality, I think the book is only like 110 pages, like fifteen font. Real simple people, here’s some basic 411 about stand up and writing jokes and then here are some three writing exercises that I put together, that if you put a subject at the beginning of these three writing exercises, by the time you’re done with those writing exercises, you will find some jokes.

Learn to Use Humor in Your Presentations

And it works. And so, what I just did, I did my first official one last week up in Boston for Ernst and Young, that hired me to go at the House of Blues, they had all their business development people. And I did, what’s not, what I’m calling, it’s called the laugh and learn experience. Learn to use humor in your presentations. And so, a one-hour comedy show, best of Boston. I had five local comedians that did ten minutes each and they killed it, I’m the host. And then after that, I did my presentation, teaching them how to add humor to presentations and sales pitches. And then we did the workshop.

I was like all right, give me a subject and then they give me a subject and we, on the screen with my computer, “All right, here we are, we’re doing the exercises together”, so they can see it. And they absolutely loved it. And so now, I’m taking it directly to the marketplace. Now I’ve got my very first one, this is the first, haven’t even really started marketing it yet, so you’re getting an exclusive Josh Sweeney.

Josh Sweeney: Exclusive.

Marshall Chiles: Exclusive.


Workshop with a Drink

Josh Sweeney: Workshop.

Marshall: Right. Well, it’s a workshop, now I’m doing it at Laughing Skull Lounge. Opening to the public, right now the prices are $125 and that includes my book, it includes a drink ticket and being more likable.

Josh Sweeney: Nice, I love it.

Marshall Chiles: So that’s the progress of everything. It’s exhausting, it’s exhausting.

Team Building Through Entertainment

Josh Sweeney: I didn’t know that you owned all of the comedy in Atlanta. You got the book, you got the Laughing Skull Lounge, which if you’re in Atlanta, you know of that place, right next to the Vortex.

Marshall Chiles: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: I guess better than the Dave and Busters knock-off place, from a positioning perspective, Vortex is pretty well known as well.

Marshall Chiles: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: So perfect little spot. You got Humor Wins and then you have the additional, and Humor Wins is the company that runs all of these other corporate training, or corporate edutainment type of-

Marshall Chiles: Yeah the best way to say is its team building through entertainment.


Team Building

Josh Sweeney: Got it.

Marshall Chiles: And that is just a lot of buzz words, which is-

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, which is marketing and humorous as well.

Marshall Chiles: Right.

Josh Sweeney: I feel like there should be a meme for this.

Marshall Chiles: Yeah, maybe so, it’s on my growing list of things to do to get this going.

Josh Sweeney: Right, so in talking about team building, there’s lots of different team building out there. We talked to a few people in the past about team building on the podcast and how there’s just, the easy stuff, the drinks, the breaking bread. Things that matter. There’s being vulnerable, there are events and things together. Talk about the value that your style of team building really adds, because what I understood was you’re taking somebody who, as you said, has been there three months or you’re taking the founder of the company, who may or may not have the best relationships with everybody or be that open or funny or anything, who knows what and you’re putting them on stage.

Marshall: Yes.

People that Laugh Together, Form a Bond Together

Josh Sweeney: So how does this work from a team building perspective? What are some of the outcomes that happen?

Marshall: A lot of the outcomes is, so this is what I’m a big seller of, look people that laugh together, form a bond together. And so, if you’re on stage and working in front of your coworkers, who get so excited to see you on stage in general, but then to be seeing you do stand up for your very first time, it’s crazy excitement. So it brings this morale and everybody gets behind this person.

Sell Through Relationships

One of the most difficult people I ever had to work with, because they had very little content to give me, I was like, “Come on man, tell me more about your life, it’s more than just fixing up this one car”. So anyway, and he was a CTO of a big company. And the entire IT department got behind him. So now the CTO has his team, they’re all bonding about stand up and about this guy getting on stage for the first time. It’s like, how do you sell people? You sell people through relationships, you don’t sell through benefits and stuff.

It’s like look, all things being equal, you’re going to buy from the person you like. And so, to improve engagement is really really hard out there, that’s why all these companies do team building and trying to, what is it? The average American is only 30% engaged at work?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, it’s really low.

Marshall: It’s crazy, but I also think that includes people that work at Sprint stores.

Josh Sweeney: It does.

Marshall: Right? Right.

Laughter: Relationship and Bond

Josh Sweeney: Because I mean at the end of the day, it’s another phone.

Marshall: That’s right. So for this, what I believe is, look, man, everybody gets together and laughs and has a good time around laughter, that’s great. So like, when I was selling for Atlanta’s funniest real estate agent and lawyer and stuff, we sell sponsorships. And so the sponsorship is basically saying, “Hey man, you now get to go talk to these clients. I’m going to sponsor you, you’re not talking about what you sell, now you’re going and saying hey there’s this great event and I want to sponsor your company to be a part of it and it’s all about to stand up”, and now who’s your favorite stand up? Start talking about comedy.

It forms a relationship, it forms a bond. The reason why people like to play golf for work, it forms a bond over golf. Or fishing or hunting or whatever that is. How about comedy? How about laughter? How about bonding through laughter, can you tell me, it’s way better than killing a defenseless deer. 


Bring Them Laughter

Josh Sweeney: Right, there’s no bonding when people are angry about missing, slicing the ball half the time.

Marshall: Or beat your client.

Josh Sweeney: There is bonding, there really is. But there’s a lot of slices and anger involved in that too.

Marshall: Yeah don’t get me wrong, I love golf too and it’s a great tool, but it’s like how many golfing events can people go to? How about a comedy event? And so then we’ve talked to people, I’ve pitched it, I haven’t really done a good job with it, but let’s say you got a big client. Hey, you know what, your corporate event coming up, I want to buy you guys an internal comedy show. These people can do it, this is the thing and I’m just going to sponsor it.

I think that’s a hell of a way for a vendor to really make an impact with the client. Bring them laughter.


Training for Stand Up

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, oh yeah. Soon the Atlanta’s funniest, is that you’re bringing together a bunch of real estate agents from different companies?

Marshall: Yes.

Josh Sweeney: Okay so you have a theme that you bring together based on a role or an industry or whatever it might be. And you’re giving them some level of training to get up there and get in front of everybody and hopefully win this thing.

Marshall: Correct. So we give them training for stand up, as well we have professional comedy writers that help punch up the stuff. Everybody gets, we have a head writer, so they get one on ones with the head writer for like thirty minutes a week for the four weeks leading up to it. And that head writer is helping get the stuff out and get it together. So working together with the head writer, and also our writing team, because in the third week after we’ve gathered all that stuff, we send it to writers and then they punch it up. And say “Boom, here’s your jokes”.


Low Bar and Surprise

And it works. It’s been great because when you see a coworker get on stage versus going to a comedy club that’s a professional headliner, it’s a different expectation.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah not much.

Marshall: Not much and that’s what I teach people in my book and my presentation like, look when you’re giving a business presentation, you have a low bar. People are doing that, I show a video of Truett Cathy, who’s the CEO of Chick Fil A, he has this joke and I have a video of it and it’s at the end of his presentation, he goes, “I brought these free coupons to get a free Chick Fil A sandwich, all I ask is that you bring somebody that pays full price. Thank you”.


And people laugh because it’s this dude that’s not expected to be funny. So they have a low bar. So the trick to comedy surprises. So, therefore, when you’re a business person and you surprise people with a joke or humor in your presentation, it’s great, it adds another element to it.

Build Some Tension

Actually, I had a guy that bought a company for $600 million and he fired the founder and the entire C suite. And then he was having a company holiday party and he was giving a speech. His first big speech to the entire, super challenging. So you know what we did? We wrote jokes about all the board members he brought in and he went up there and roasted them all.

Josh Sweeney: Nice.

Marshall: And he said it was great, now everybody was laughing about it all. Now it’s like, there’s this tension and that’s what comedy is supposed to do, really good comedians can build some tension and then it’s released, build some, so they had this huge tension and he went up there and roasted the new leaders.

Laughing Skull Workshop

Josh Sweeney: Yeah.

Marshall: So it was great, didn’t pay me enough. Then, later on, it was $300 million because then, later on, I found out it was $300 million dollar purchase, I’m like, “Dude?”.

Josh Sweeney: Right, I could’ve charged a little more. There’s a lot more value in here.

Marshall: Totally. I made you more likable to the people that hated you on a $300 million purchase. So yeah.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, that’s worth a few million for sure.

Marshall: Totally. Yeah, so I need to start working with MNA guys I guess.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, probably, make them funny.

Marshall: That’s right. Another bad move, now there’s another on the list of things to-

Josh Sweeney: Atlanta’s funniest MNA guy.

Marshall: Right.

Josh Sweeney: That’s a mouthful.

Marshall: There’s a lot of money there.

Josh Sweeney: You gotta spell out mergers and acquisitions on the ballot though, it’d be more fun to fit it all in.

Marshall: Yeah, exactly because of words matter.

Josh Sweeney: They do. So with the presentations, I do a lot of presentations, not really that funny, don’t try to be funny, I like the idea of peppering it in. What are some keys to making a presentation funny?

Marshall: First thing you need to do is, come to my presentation workshop that’s at the Laughing Skull on May 30th.

Josh Sweeney: And how much is that?

Marshall: $125, reasonable.


Key Message
Josh Sweeney: You get a free drink.

Marshall: You get a free drink and a copy of my book. But really what I teach people is look the low hanging fruit when you have a deck, is funny images. So, therefore, you don’t have to worry about getting the words right, just make sure you use a funny image, and the trick is, the image has to match your key message of what you’re trying to say.

Josh Sweeney: So no random Game of Thrones messages or anything.

Marshall: Correct, like what’s your key message? Like for example, when I talk about, when the bar is set so low, I click my slide and the next picture is a guy who’s tripping and running his face into a hurdle. He’s like a hurdler that had fallen before the hurdle and he’s smashing into the hurdle. And it gets a laugh every time. And the line is because the bar has been set so low, boom there’s the image. It matches and that’s the trick for the images.

So when you use funny images, you’ve gotta have the Venn diagram overlay is it’s the key message and the image, boom and that’s what works. 


Humor Before the Big Ask

Josh Sweeney: Got it.

Marshall: Another trick is to use humor just before you do the big ask because people pay the most attention just after you use humor because they want to hear what you’re going to say next. And that’s from Jeffrey Gitomer, who is one of the top sales consultants in the world, he wrote a great book called the Little Red Book of Selling. And it’s got whatever. So it’s true and so people pay attention to that. Even if it’s not working, people pay attention to it, because they’re like, “Oh, maybe this is going to be”, because if it’s not working, it’s a little bit of a train wreck, is the next one going to work?

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Marshall: And I’ve had people come back to me that saw my presentation back before the book and even after the book and even in my comments section on Amazon, people are talking about how they applied it and it works. Because it’s not rocket science, I mean I know a lot of comedians, they’re not that smart. They’re great people, I love them, but to be a stand-up comedian extremely difficult, but to be able to find the funny for a business executive and to be funny is a totally different element.

Typically you’re on stage after a bunch of other people, so it’s refreshing.


Humor at Transition Point

Josh Sweeney: And it’s pretty dry.

Marshall: Correct.

Josh Sweeney: I mean most presentations are pretty dry, somebody’s talking a long time. I have a big presentation coming up next week actually and we were looking at the same thing, it’s like, “Hey can we put some better images in there, can we put something in”, maybe I need to read the book in the next three days.

Marshall: Right. As a matter of fact, I think I have a video-

Josh Sweeney: It’s only 110 pages though, right?

Marshall: Exactly, totally. I think I have one in my car, I’ll give you one before I leave.

Josh Sweeney: Perfect.

Marshall: But yeah, so you want to do humor at the beginning of your presentation, at transition points. So that way to just kind of pepper it in, you don’t want to have it every joke, like a stand-up comedian, every sentence has to be a joke. In this, it’s at transition points. At the beginning of your transition points. And then just before they ask. So in the beginning, at the beginning of transition points and then just before the ask is when you’re supposed to add the humor, that’s the bell curve.


One Message Per Slide

Josh Sweeney: Yeah and it’s always challenging to make a presentation flow through certain transition points, even when the topic changes. There’s obviously an underlying theme, but carrying it through to, “Okay, what’s the next step? We ask some questions and now let’s go on”.

Marshall: Yes.

Josh Sweeney: So it seems like a perfect spot for that because that can be awkward to flush out sometimes.

Marshall: Yeah, I totally agree. And also, I don’t know if anybody’s worked with you on your deck or anything, but each slide should have one message. These slides that have bullet points, like I have some slides with bullet points but they’re just reviews and it’s one at a time. So if you have one message per slide, that makes it easier to find the funny in that one slide. Because if that slide has four subjects, which are you referring to? So just one subject, now let’s find the funny in that subject.


Josh Sweeney: Yeah I’m a big fan of slide decks that don’t make any sense unless you’re presenting because there’s only a picture on there. There’s one image or there are a few bullet points, sometimes you have to have bullet points to convey the message, but there are a few words. So love the idea around keeping it succinct.

Marshall: That’s right and that’s also, do you know who Nancy Duarte is?

Josh Sweeney: No.

Marshall: She wrote a book called Slideology and it’s considered by many designers and deck designers to be one of the top books, if not the top book for presentation deck design. There are lots of great books out there for that, but she was a good one on Slideology. That’s one of the things from her book and presentation put together, one message per slide. 



The Importance of Funny Images

Josh Sweeney: Yeah and I find that the hardest part of that sometimes is just finding an image to go along with what you’re talking about. It takes time to go find the image that you’re going to put up there instead of writing a bunch of text because obviously, you don’t want people reading while you’re talking. And that’s really what happens when you start writing text on a slide.

Marshall: That’s right. And so what I’ve done is over the years I’ve collected all these funny images, hit me up after, I’ll share the folder with you, I made a Google Drive to share with the people that I like. I’m sorry I’m not going to share it with you, Christian you’re not. So far you haven’t made me laugh once during this podcast.

But yeah, so then if you do it, if you go down this route, make sure you have a folder that you, even if it’s not what you’re, it doesn’t work for your current need but it’s something, “Oh that might work”, because then what happens, now this folder that has 100 plus images, I just scroll through there first. And I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’ll work”.


Funny Images: Sales and Emails

Josh Sweeney: That’ll fit. Name them so you can get through them and kind of figure out what’s going to happen.

Marshall: That’s right. I do name them with what I know I’ve gotten out there. And also another thing is, this is great, these funny images are great for salespeople and emails. I’ve got several emails where it’s just, there’s one that’s one of my favorites, it’s a dog, like a white big husky sitting in a kitchen sink looking out the window. It looks ridiculous. And it’s great for, I use that image and taught other people to do it, is to send it to somebody that’s not responding. A prospect that’s not responding to your stuff, you send that image and say, “Hey look, man, I’m tired of waiting around, this is starting to get weird”, and send that image and it responds.

I had one person I gave a presentation to and I gave that stuff and I told him that and it was after the presentation, talking to people everything, he came running back in because it was at their office and he goes, “Dude, I’ve been trying to get together with this guy for four to six weeks and he’s already responded”. And I was like, “Yeah”.


Part of the Journey

Josh Sweeney: It’s like the breakup email, the breakup emails are the one that gets the response. You’ve been emailing, emailing, emailing and it’s like, “Hey I’m going to leave you alone now”, and you got some witty text and an image and all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh actually, I’ve just been busy, but I do want to talk to you”. Those things are awesome.

Marshall: Right.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, so with that, with the images, with the funny, have you run into people that feel like they need to be so corporate or so on point that they don’t want to add funny or don’t want to add these images?

Marshall: Yeah, I mean typically if someone is hiring me or coming to see my stuff, they’re looking for this. Do you know what I mean? But I’ve had numerous, in the past also part of this journey, which I don’t really do anymore except for some people that I’m friends with, is punching up executives, that’s where it kind of started. That’s one of the first things because I’d sit there and watch comedians for twenty years and I’d tag. I’d write tags in my head, that’d be funny if you added this or she’d be funny if it said this line. She said this line or whatever.


Do the One that You’re most Excited About

So I started doing that with salespeople and executives, like give me your sales presentation, let’s just make it funny. So I’ve had plenty of jokes that didn’t make it and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is such a great joke”. But I’d tell people, like, “Look, you have to do the joke you’re most excited about. I’m going to write you four jokes on this one point, do the one that you’re most excited about because that’s what sells.

It’s interesting in stand up comedy when you’ve been doing it for a long time you know this, is that you can have a joke that works for years and then all of a sudden it stops working on every audience and you’re like, “What is it?”. And the difference is you’re not excited about the joke.


The Joe Rogan Podcast

Josh Sweeney: Yeah I know I listen to Joe Rogan podcast and I’ve learned more about the comedy business from the things that he’s shared through that podcast than I ever thought I would know. And he really goes into the depths of creating those jokes and how much work goes into it and all the things people don’t think of when they decide to go into the comedy business. So that’s just a really interesting take on it because he’s just kind of peppering it into his podcast on a totally different topic most of the time.

Marshall: Yeah and I love the Joe Rogan podcast, they’ve given us like four shout outs.

Josh Sweeney: Oh nice.

Marshall: At the Laughing Skull Lounge.

Josh Sweeney: Really?

Marshall: Yeah. As a matter of fact, Joey Coco Diaz was talking one time and they were talking about this MMA fighter that was coming out of retirement and Joey goes, “Hey so if you were coming out of retirement after three or four years, where would you perform for your first time? Madison Square Garden?”And Rogan was like, “No, I’d go to Laughing Skull Lounge”.


Self Deprecation is a Great Tool in Sales and in Leadership

Josh Sweeney: Nice.

Marshall: It’s an 80 seat cool club. And I’m like, “Oh thanks man”.

Josh Sweeney: Well we’re going to tag him on this video since we said his name and see if we get another plug in there.

Marshall: Right right, I’m sure. Yeah, totally, what is it? Like $300,000 to sponsor one podcast that he does every day or something like that?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. That might be above your budget, but if we can plug it in another way that’d work for us.

Marshall: Exactly. So what he’s giving me four plugs, that’s $1.2 million in advertising from Joe Rogan.

Josh Sweeney: Nice. So you brought in at least ten million from that, right?

Marshall: Exactly, totally that’s I’m going to YPO. Going straight from the accelerator to YPO.

Josh Sweeney: Nice. Awesome. Any other takeaways from bringing comedy, bringing humor to the team building experience and to corporate businesses?

Marshall: Yeah you know, so a self-deprecation is a great tool in sales and in leadership and stuff like that. So what I always tell people is like, “Look, man, I’m a big believer in laughter and comedy and everything”, so I always tell people in business, take an improv class, learn to think on your feet. Because that’s important, why would you practice this in front of clients? Why would you not take an improv class so that you can get good at that thinking on your feet and practice that?



But what I teach people is how prepared humor. Patricia O’Neil said you want to have jokes in your pocket or let them come out organically. So for what I teach, come up with some prepared humor, have some self-deprecation jokes that you can use all the time. And have some of these jokes and you can keep changing them out every once in a while, so you can keep them fresh. Believe me, my wife appreciates, gets so tired of the same jokes. But yeah, so have the prepared humor and then also the self-deprecation, Inc Magazine quotes that says, “Self-deprecation makes leaders appear more likable and trusting”. So that’s great.

But interesting about self-deprecation is that, for women, there’s a study that shows that unless you’re a woman of power, it backfires 70% of the time because it’s kind of like, “Oh yeah, you really are not that smart”. Or whatever it is, don’t shoot the messenger ladies, but this is, granted that study was before the whole big bump up with me to move and the women’s rights and this that and the other, which is great.


Challenging to Change

Josh Sweeney: But they haven’t changed personality and human dynamics and stuff that’s been ingrained for thousands of years.

Marshall: For decades in the business world-

Josh Sweeney: Which is challenging to change.

Marshall: It’s challenging to change. So that’s the challenge with that. I came across that and I thought that was an interesting statistic and it kind of makes sense. If you’re-


No Self Deprecating for Women

Josh Sweeney: So for the ladies, no self-deprecating humor is kind of the rule.

Marshall: Be careful with it.

Josh Sweeney: That’s good to know.

Marshall: It is interesting to know. But unfortunately for the guys, it’s not the same rule. And there are different-

Josh Sweeney: Because it’s funny to have a dad bod if you’re a guy.

Marshall: Yeah, dad bods are made fun of, “Oh look, it’s a mom bod”, “You’re fired and now we have to pay your $300,000”. You can get the liposuction.

Josh Sweeney: Exactly, lots of challenges with that.

Marshall: Yeah exactly, it’s a different animal.


Wife and Jokes

Josh Sweeney: So I have to ask, you mentioned your wife and your jokes. Does she find you funny anymore?

Marshall: Oh yeah, I still love it when I can make her laugh really hard every once in a while.

Marshall: But yeah, but one of my favorite jokes that I’ve had to quit doing, I made her a promise, whenever we go to somebody’s, and you guys can use this now.

Josh Sweeney: I was about to say are you allowed to share this?

Marshall: Totally, this is why I’m sharing it, it’s a great joke to use.

Josh Sweeney: Nothing’s off limits.

Marshall: So you go to a party, you go to somebody’s house and I walk in I’m like, “Is there anything that Laura can do to help?”. It’s a great joke.

Josh Sweeney: I’m sure she loves that one.

Marshall: Yeah, and she’s like, “Yeah it was funny the first thousand times”. And even our friends that have heard it a lot, they’re like, “Yeah but it’s still pretty funny Laura”.


The Trick To Being Funny is To Be Serious

Josh Sweeney: I chuckle every time he says it.

Marshall: Exactly. And so, I will tell you some other tricks to being funny is, John Cleese said: “the trick to being funny is to be serious”. And so think about that when you’re doing your delivery too. It doesn’t work if it’s, “Hey guys, is there anything Laura can do to help?”.

Josh Sweeney: A comedian that doesn’t crack a smile when they deliver the joke and they just stand there and stare at you.

Marshall: That’s right.

Josh Sweeney: Awkwardly.

Marshall: The trick is to be serious. That’s what makes it funny, I’m sure you’ve said, “Oh my God, that’s so funny because he’s so serious”. Or I totally believe that happened to him.


Appearance and Demeanors

Josh Sweeney: Yeah.

Marshall: But so think about that same joke of, is there anything Laura can do to help, is like excuse me is there anything Laura can do to help? It’s funnier than, “Hey man, is there anything Laura can do to help?”. It’s different.

Josh Sweeney: Not as funny.

Marshall: It’s not as funny.

Josh Sweeney: Even here, it’s not as funny.

Marshall: Exactly. Because there’s a juxtaposition. The fact that you’re being serious, your appearance and your demeanors is so serious but what you just said is-

Josh Sweeney: Comes across as valid. Like you’re for real.

Marshall: So yeah, that’s another secret to being funny.


Have a Few Stories in Your Pocket

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, so you mentioned having jokes in your pocket. I’ve had this thing come up and this concept I guess come up multiple times. I was at the entrepreneurial organization global leadership conference and there was a speaker and he was talking about, have a few stories in your pocket. You need to go back and you need to have three go to stories that people like. And I think there was another one, I don’t know if it was the same person, they had mentioned during their presentation, you need to have a go to a restaurant where the owner and the staff know you. Where you’re the local so that when you bring clients in, there’s this experience.

Marshall: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: And I had that happen the other day, where I’m finally at this restaurant I really like enough, the owners there and I’m like, “Oh, well this is so and so the owner”, and it’s kind of cool to have that. I think Kevin Rathman had that experience with him, where it was like, I waved to him behind the line and he comes over and greets our table. Like, “Oh you know Kevin?”. I’m like, “I guess I do”.

Marshall: Yeah.


Jokes on Your Pocket

Josh Sweeney: I’ve known him for a while, but it’s just interesting to have those. So jokes in your pocket, I talked about having stories, having the restaurant, when do jokes in your pocket kind of come out? How do they organically come out?

Marshall: Well, whatever the subject is. If you have something about your looks, have something about being a dad, have something about being in sales, have something about being an owner, a business owner-

Josh Sweeney: Self-deprecating dad bod jokes.


Jokes on Subjects

Marshall: Something, just have some jokes on subjects. Especially about yourself, because then no matter what presentation you give, it’s evergreen. If you have jokes, so there are two types of self-deprecating jokes. One is obvious, what you can see, I have a beard or I have glasses or whatever. And then there’s the non-obvious, which is the part where I grew up poor or I yell at Publix cashiers. Something like that, whatever it is.

And you print that, “I always get nervous doing presentations because I have this anxiety”, and then have a joke about anxiety. And stuff like that, so you can have it set up for that. And also when it comes to the stories, I got this from Christopher Titus. Do you know the comedian Christopher Titus?


Every Master Started as a Mess

And his methodology is what I teach in the book as well, and its part of the methodology I teach in the book is from him and this is it, you write your story out without trying to be funny and then you take the sentence that you want to add humor too, put it on a separate sheet of paper and then whatever that subject is, write as many jokes about that subject as possible. Pick the right one, put that back into the story with the new joke beside it and then go to the next one and do it again.

And so that’s it. And so that’s how you do it, that’s how you make your stories funny is you intentionally do the exercises. And by the way, doing all this, remember this, every master started as a mess. So, you’re not going to be as good at it the first time as you are the hundredth time. So remember this, so many people, “I’m not funny”, well how much have you put into it? Just like anything else in the world, what will grow is where your energy goes, right? So I promise you can do this.


Three step Methodology

So, what I’ve come up with, I took his methodology and I was like, “Look, how can the non-comedian just write jokes on a subject?”. So I figured out my three favorite writing exercises and this is a three-step methodology, oh, are we out of time? Oh.

Josh Sweeney: Going to cut you off there, we’re done.

Marshall: So the three-step methodology, you start off with statements of truth. Whatever the subject is, statements of truth. Not trying to be funny, just write as many statements of truth about it. And then the next one is your list, a list of words, it’s like mind mapping. And just start putting as many words associated with that subject as possible. And then the third step is, I emotion subject because. So let’s say the subject is traffic, you start with love, go with hate, then scared of, excited about, so I love traffic because and finish the sentence. I hate traffic because and finish the sentence.


Words with Hard Consonants

And you use words from the list above and what words do you pick? You pick the words with the hard consonants, hard consonant words stick in the ear better. So potato, pants, carrot pants. It’s the hard consonants. And so, Sara Blakely used to do comedy before she started Spanx.

Josh Sweeney: Interesting.

Marshall: So in her story, she talks about this and when she was trying to come up with a name, she knew she wanted a name with hard consonants because it sticks in the ear better. Spanks, two hard consonants, one syllable, and a billion dollars. So pick the words that have the hard consonants from your list. So you’re going to say, “I hate traffic because”, and then you’re going to get towards the word frustrated, anger or whatever.


Hate – Love – Sarcastic

And then you can change it from hate to love and now it’s sarcastic and that’s where you get it. So I’ve done this, that traffic is a great one, I use it as an example. So you get to the point of, I love sitting in traffic because I love the smell of carbon monoxide in the morning.

Josh Sweeney: Right, makes me happier.

Marshall: Because that’s in the list right, carbon monoxide.

Josh Sweeney: I don’t get as angry.

Marshall: Yeah exactly, the carbon monoxide mellows me out. That’s a great tag. So the carbon monoxide really mellows out my anger. So yeah, I had never done that one, you just wrote another part of that joke. That’s good. So yeah, so that’s the three-step methodology and it’s just like anything else, practice, practice, practice.


Changing the Word for that Word

Josh Sweeney: Love it. Yeah I mean you mentioned you’re not going to be an expert, you gotta put the time in, going back to what I was listening to on Joe Rogan, I think he was mentioning something about how he hates doing stand up in certain places where it’s just open and anybody can come in, because he’s trying new content. And the hardest part is, you’re trying new content but you’re a well-known comedian, but you’re not funny.

Marshall: That’s right.

Josh Sweeney: He’s like, you’re working through the joke, you’re trying to figure this out. And there’s an expectation that you’re just funny all the time. It’s like you can’t come up with new content if you’re not trying it. Because he’s like, the word combination, where you place them-

Marshall: Brevity, changing this word for that word.


Josh Sweeney: Flipping it around, makes it funny and you gotta say it out loud to make it happen. So you have to figure it out.

Marshall: That’s right. That’s exactly right. It’s challenging for celebrities like that, but the good news is when you’re a celebrity you get as much stage time as you want.

Josh Sweeney: Right, you work one extra joke in a good set and it falls flat, no big deal, maybe you move on.

Marshall: Yeah, exactly. A friend of mine said because the order is MC future headliner, he says, “MC’s going to be featured, features going to be headliners, headliners want to be celebrities and celebrities want to be funny”. Because once you’re a celebrity you don’t have as much time to write and perform.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah I think the last time I saw you actually, at the Laughing Skull, you came onstage and you’re like, “All right, going to try some new content”. And I was like, “Okay, we’ll see how that goes”.

Marshall: Well yeah, that’s part of it. It’s like I don’t like to do this, I mean I have a lot of the same jokes, I go through sections of them. But what else? So Chris Rock, so another trick to presenting, in general, is movement because we’re naturally hunters and so we’re attracted to things that move. So think about how Chris Rock performs, he’s moving up and down the stage, he’s really moving, that’s part of his thing too.


Write New Stuff

So what he does is, take a step back, this has to do with celebrities trying to figure out what’s funny. Steve Martin said that’s one of the reasons he quit comedy was because he didn’t know what was funny anymore. He got so big that he didn’t, they laughed at everything.


Josh Sweeney: He would try it, throw out something dumb and they would laugh maybe?

Marshall: Totally, and he’s like I can’t write new stuff. Because I’m too big and even today, I guarantee if he came out today it’d be the same thing. But then again, it’s like after five minutes its kind of like, all right prove yourself. Seinfeld didn’t get a lot of laughs when he came back out and he talked about that, but now he’s getting tons of laughs. He’s a great writer.

Words are Funny

Oh so back to Chris Rock. So Chris Rock, his methodology is he will go on a tour of comedy clubs for his new material and only speak at the microphone, he won’t move. He won’t do his emphasis, he won’t do all that stuff. Because his concept is, if the words are funny, he goes, “I know I can make them laugh by walking up and down the stairs and stop it my feet and talking like Chris Rock does”. He knows he can get them to laugh at that, but he wants the words to be funny first. So he doesn’t do any of that when he tours the comedy clubs, he just does the words.

And then once the words are down and he’s got the wording correct, then he starts throwing in the other stuff.

Find Out More

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well this has been an amazing share, I really appreciate you coming in and giving us, I mean I didn’t know I was going to get a whole lesson on comedy and three step processes and everything today and all our listeners were going to get the same. So, really appreciate you coming in.

Marshall: Sure, thank you very much. Company is HumorWins.com and check it all out. Internal comedy shows and also, like I said the laugh and learn is when it’s really getting a lot of traction, people are really responding to it. I appreciate you having me on.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, one quick thing also, you mentioned going and taking improve lessons.

Marshall: Yes.



Josh Sweeney: Do you have a place you recommend? Do you guys do it?

Marshall: We don’t do the improv lessons. In Atlanta I recommend Dad’s Garage if you can get over there, they’re the best in town. Relapse Theater has some good ones on that side of town, there’s a good one there. But typically there’s a lot of improv classes around and if you’re a business person just doing it so you can be better on your feet for business, there are places all over, just look it up on Google and you can find somebody and just practice it.

And then after you learn some exercises, if you want why don’t you and your coworkers, instead of all taking a class and once you’ve got some exercises, you can practice the exercises together. Do the one-word story in a circle, take half an hour and just practice it. And again, it’s practice just like anything else. Just do the work.


Josh Sweeney: Yeah, well I appreciate it, thank you so much.

Marshall: Yeah, thank you, my friend.

Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co. If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us at epicculture1 or email at podcast@epicculture.co.

Podcast Highlights and Resources


  • People that laugh together, form a bond together. 
  • Bring them laughter.
  • Self-deprecation is a great tool in sales and in leadership.
  • Take an improv class, learn to think on your feet.
  • You want to have jokes in your pocket or let them come out organically.
  • Self-deprecation makes leaders appear more likable and trusting.
  • The trick to being funny is to be serious.
  • Every master started as a mess.
  • You’re not going to be as good at it the first time as you are the hundredth time.

Entrepreneur Organization

Company Culture Entrepreneurs Organization

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a Global business network of 13,000+ leading entrepreneurs in 185 chapters and 58 countries. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO enables business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.

We educate, we transform, we inspire and we offer invaluable resources in the form of global events, leadership-development programs, an online entrepreneur forum and executive education opportunities, among other offerings designed for personal and professional growth.

At its core, EO is a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs focused on business growth, personal development and community engagement. In addition to our mission, vision and core values, our global makeup is comprised of nearly 13,000+ individual member stories.

Prototype Prime

Prototype Prime is a 501(c)3 non-profit incubator focused on early stage software and hardware technology startups. Our mission is to provide startup companies with the support they need to launch & scale.

Funded by the City of Peachtree Corners Prototype Prime is a regional affiliate of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech, and is located just 30 minutes north of Atlanta.

Our suburban location within a 500-acre commercial office park, adjacent to a custom- built intelligent mobility test and demonstration track, is the ideal place to envision what smart cities of the future will look like.

Your Presentation is a Joke: Using Humor to Maximize Your Impact

Entrepreneur and businessman Marshall Chiles knows what’s funny. With over fifteen years of success in the laughter business, he’s figured out how to harness the power of humor to change minds, persuade people, and influence decisions. 

Now, in this one-of-a-kind book, the king of corporate roasts and presentation humor shares his foolproof method for identifying ways to punch up presentations and engage audiences of all stripes. 

Humor Wins

Humor wins produce amateur stand-up comedy shows and contests using professionals from an organization. The performers are your co-workers. We have our professional comedy writers work with each performer to make sure they get lots of laughs. 

S. Truett Cathy

Samuel Truett Cathy was an American businessman, investor, author, and philanthropist. He founded the fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A in 1946.

Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

Little Red Book of Selling is short, sweet, and to the point. It’s packed with answers that people are searching for in order to help them make sales for the moment―and the rest of their lives.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Written by Nancy Duarte, President, and CEO of Duarte Design, the firm that created the presentation for Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, this book is full of practical approaches to visual story development that can be applied by anyone. The book combines conceptual thinking and inspirational design, with insightful case studies from the world’s leading brands. With slide:ology you’ll learn to:

  • Connect with specific audiences
  • Turn ideas into informative graphics
  • Use sketching and diagramming techniques effectively
  • Create graphics that enable audiences to process information easily
  • Develop truly influential presentations
  • Utilize presentation technology to your advantage

Joe Rogan

Joseph James Rogan is an American stand-up comedian, mixed martial arts color commentator, podcast host, businessman and former television host and actor.

Christopher Titus

Christopher Todd Titus is an American comedian and actor. He grew up in Newark, California. Titus came to network audiences with the eponymous FOX show Titus, of which he was the star, executive producer and co-creator.

Sarah Blakely

Sara Treleaven Blakely is an American billionaire businesswoman, and founder of Spanx, an American intimate apparel company with pants and leggings, founded in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2012, Blakely was named in Time magazine’s “Time 100” annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Chris Rock

Christopher Julius Rock is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and director. After working as a stand-up comedian and appearing in supporting film roles, Rock came to wider prominence as a cast member of Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s.

Steve Martin

Stephen Glenn Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, filmmaker, and musician. Martin came to public notice in the 1960s as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later as a frequent guest on The Tonight Show.

Dad's Garage

Dad’s Garage is a non-profit comedy theatre located in the heart of Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. With award-winning Atlanta improv comedy, scripted shows, and a fully-stocked bar, we’re a major part of Atlanta nightlife and a great venue for date night. Come see us Wednesday through Saturday, every week of the year. We do it all — improv classes, theatrical plays, corporate workshops, private shows, video production, and more! Basically, if it has to do with comedy, Dad’s Garage does it.

Relapse Theatre

Relapse Theatre was open from 2005 – 2013, Closed for 3 years as a joke, and open again since 2016.

In that time we’ve been blessed to work with the finest talent the whole country has to offer. We believe in Atlanta Comedy, we believe that it is special, we believe in every venue that supports comedy and suggest you go to all of them and spend your dollars there! We believe it’s not those who “got it or don’t”, but rather those who “will it or won’t” that makes comedy work. 

Relapse Comedy Theatre’s goal is to be really nice to people, and to provide a sustainable, supportive environment for all Atlanta comedians. We’re an “Autonomous Collective”, meaning each show is independently operated without artistic direction from “The Man”.