Episode 295 Be Authentically Funny with Beth Sherman

Join Beth Sherman & Anna Lundberg as they discuss career transitions from Hollywood to London, the art of humour in speech writing, and how to be authentically funny.

In this week’s episode, I’m sharing the career journey of Beth Sherman. With a long-standing career as a comedy writer in Hollywood, including stints on late-night shows and stand-up comedy, Beth brings a wealth of experience and anecdotes to the table.

Around seven years ago, feeling the itch for a change, Beth began secretly writing personal speeches as a side hustle, gradually transitioning to ‘punch-up’ work for speeches. Now based in London with her wife, she’s fully embraced her role as a personal speechwriter and acclaimed speaker, already garnering nominations for speaker awards in the UK.

In this episode, Beth and Anna explore the nuances of pivoting careers, particularly from the high-pressure world of television to the intimate and impactful realm of personal speech writing. They discuss the importance of authenticity and emotional connection when speaking, as well as the power of humour as a tool for resilience and control. Beth shares candid insights about managing early success and the pressures it brings, emphasising the importance of pursuing happiness over external validation.

Join us as we delve into Beth Sherman’s inspiring evolution, her contributions to the London speaking community, and her heartfelt journey of finding and building her tribe. Whether you’re considering a career shift or looking to infuse more humour and authenticity into your personal and professional life, this episode offers valuable takeaways, and a lot of smiles.

You can connect with Beth on her website or LinkedIn.

00:00 Writing for entertainment, then evolved to more.

04:05 Assisting with speeches and personal storytelling.

08:56 Elderly parents, orphanage, navy, love, humour, outsider.

13:05 Passion for comedy drives career in writing.

14:07 Moved to LA, worked way up, now successful.

19:39 Enjoying work, feeling appreciated and supported.

23:17 Transition to self-employment, others’ opinions irrelevant.

26:56 Embracing vulnerability, learning from comedic failures.

29:03 Worrying about failure can reveal ego issues.

34:16 Quick trust, connection, and engagement for success.

38:22 Making organic connections by stepping out socially.

41:36 Trying to get out more, work on keynotes.

44:38 Acknowledge audience, share personal connection, remove distraction.

46:05 Humorous anecdotes about kids, workplace challenges discussed.

49:48 Embrace fear, honesty creates connection and support.

52:56 Grateful for nuggets, excited for future adventures.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*
1:1 Coaching & Mentoring – If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. www.onestepoutside.com/coaching

Be Authentically Funny with Beth Sherman

Anna 

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to the podcast. This month I’m here with Beth Sherman, who I only met a few weeks ago, as it always goes. And I had a really interesting chat with her about her career pivots, and I know that you’ll enjoy this one, too. So, Beth, lovely to have you on. Could you go ahead and tell us what were you doing before and what you’re doing now?

 

Beth Sherman:

Sure. And thanks for having me. Just picking up people left and right and putting them on the podcast.

 

Anna Lundberg:

That’s what I do.

 

Beth Sherman:

No, it’s my pleasure. It was great to meet you. I am a comedy writer by trade. I spent 27, might be 28 years by now, but about 27 years in Hollywood writing for what we call comedy, variety or late night shows, Leno, Letterman, Ellen, which is a show that was on in the daytime, but it was written like a late night show. And I’ve written for a lot of comedians and also write for award shows. The screen actors go towards a couple times as well as the oscars a few times. And within all of that, I also did stand up myself for 15 years. My pivot, I suppose.

 

Beth Sherman:

So about seven years ago, while I was writing for my 827th tv show and maybe losing a little bit of steam or enthusiasm for it, because some of them are. Some of them are really fun to work on. Some are less fun. We were thinking about. My partner and I were thinking about leaving Los Angeles at some point. And it also made me think about what would I do for a living if I weren’t in New York or Los Angeles, which is where I spent my career. It’s where entertainment is based, because I don’t have a lot of transferable skills. I have one skill.

 

Beth Sherman:

I’m funny, and I can be funny in someone else’s voice, in my own and in someone else’s voice. And I thought about advertising, you know, and I. It’s. It’s. It seemed a little. I was spoiled that I only got to eat the dessert part. I had spent so long only being funny. So the fact that I would have to be funny for a brand and within all those other parameters seemed less exciting.

 

Beth Sherman:

And I’d be competing for a job with someone who had spent 25 years building up to that point, and I didn’t have that skill set yet. So I thought, well, I mean, I’m essentially. My joke writing is essentially speech writing. I wonder if there’s a need outside the world of entertainment for speech writing. And I started sort of hung up a shingle while I was still working in tv. Just separately, quietly, kind of as a secret ghost, writing personal speeches for people. So wedding speeches, father of the bride, best man eulogies, things where you want a blend of. You want a little bit of humour to relieve some of the tension.

 

Beth Sherman:

Commencement speeches, ted talks, keynotes, things like that. And it turned out there was a need for it and people were very interested. And I had a lot of work that evolved into mostly doing punch up work, because punch up work in tv is really where you start with a script and it’s sort of editing, but editing with the focus on making it as funny as possible and in the voice of either the characters or the host or the speaker. And so that’s where that evolved into. And so I continued writing for television and wrote for a bunch more shows. But I had this growing side hustle, writing for people outside the world of entertainment. And I have to say I really fell in love with it because it’s wonderful to write well, because it was really, you know, what it was. The point of what I was writing became, instead of just getting a laugh from an audience, which is wonderful, but it sort of had a direction.

 

Beth Sherman:

It was sharing someone’s message, or if it was a personal speech, helping someone express their love for someone else. I mean, a father of the bride speech is, how do you condense 28 years of love into four minutes and make it funny? A eulogy. What an honour to be part of something like that, to help someone, because there’s a lifetime often that you’re trying to condense, but you want it to have balance. You don’t just want it to be sad or, you know, that the person who’s passed would not want it to be sad. So how do you tell the stories and give it the respect it deserves, or Ted talks things where you’re really just sharing a great message. And so a few years ago, my wife, who was English, we decided we were going to move to London from Los Angeles. And I’ve leaned into the personal speech writing part of it and knew, in a country, didn’t know a tonne of people, knew some of her friends because we’d been together a while, but really didn’t have my own existence here, and thought, well, I’d like to find my tribe. I thought, well, maybe I’ll go back to stand up because I hadn’t done it in a few years, then thought, yeah, it’s a lot of late nights and I don’t know if my.

 

Beth Sherman:

I’ve gotten to the age where that’s less appealing and there’s someone nice at home. I’m not kind of young and single. I like being at home. It’s a nice thing. So I realised that in a lot of my work I was doing with clients, it was a lot of one to one work where they would write something and then we’d get on a call for an hour and go through it and we would sort of do a little mini writers room together. I would help them punch it up, we’d just go through it top to bottom. And in that I realised I was explaining a lot of comedy things and a lot of things that came instinctively to me and realising those things don’t come instinctively to other people. Because I just sort of take it for granted that I have this skill set.

 

Beth Sherman:

I’d only ever been around other people who had my skillset and I really enjoyed sharing that  knowledge and that became, I think I’d like to speak about this. I think there’s a need for this. And I got in touch with someone who was a ran one of the biggest speaking bureaus in the UK for a long time and now she works with speakers and she really helped me figure out how to package that in a way that it’s useful to business. And that was about. It was just under a year ago that I started doing that. And if I can be nauseatingly braggy for a second, yesterday I was nominated for speaker awards for best, what do they call it? Best newcomer and best showreel. So hopefully that means I’ve done something right.

 

Anna Lundberg:

It definitely does. You can definitely be braggy. I saw that. And LinkedIn, that’s fantastic showreel, which is one of those things that we all kind of dread to put together. So the fact that you’re nominated for that is fantastic and I have watched it, so I think it’s very well deserved. And I think you’ve also undersold yourself, saying that you have very few transferable skills and there are many pathways taken, but I like that you’ve honed in on that. Funny. And as you said, it’s easy to be blinded by being surrounded by people who are similar to you and not recognising that these things don’t come naturally to others.

 

Anna Lundberg:

I think that’s an important thing for anyone considering a career change that open your eyes up, talk to other people and begin to sort of be quite questioning around, okay, but what am I good at? And it might be something that you really do take for granted because it’s just come and has it come second nature to you? Has it always been like that for you. How did you end up in that field?

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah, well, I think to some degree, I grew up in a family and a culture that had a great sense of humour. I would say that in my family, humour was a love language. And if anyone from the TeD organisation is listening, I would like for that to be my TEd talk. That humour is a love language. Yeah. No, seriously, it would be a great TEd talk.

 

Anna Lundberg:

It’ll come coming to theatre near you anytime soon, I’m sure. Hopefully someone’s listening, we’ll pick that up.

 

Beth Sherman:

But, yeah, because it is. Because you can use humour to say things that you couldn’t or wouldn’t say otherwise. And my dad in particular, and I think in hindsight, he may have been on the spectrum, but humour was how he related to the world. He couldn’t say I love you. He didn’t come from a culture that was I love you. He also ended up in an orphanage with his brother when he was six because his mother died. His mother, rather, was widowed at the beginning of the depression. My dad passed at 94, a few years ago.

 

Beth Sherman:

They were older parents, so he grew up in an orphanage and then his senior year of high school, Pearl Harbour was bombed and he joined the navy. And so, whether it was nature or nurture, he didn’t come from a cuddly background, but he was able to show that he loved us. He loved making people laugh. It was how he connected with the world. So I think I took that for granted. I mean, as a kid, you don’t appreciate often what your parents skills are or the way your parents are as a kid, because it can make you different. It definitely made me different that I saw the world in a similar way to my parents. I didn’t quite fit in.

 

Beth Sherman:

People didn’t know what to make of me. But eventually I found people who also the same things, made them laugh and they approached the world in the same way. And that was, I guess, college, university. And once I did, it’s like so many other nerds realised that the things that make us different and self conscious are really the things that will drive our success later in life.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Absolutely. And that’s so interesting in terms of that initial career decision, because for those of us on the outside and for everybody, really, it sounds incredibly glamorous. You say Hollywood, you said it all very straightforwardly and matter of fact. Hollywood and these incredible big names and so on. It sounds very aspirational. What was the journey to arrive at that height of sort of success in that world? And how did your dad feel about that. Was it something that he supported? Did it feel like a bit of an alternative career choice?

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah, he always wanted me to join the Navy. He never really let that go, even after I’d had a bunch of awards and success. But that was a generational thing. It was sort of, you can do this for 20 years and get a full pension, then do whatever the hell you want, which is a pragmatic way to. He was a first generation american child of immigrants. It’s a very practical, pragmatic often, and it was necessary way to see the world. So I grew up in Philadelphia, or just outside Philadelphia on the east coast of the United States. It’s about 90 minutes from New York City.

 

Beth Sherman:

And my dad worked in communications for prudential. My mother was an occupational therapist. Both of them were the first in their families to go to college and sort of made their way through. My dad went on the GI bill after being in the navy, which is where the government would pay for servicemen, combat servicemen, to go to college as a thank you. And my mother worked her way through University of Pennsylvania, which is an Ivy League school, and her dad sold fruit on the street, you know, had a cart. So that is. Those are the values that I grew up with, but they really made something of themselves. It was a non negotiable that I was going to go to university.

 

Beth Sherman:

Education was a primary thing, but when I was in high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I was good with words, or it came easier for me than other things. There was a tv show that I really liked called Murphy Brown sitcom. And one day there was a news magazine show that did a behind the scenes piece on that show. And I was probably about 15 or 16, and I watched it. And it wasn’t about the actors, it was about. It was behind the scenes. And it showed this magical place, or place I found magical called the writers room.

 

Beth Sherman:

And the writers room was just a bunch of guys, or mostly guys, but a bunch of comedy writers sitting around, maybe ten, sitting around a conference table in a room. And that their whole job, one person, it would rotate, one person would write the draught of the script for that week’s show, and then their whole job was to punch it up, to spend the week going through it line by line and making every joke funnier, every situation funnier, but doing it all within the. Within the voice of the character. It had to make sense, it had to. You know, you don’t want a joke that just sounds a joke for joke’s sake. You can tell as a viewer. And anyway, I saw that. Wait, there’s comedy writers.

 

Beth Sherman:

These shows are written and this is a job and there are people on staff whose only job is to sit in a room with other funny people and try to get the funniest, the biggest laugh in a room full of funny people. And I saw that and genuinely, it was the only thing I wanted to do with my life. I’m not sure I ever really thought I had a chance in hell of getting there, but it was the only thing I wanted to do. And I’d always been connected to humour. I didn’t listen to music growing up. I listened to comedy albums. And anyone who’s looking can see that behind me are some of my favourites, some of the ones that I just listened to over and over and over again. So I went to university because I didn’t have a choice not to.

 

Beth Sherman:

I went to Boston University. I majored in television. There is. It was. I wouldn’t recommend it. It was very. It was a lot of theory, but I do have a Bachelor of science now in television. And then I move, which is useless.

 

Beth Sherman:

Remind me again where you went to school, Anna.

 

Anna Lundberg:

At Oxford.

 

Beth Sherman:

That’s what I thought. Yeah, yeah. Same experience. Same exact experience. And I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20. I finished a little bit early. I moved and I was a production assistant and then a writer’s assistant and just moved my way up the ladder until I had an opportunity to be in the writers room and got opportunities as a writer and I paid my dues. And from then on, it’s a little bit of on the job training because you can have talent, but you have to be able to negotiate, you have some emotional intelligence in those rooms and also be able to be funny, kind of on demand, and have.

 

Beth Sherman:

Sometimes the first 125 jokes are not either funny enough or they don’t satisfy whoever your boss is. And you have to have. Be able to just keep pitching and pitching and pitching and pitching and pitching and pitching until something hits. And that’s the real skill. Most people are funny and can crack wise, but to be able to do it consistently and at two in the morning when you’re on the 9000th draught of something and would really prefer to go home, but, yeah, that’s how I got into it. It just sheer that and not wanting to have a real job.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yeah, fair enough. And you certainly used your degree more than I do. Mind philosophy, politics and economics hasn’t really been tangibly applied in my work. But, hey, it’s an experience. We go through, isn’t it? To study and to make friends and have fun and learn lots of things I’m sure are useful in other ways.

 

Beth Sherman:

Well, I would say that you’re using all of those things actually to approach the world and as a lens to approach the world with a depth of knowledge. Sure. I’m using my degree. 90% of the classes I took were called tv culture and society, language of television. That did not teach me how to be funny, how to write, how to write a script. It didn’t teach me any of that. It taught me how to write absolute bull crap papers.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yeah.

 

Beth Sherman:

Which I guess also taught me other things, which is not a terrible skill either, to be able to shovel a little bit.

 

Anna Lundberg:

I think there are a lot of those papers. We do learn how to write those kinds of essays. That’s a red thread through all of our degrees, I think philosophy. I was always very interested. I read Sophie’s world when I was very young and I just. I loved, you know, those big meaning of life types of questions and I still pursue those now. So there’s definitely a thread. It’s not.

 

Anna Lundberg:

And obviously it was an incredible experience, et cetera, et cetera.

 

Beth Sherman:

And Anna says, segueing back into, stop making me talk about myself.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Exactly. It’s about you, Beth. I know you’re probably very good at talking about other people too, and making us feel good. And in fact, that was a big takeaway from when I met you. I was thinking, like, who did I really enjoy speaking to? And you really sort of shone brightly from that evening when we met. So I’m really pleased to be hopefully getting to know you a bit better and being part of your tribe, if I’m lucky, here in the UK.

 

Beth Sherman:

Consider yourself welcome and invited.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Thank you. But coming back, I guess, to that world of humour and Hollywood and so on, I suppose La versus London and working on comedy shows versus the work you do now. How has your. And in fact, you mentioned also, obviously, wanting to come home to your loved ones versus being happy to be single and out and partying, I suppose. How has your view of what success looks like changed from where you were then to where you are today?

 

Beth Sherman:

Well, because I knew what I wanted to do from such an early age, or at least I had a sense of what I wanted to do. I want to work on these tv shows and I reached that. I really. I reached that. At 23, I got my first proper official writers job. I joined the writers Guild of America at 23. I’m 51. So I ticked that box in a lot of ways fairly early on and then nothing’s ever enough, is it? And then you want to do more and more and you want to get this credit and that credit.

 

Beth Sherman:

So I did that. I’ll be honest. When I started, I guess moonlighting also working for people outside the world of entertainment I didn’t share that with people. I didn’t tell people. That was my dirty little secret. And like any good dirty little secret I was also kind of keeping it to myself because it felt so good because I really enjoyed it. But I thought I was a little afraid of judgement, I guess or that it wasn’t cool or that it would endanger my chances of getting my next job because it’s all freelance in the world that I was working in. I had some jobs that last.

 

Beth Sherman:

Would last three years, five years but if it’s an award show, it’s ten weeks, things like that. So I didn’t share. I didn’t tell people what I was doing even though I enjoyed it. And then it was a few years before I kind of shared it with my peers and then, even then it was only close friends and I. I think it was because I. Even though I’d had other success that doing well in this didn’t feel like the same sort of success. And then I realised and then also in talking with my wife. But success is doing what you love.

 

Beth Sherman:

It not feeling like work, getting appreciated for it, it supporting you and being happy. So that really it sort of. It all kind of dawned on me and I almost outed myself. Had to out myself that I was not just working outside the world of entertainment but enjoying it. Because I’d always seen. I’d seen other people do it over the years but it always seemed like, well, they’re not getting the other job so that’s why they have to figure something else out. Almost the cliche of if you can’t do teach. And I didn’t want my ego didn’t want people to think that that’s what I was doing.

 

Beth Sherman:

But I really loved that sort of teaching. And I still do tv work. I’ll go back because these, the award show jobs, things like that. It’s ten weeks but you really only need to be there in person the week of show. So it’s all remote anyway. Even if I was just. Even if I was 3 miles away and not 6000 miles away the hours stink because it’s 8 hours. We’re 8 hours ahead here.

 

Beth Sherman:

So when I’m working on an award show that is where everyone else is in Los Angeles. And they say, well, let’s meet sometime after lunch. And I start realising, all right, well, that’s 01:00 a.m.. Great. But yeah, I think the success. I sort of had to accept the new success and, yeah, it’s a long answer.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yeah. But so many interesting nuggets because, of course, as you said, hitting that high level of success so early on, where do you go from there? It’s a tricky thing for people to experience, I think young celebrities, I suppose, get that kind of success. Athletes, famous, you know, players, rugby, cricket, whatever and so on. So it’s almost like an early moment then that you do need to. Could potentially pivot into something else. I feel like you want to say something interesting, so I’m going to ask my other question after that.

 

Beth Sherman:

Oh, well, interesting. I don’t know, but it was. Yeah, I was thinking about that because it can be a blessing and a curse in any field, in anything, to have success early. I mean, if you meet the person that you’re. That you marry when you’re in grade school, that’s a blessing and a courage. Great, you found them. But then you probably wonder later on, there’s probably other people out there I might like to meet, but I really love this person. But I was just.

 

Beth Sherman:

I saw Daniel Radcliffe in something and I thought he was a great example because he absolutely could have been Harry Potter, the guy who. He could have been the guy who was Harry Potter for the rest of his life. And I guess he still will be, in a way. But he’s on Broadway, he’s doing all sorts of things and even while he was doing Harry Potter, he did equas. He did stage work. He really. It seemed like he made a conscious decision that he didn’t want that to define him, at least not more than necessary. And I think he’s used that success to be able to do projects that interest him and that he’s passionate about and I think that’s what I’m realising I want to do.

 

Anna Lundberg:

No, that’s a great example. Yeah. Daniel Radcliffe has done an amazing job. Equius was the. Again, we talked about nudity before, but that was quite a breakaway from his sort of child acting role. So I think you can make those conscious choices. But he also talked about the judgement, which is so interesting because it’s such a different world, but as you say, going from a glamorous kind of certain world of humour and tv and so on to sort of the more. Oh, if they’re going into that, they must be less successful and so on.

 

Anna Lundberg:

I think we see that with every transition from corporate to working for yourself. Oh, it’s because they’ve been made redundant because they can’t hack it. We’re just telling ourselves these stories in our head. And to be honest, nobody cares really. Right. Nobody cares as much as we do. Everyone else is busy worrying about their own insecurities and their own things. Plus, as you said very beautifully, what is success if not you doing what you want to be doing and being happy and living the life with your wife that you want and so on? So what if there’s someone in Hollywood going, oh, Beth, I can’t believe she left this amazing job here, and what is she doing before? You know, I think we put too much, it’s natural, but we put too much sway onto other people’s sort of would be opinions because we’re projecting them at the end of the day, aren’t we? So there’s, I love that you kind of incubated your little project before you also decided to go all in.

 

Anna Lundberg:

And really nice is that it’s, it’s not that black and white as you can continue doing some of that work as well. So it’s not either or. Sometimes you can have both.

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah. And it is the same skill set. So it’s, I mean, that, that I find is, is kind of wonderful because it’s a pivot, but it’s more subtle than it seems. It’s really not. Because again, when people outside entertainment say, well, you were doing this and now you’re working for these kinds of people. But it turns out for the most part that people in entertainment are just people. And if you’re writing presenter copy for the Oscars, they want, they are just as worried and concerned about what their audience will think of them. And they want to be, they want to come across as being smart and funny and interesting just as much as anyone giving a TED talk or a father of the bride speech or eulogy want to.

 

Beth Sherman:

I mean, celebrities are people, too.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Hashtag, that feels like that, with some exceptions, Instagram posts. But I think that is very reassuring to people. You know, whether I was speaking to somebody the other day who has been in banking for 20 years and concerned that he can’t do anything else, you know, but as you said, there are more transferable skills and more subtle pivots than you think. It feels like a dramatic change. And what on earth could I possibly do if not this, that I’ve been doing my whole life? What I do find interesting is this idea of confidence and resilience because we talked briefly before recording about the different things we feel comfortable with. And you’re very comfortable on a stage and writing jokes for other people. Other things, perhaps not. And we all have our different sort of lines and comfort zones.

 

Anna Lundberg:

But the idea of being told that your joke isn’t funny enough, we’re having to iterate and iterate and keep doing. And that there is that, of course, sort of dark cloud over comedians, I think, of, well, Matthew Perry or Robin Williams and the sad pressure of being really funny and so on. But just wonder if you had any perspective on that idea of being resilient to criticism while also your main purpose is to perform for other people in a way. Does that make sense?

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah, it definitely makes sense. I think that most people. So I said earlier that humour is a love language and it certainly is. I mean, I deeply believe that it is. I was serious, Ted people. But it’s also. It’s a defence mechanism and it’s a way to control a situation, hopefully in a positive way. I mean, you can turn a negative into a positive by, you know, if you trip and fall on the sidewalk, you can either get really angry or you can go, you know, perfect ten.

 

Beth Sherman:

There you go. There you go. And sort of. So I think it’s a way of protecting yourself from vulnerability. And I think when people are very concerned that their jokes might fail, they’re worried about being vulnerable or feeling vulnerable. But the thing that you learn as a comedian is it’s okay to fail because you’re going to. I mean, I talk to speakers about how to. Well, one of my audiences are people who speak for a living and showing them just how to add a little bit of how to use humour as a seasoning, add just a little bit to give balance to maybe a serious subject, and they’re all worried about, well, what if the joke doesn’t work? Well, then, just like the rest of us, the only way to know if a joke works is to try it in front of people.

 

Beth Sherman:

Comedy is a dialogue. Even if you’re the only one on any kind of speakingness of dialogue. The only way to know if something works is to deliver it. You have to hear that other side of the conversation to know. But just because it doesn’t work the first time doesn’t mean you can’t take another look at it and make it better and improve it. I mean, I use the analogy of if there’s a recipe you see and you use the recipe, how often does the dish come out? Absolutely 100% perfect. Doesn’t you do it and you go, well, next time. I think I would do it like this, or this is.

 

Beth Sherman:

It’s pretty good, but I think it can be better. Or if you’re trying to learn some dance step or a TikTok dance, do you just look at it and go, yep, got it, and nail it? No, you look like an absolute fool the first 112 times. Or if you’re me, 1012. So it’s. Failure is part of. I mean, failure is part of using humour, but then that willingness to be vulnerable is very. It’s compelling. And so you’re still sort of ticking the same box.

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah. I think people that are really worried about failing, it’s a tell of it can be a little bit more of an ego thing. And speaking of peaking early, you mentioned Matthew Perry. I mean, to be a blessing and a curse, to be that successful, that young and maybe not have the life skills yet, or the tools to be able to handle not being that person, because you’ve only experienced being that person, you haven’t worked your way up. Not to say that he didn’t work hard, but that you haven’t built those skills that simply take time. You know, you get knocked down, you get up again. Now I’m doing song lyrics, but you get knocked down, you get up again, but you do it. But resilience is something that’s built.

 

Beth Sherman:

It’s not just. Someone can’t just hand you resilience, it’s totally built. So I think people who have a real knee jerk reaction to being vulnerable often have not had a chance to build that resiliency. And if you’re doing it later in life, I would imagine it’s a lot harder because the rest of it feels like everyone else is already successful. When you’re a kid or a teenager or just out of college, everyone’s a screw up. It doesn’t stand out as much.

 

Anna Lundberg:

No. That’s interesting. And I strongly believe that school doesn’t really set us up for success in the real world. So I did well academically at school, but I think actually failing there. And I don’t want to take for granted the privilege of my upbringing and the schooling, but if you’re used to getting that a and things are going well, you’re not as equipped to. If you’re. And you’ve got more to lose, I think, in a way, as well. And I always think I was quite tall for my age and I played well.

 

Anna Lundberg:

I played netball, a bit like basketball, but you don’t bounce the ball and, you know, I could tower over everybody. Sorry, I’m sure you know more with an english wife as well than I give you credit for. And same with the high jump. I just did the scissor high jump, which they did in, like the early 19 hundreds. I didn’t have to learn the proper technique because I was tall. But what happened a few years later, everyone else who was shorter than me either grew up to be as tall or taller and. Or had better skills because they’d had to actually learn to play the sport really well. And I think that’s the disadvantage of doing too well too soon.

 

Anna Lundberg:

You don’t have, as you said, you’re not as comfortable with failure. The ego is probably too big and you haven’t had the opportunity to develop that resilience. So, yes, it is more painful later on, but hopefully we can learn that. As you say, we’re all human. Even people in Hollywood, even celebrities, worry about how they’re coming across and so on. And, yeah, I think that’s an important reminder to just keep trying, keep mixing that recipe, keep showing up.

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah, it’s a gap in knowledge. It doesn’t. It’s not, you know, it’s knowledge that you can acquire. It’s just having the willingness and the self awareness, which is also self awareness is very, very important in humour. And in using humour, not self deprecating, just self awareness, but having that enough to realise, okay, this is a gap in my knowledge. This is why this feels so terrible. Okay, let me get out of my comfort zone a little bit.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yeah. And you mentioned you’ve got a few sort of strings to your bow still. So what does your business model look like at the moment? What are the different kind of projects that you’re working on?

 

Beth Sherman:

Well, I have the speech writing, ghost writing business. That’s my us business, and I do it for people internationally, but I have that and I focus that mostly on the personal speech writing toasts, speeches and things like that. And now that I’m in the UK and speaking, and the keynote speaking is what I’m really passionate about. And I’ve been working on developing the skills and developing the material and developing the time to go and do that. Now that’s beginning to tick over and I’m beginning to book more and more and more events and working with business leaders to show them how to use humour as a tool to build trust and rapport. And when I say use humour, it’s not just telling horny dad jokes. I mean, how to have that self awareness, how to get a laugh or a smile simply from your client, your colleague, and really create genuine moment of connection. Because laughter is emotion.

 

Beth Sherman:

And again, when I say laughter, it can just be smile or sort of inner smile, but it is just connection. That’s emotion. And you need emotion if you’re going to build trust. And you can’t inspire people to take any action, big, small, otherwise, unless you feel trust. So, because I have so much experience as a comedian and for writing for comedians, and that’s been my whole experience, comedians have a very particular set of skills. Much like Liam Neeson. Well, not at all like Liam Neeson’s, but comedians are able. We have to get the audience as soon as possible.

 

Beth Sherman:

We have to build that trust and confidence kind of immediately, because it’s not even called failing in stand up, it’s called dying. You die on stage if the audience isn’t digging you. So comedians are able to connect quickly, engage fully and leave them wanting more. And so what I’ve been talking about in front of audiences is how would having those skills or honing those skills help you in business? So that’s what I’ve been doing here in the UK and also working one to one with speakers, doing those punch up sessions, one to one, creating a two person writers room. And we go through their talk and see where the organic comedian opportunities are, because it’s not about adding something external into it. You don’t want to shoehorn in a joke that’s not meant to be there, but it’s about finding. Wait, let’s take one step further into that story. What happened the first time you tried that, or where did you fail? Or what went differently? Or when you got fired? What did they actually say to you? Or when that, you know, you’re talking about having a terrible client or a terrible customer because you talk about customer experience.

 

Beth Sherman:

What are some real examples of horrible customers? Because truth is funny and people are ridiculous and life is absurd. So it’s. How can you add more truth, which will add more humour that is authentic to you? There’s nothing worse than someone trying to be funny for the sake of being funny. It’s just. It’s excruciating and it’s diminishing returns. It actually makes it worse than just being boring. So, yeah, so that’s. I guess that’s the business model here.

 

Beth Sherman:

Speaker. Speaker first. That’s what I’m putting the most energy into right now. And I love working one to one with clients and I do a bit of ghost writing on the side.

 

Anna Lundberg:

And speaking is one of those things of course, as you see, as people see you speak, the word of mouth will spread. And speaking, speaking. And of course, with the award nominations and so on, that really helps. But how else have you, in a new country, in a new kind of industry, been building your personal brands and expertise? How have you been building the business since you pivoted?

 

Beth Sherman:

Well, I joined the best advice I got. So there was a woman that I spoke with when I sort of decided, oh, I think maybe speaking could be a thing, or I might have something that would be applicable in the business world. So this, what Maria Franzoni is her name. And she said, have you heard of the Professional speakers Association? And I said, no. And she said, you should. So, I mean, really, anything she told me to do, I was totally bought in and I still am. So if she told me to sort of, uh, jump naked out of an aeroplane, I’d say, are you sure? And then I would start stripping. So she told me to join the Professional Speakers association, which I did.

 

Beth Sherman:

And as a. It’s a great professional organisation, it’s. People are very friendly, people are super interesting because most professional speakers are, they’re not starting it just out of college, they’ve usually had a career and a body of work or done extraordinary things that they are now using to teach other people. So I’ve gotten very involved in that organisation, the London chapter of that organisation and speaking. And what I’m able to do in return is to share my skills with them. They’re speakers, they all want to be funnier and more engaging on stage. So in return for learning how to approach being a speaker as a business, that’s what I get from them. And I get networking and I get to learn about the corporate world because I’ve never had a real job and I’ve worked hard and worked 12 hours a day, but I’ve never worked in a corporate environment, so I’m able to take that information, and in return, the information I’m able to share is how, how they can be funnier and more engaging on stage.

 

Beth Sherman:

So, yeah, I mean that, I would call that networking, but networking in a way that feels very organic and not forced. I’m terrible at small talk, so that’s been very helpful. And also, I mean, the way we met, which was I went to an event that was a dinner, it was a dinner where the host didn’t charge, but we were all asked to make, all asked to make donations to a particular charity and there were a hundred people there and it was incredible. And I, and you’re sort of it suggested that you go there alone so that you are forced to speak to other people. And I did that and sat next to. You know, there’s a rotation at some point and one of the women that I sat next to started chatting with her and she a few weeks later, reached out and invited me to a dinner where I met you. So just really taking myself out of my comfort zone a little bit and trying to meet new people, because it’s hard to move somewhere new. And when my wife moved to Los Angeles from London, she struggled because she worked with a handful of people.

 

Beth Sherman:

There were a handful of people at work and then there was me and my friends. But it’s hard to make friends as an adult. You sort of don’t realise that most of the time. Well, you start to realise when it’s hard to do. But when we make our core friends, it’s generally because we’re at school and we’re surrounded by people, or we’ve just gone to university. And the people that most of my friends from university are, the ones I was who were in, the ones who were on my floor freshman year, or people that I’d met at work. So it’s hard to just wander around the city and go, will you be my friend?

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yeah, maybe. Don’t do that. But the traditional work environment is missing too. Right? If you came to a corporate job here, or even working in turbulent, you’d automatically get a load of colleagues. Although, yes, it’s still harder to make friends when we’re older, but I think that’s one of the challenges of working for yourself and these types of events and the fact that they happen so organically too. And no way. Neither of those events sounds like they were, you know, oh, here’s my business card. If we’re going to do like, some kind of cringey thing.

 

Anna Lundberg:

So there are those of you worried about networking, there are nice ways to just simply turn up and chat with people, develop relationships and not feel horrible in any way. Is there such a thing now as a typical day for you? What does your sort of working week look like?

 

Beth Sherman:

Yeah, I would say it’s fairly typical. I work kind of in two time zones, so that’s helpful. So I wake up. I wake up early, not out of virtue, but just perimenopause. So I wake up. Yep, I wake up early, come into, make the commute into the about 40ft and sit down and answer anything that’s come in for the US business, because the people in California are usually, it’s late in the evening for them. So I’m able to talk to those clients then and sort of take care of things just before they go to bed. And then I shift to calls with my one to one clients here.

 

Beth Sherman:

And I mean, those are typically an hour, an hour and a half. I try to get out of the house now that the weather is a little bit nicer. I try to get out of the house a little bit at lunchtime and then because in the late afternoon. So once the US starts waking up, typically my US calls go from about 04:00 p.m. Depending on where, you know, whether they’re on the east coast or the west coast. And then, yeah, I mean, now I’m also writing and polishing different keynotes because as I’ve been, they’re all about the same core material. But I don’t yet have a full shelf of keynotes. I have a few, but I don’t have a full shelf because they’re all sort of still being created.

 

Beth Sherman:

I work on them when I can. And then there’s the occasional last minute best man speech or eulogy or whatever someone’s asked me to do.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Amazing. And I’m thinking of. We chatted about those funny little surprising questions that people ask you at the end of the podcast. I promise I wasn’t going to ask you for your favourite book. That is not humour. I don’t know what it could possibly be. But I do want to ask you, I suppose if someone is. Let’s go this way.

 

Anna Lundberg:

If someone is nervous about getting up and doing their talk, whether it is, as you said, a eulogy which is a particular context, or a best mouth speech, I’d love for more best men. And what are they called? Father of the bride. I never got married, so I don’t know the terminology. That’s my excuse. Father of the bride. I’d love for more of them to get your services because rare has been the occasion when those speeches have been particularly good. But I mean, as long as they’re authentic and as you said, full of love for the. For the bride and for the people there.

 

Anna Lundberg:

That’s the main thing, isn’t it? But if somebody is about to do a speech like that, or perhaps more appropriately, a keynote, selfishly, I’m looking to do more speaking this year. I’ve got a keynote coming up next week. So what words of wisdom would you have for those of us who are perhaps newer to the business and in particular want to be authentically funny when we step up on that stage?

 

Beth Sherman:

Well, again, truth is funny. So I would say, look at the content that you have and see where you can season it with a little bit of self awareness or specificity. Those are two great tools if you’re looking for comedic opportunities. And when I say self awareness, I don’t mean self deprecating. You don’t have to put yourself down to get a laugh. I mean, you can and it works, but I don’t. It can also undermine your credibility, which isn’t great if you’re something that I like to call a woman or a person of colour, or anyone who’s. Who’s a little bit different, because you don’t know the biases of the people in your audience and you don’t want to make their argument for them.

 

Beth Sherman:

So I like self awareness, which is simply acknowledging what your audience might be thinking. And that could be something about the room, or that could just be something about the timing of the talk or the number of people they have booked, or it could just be. I mean, I have an accent. I don’t hear it, but I’m told I have an accent and I live in the UK. So if I’m up north speaking, people are going to notice my accent. And by acknowledging the fact that they are noticing my accent or explaining where Im from and how the hell I got there, that not only shares a little bit about myself, gets a laugh or what ive heard called a loud smile, and creates a little bit of connection because Im sharing myself. But it also gets. It also removes a potential distraction, because if someone’s sitting there thinking, where’s she from? Is she from New York? Is she from.

 

Beth Sherman:

I mean, who does she sound like? I’m trying to think of who she sounds like. They’re not fully listening because that’s what they’re thinking about. They’re not listening to what I’m saying. So if you can acknowledge, if you can have that self awareness to just get ahead of something, you’re removing a potential distraction. And specificity, in comedy terms, specificity is great. I mean, whenever you’re given an example for something, use truth. Truth is funny. And the specifics of that truth are hilarious.

 

Beth Sherman:

Details are funny. If you tell me you’ve got kids, right? If you tell me, I mean, what is your. What is your favourite excuse that your kid has ever made to get out of school or to try to get out of something or why they’re crying. I mean, those ridiculous non sequiturs, think about those when you’re giving examples of other things in your speech. What did someone. What exactly did they say to you? I worked with a client the other day who was talking about. She’d been a leader in banking, or high up in leadership in banking, and she is frequently asked to speak about what it was like to be the only woman in the room for so long. And we were going through a speech and she talked about how difficult it was and how she always felt like she stood out and not in a good way.

 

Beth Sherman:

And I said, can you give me an example? And she said, well, it was always very uncomfortable. And I said, can you give warmer. Can you give me a specific example? And she said, well, it was really difficult when I had to tell my boss that I was pregnant. I said, but what? Exactly. Tell me what happened? And she said, I said, I told him I was pregnant. He paused and then said, oh, shit. But that’s truth. Truth is funny.

 

Beth Sherman:

And her relating that story, and she’s very buttoned up. And I really. Not a naturally jokey person, but that’s true. And that serves as an even better illustration of her point. It makes the point and the content better. It’s not there extraneously. It’s there saying, I mean, tell me every woman in the room wouldn’t connect with that. And every guy who might have said that would still think, well, that guy’s terrible.

 

Beth Sherman:

I would never do that. But it adds humour, it adds connection. It’s specific. And you’re not trying to be funny, you’re just relating what’s actually happening. Because also, what all comedians do, all we do, we’re observers. Observe, report, observe, report. So rather than thinking that you need to add jokes, just report, report some of the crazy stuff you’ve seen. And then, I mean, that’s for building your content.

 

Beth Sherman:

And then also practise if you’re a new speaker, even if you’re not a new speaker. It’s coordination. It’s like any sport. It’s like anything else that involves. You have to get your brain and your mouth in sync. And the only way to do that is just to say it out loud over and over and over and over again, and to say, and to do it until you get to the point where it sounds like you’re saying it for the first time. Because you see any Netflix special you watch? Watch those comedians. They’ve done that material, I can promise you, 847,000 times.

 

Beth Sherman:

The skill is being able to present it in a way as if they just thought of it just that second. They’re just on a roll. They’re just in that funny gear. And they’ve just thought of it. But it is hones and honed, breath by breath, word by word. So make sure your content is solid, make sure your content serves you and then practise. And then if you are petrified of speaking and a first time speaker and you know that your paper is going to be shaking or your voice is going to be shaking, then it goes back to self awareness. If people are noticing that and it’s a potential distraction, just admit it.

 

Beth Sherman:

Sometimes, if it’s just sort of a normal level of nerves, you don’t have to admit it because maybe you’ll calm down as you get going. But if you have a genuine fear, and I work with a lot of people who just have a genuine phobia of speaking and they’ve managed to successfully avoid it, except now their daughter’s getting married and they can’t, or they’re valedictorian or something like that, or someone that they love past, then acknowledge it. It’s totally fine to say, those of you who know me know that public speaking is not my favourite activity, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass by. So if I pass out, just drag me back to my seat. And when I come to tell me I was great, just whatever you say, it’s okay to acknowledge it, because that vulnerability is. It’s really compelling, it creates connection. And also, now they know, instead of being distracted by your nervousness, they know you’re the underdog, they know what you are willing to do to be up there, they know how terrified you are and you’re still going up and doing that. They are going to be on your side.

 

Anna Lundberg:

I was going to say that sounds like they’ll be on your side because that’s what you want, don’t you? You don’t want them as you’re feeling awkward and sort of pitying you, but rather to be cheering you on and engaged and listening and feeling its emotion, isn’t it?

 

Beth Sherman:

Well, exactly. You definitely don’t want pity. I mean, you don’t want them to be thinking, oh, that poor woman, why are they making her do this? You don’t want it to seem like they’re watching some sort of uncomfortable torture scene. Yeah. That’s not watching someone being waterboarded.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yeah, that makes it sound quite doable. I think the truth and the specificity, I think that gives people something really tangible to get there flaws into and then to acknowledge that the fear of it is there. And just to bring people on their side, I could selfishly keep asking you questions and keep going. But I’m conscious that I need to at some point let you go. So if we do want to learn more about your strategies and potentially work with you, where’s the best place to connect with you? Beth?

 

Beth Sherman:

My cleverly named website, bethsherman.com.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Bethsherman.

 

Beth Sherman:

The best personal branding there is your name.

 

Anna Lundberg:

It’s very innovative and very effective.

 

Beth Sherman:

Thank you.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Well, thank you so much for your time, for being so generous with your insights and sharing. Pulling back the curtain a little bit on the glamorous world of LA that we know so little about. Although I have started listening to the rest is entertainment podcast that sort of pulls the curtain back on the production of scenes. I’ve become quite fascinated by sort of how these things work. It does break the illusion a little bit when you realise, as you said, that people have been practising, you think, oh, they’re so spontaneously funny and it turns out no, they’ve got people like Beth working for hours and hours behind the scenes. But that’s okay. It’s part of the fascination of learning how things work as well. So.

 

Anna Lundberg:

And part of growing up, I guess things are never what they seem. So that’s okay.

 

Beth Sherman:

So seeing how the sausage is made. Yeah, that’s it.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Yes. And maybe, maybe not wanting to eat that sausage after you find out, but that’s the only potential downside. But again, thank you so much, Beth. I know that there were lots of nuggets in there and for people who are listening. So thank you for your time. Looking forward to being part of your London tribe, albeit I’m not quite in London. And best of luck with your continued adventures here in the UK. And of course we look forward to seeing you do that Ted talk very, very soon.

 

Beth Sherman:

My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

 

Anna Lundberg:

Thanks, Beth.

 

Beth Sherman:

Thank you.

 

Anna Lundberg:

I’m sorry I went over.

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