162 – Use contrast to make an impact

Posted by  Anecdote International —September 27, 2022
Filed in Anecdotes, Podcast

Experience minus expectation equals satisfaction. Listen to hear how performer Andy Kaufman used contrast to make a real impact on his audience.

Elvis ornament

This week, Shawn shares the story that you can add to your story bank and use to make a business point. It explains the thinking behind and impact of one of performer Andy Kaufman’s most famous acts.

Shawn recommends the movie Man on the Moon and says the story reminds him of the one he shared in 154 – Less is more.

For your story bank

Tags: communication, contrast, expectation, experience, impact, message, satisfaction

This story starts at 01:04

Andy Kaufman was a performer popular in the 1970s and 1980s. He loved doing Elvis impersonations and had been doing them since he was a kid. So when he became an entertainer, that became one of his acts. But people weren’t interested in it. He was a good impersonator, but he wasn’t the best.

He wanted to find a solution allowing him to do his impersonation. So he created a new character called Foreign Man, a guy with a high, squeaky voice from a fictitious country in the Caspian Sea. And he convinced comedy club owners in New York to let him do his new act on their stages.

He would stand on stage, looking very uncomfortable, with a record player beside him. He often wore white, and as he stood there, the audience would wonder what he was doing and what would come next.

When he turned on the record player, a theme song from a popular cartoon, Mighty Mouse, would play. He stood perfectly still as it played and then would lipsync one line in the chorus before going silent and still again. People loved it.

He took that character and blended it with his Elvis impersonation. As Foreign Man, he would stand up and say, “Hello, I would like to do an impersonation of President Jimmy Carter. Would anyone like to see my Jimmy Carter impersonation?”

There would be silence, and he would launch into a non-impersonation. He didn’t change his pitch or tone. He would then do another non-impersonation of a different person.

The performer would then say, “I would like to do my impersonation of Elvis.” He would turn around and whip off the sides of his trousers so that you could see sparkles down their sides. He would slick back his hair, put up his collar and take off his jacket to reveal something sparkly.

Then, he would turn around and do an outstanding Elvis impersonation.

The audience went nuts. They anticipated another non-impersonation, but all of a sudden, Foreign Man nailed it.

It still wasn’t the best impersonation, but the contrast made it seem like it was. The impersonation Kaufman couldn’t seem to use became a part of an act that took him to Stardom. He performed as Foreign Man on Saturday Night Live and other prestigious night shows.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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