[SYNDICATION] The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts on job searching for introverts with Jopwell, a career advancement platform for individuals of color.  They specialize in providing inspiration and advice for Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and Native American job searchers, as well as posting positions.

It was a wonderful surprise to see that the article I wrote with them was syndicated to Business Insider, where it gained a larger audience and a lot of excitement. I share it with you here, and encourage you to give it a look. If you’re interested in its contents, I would direct you to my ebooks on the topic – one from the perspective of the searcher, the other geared toward hiring authorities – to supplement the knowledge.

screencap of syndication announcement on linkedin

Click the image above to see the article on Business Insider

SXSW 2017 in Review (via Storify)

As I sit in the airport on my final adventure back to Boston from Austin, I’m struck with the need to share what I’ve learned in the past week at South by Southwest. Too many responded to my assertion that this was my conference excursion for the season with, “That’s a conference?” Yes, it is a well-known music festival. Yes, it has expanded to also cover film, comedy, and technology/innovation. YES, it has way more fun stuff than many of the conferences I traditionally attend.

But it also featured some of the strongest and most thoughtful sessions I’ve had the opportunity to go in nearly a decade of professional conference-going. While I get my head around the rest of it, I invite you to peek at the learning I documented while in sessions via Storify. More reflection will follow, and the photos are on Instagram 🙂

SXSW Banner 1Shedding Light on Hidden Bias
with Robin Hauser (Finish Line Features), Britta Wilson (Pixar), Howard Ross (Cook Ross LLC), and Carl Horton (DELL)

SXSW Banner 2Don’t Dis My Ability
with Brittany Dejean (AbleThrive), Josh Gottesman (MassChallenge Israel), and Matan Koch (Capitalizability LLC)

SXSW Banner 3Get Out, Be In: What I’ve Learned Working Remotely
with David Weaver (Barkley, AccessCMO)

SXSW Banner 4A Dream Deferred: Undocumented Millennials
with Jason Finkelman (Finkelman Immigration Law), Ainee Athar (FWD.US), Saba Nafees (Texas Tech University), and Mayte Ibarra (UT-Austin)

SXSW Banner 5Research Universities Should Be Better at Startups
with Kerry Rupp (True Wealth Ventures), Bob Metcalfe (UT-Austin), and Gregory Fenves (UT-Austin)

SXSW Banner 6 (1)A New Era for College Towns
with Elana Fine (UMCP’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship), Eric Golman (JavaZen), Ken Ulman (UMCP), and Scott Plank (WarHorse LLC)

SXSW Banner 7Making People Accidentally Enjoy Learning
with Daniel O’Brien (Cracked), Keli Dailey (News Hangover), and Lloyd Ahlquist (Maker Studios)

SXSW Banner 8Entrepreneurship and Higher Education
with Seth Holloway (Salesforce), Chantal Pittman (Unique Influence Partners), and Connor Davidson (UT-Austin McCombs School of Business)

SXSW Banner 9#OTTNO: The Next Generation of Advocates
with Alexis Moncada (Feminist Culture), Kwame Rose, Maria Teresa Kumar (Voto Latino), and Daunnette Reyome

SXSW Banner 10Why Tech Should Lead on Diversity and Inclusion Now
with Melinda Epler and Wayne Sutton (both of ChangeCatalyst)

The Challenge Conflict Presents to Creativity

This spring, I’m focusing some of my speaking and consulting on helping organizations who are in conflict, resolve it and prevent it from constricting practices like organizational transition, goal setting, and strategic planning. Unresolved conflict presents a lot of issues to organizations: lost productivity, damaged professional relationships, and – most germane to the work I do – compromises creative potential.

As a strong advocate for creativity, I’ve focused a lot in the past year on the circumstances that foster it. At least two, collaboration, and allyship/advocacy, suffer when conflict lies unresolved among coworkers or within a department seeking to change its ways. So I was pleased to see this exact issue raised by Roger Fisher and William Ury (1983) in their theory of principled negotiation. In their Getting to Yes, they identify four challenges to the creativity needed to generate a number of options for solutions. They go on to offer techniques by which to combat these issues. I’ll be contextualizing them for the realm of student leadership, and also providing some strategies to help students enact them.

Obstacle #1: Premature Decisiveness
Fisher and Ury find that premature decisiveness, or coming to a conclusion too early, can stifle creativity. The rush that so many of us often feel to solve a problem means that the first workable solution, or the one shared by the most vocal member of the group, gets enacted with little questioning. What’s more, this strategy rewards the fastest thinker, but not always the most thorough or nuanced one. The potential result? New problems rising from the ashes of old, because their underlying issues weren’t identified in the initial dash.

Fisher and Ury recommend combatting this particular creative challenge by “separating invention from evaluation.” That is to say, keeping the ideation process, where multiple ideas are put on the table, separate from the narrowing process. A lack of this separation often burdens brainstorming to the point of demotivation, as a “Devil’s Advocate” or “Negative Nakia/Niccolo” can shoot down ideas as they’re presented. When looking to a solution, Fisher and Ury recommend delineating, and then observing, four different stages and types of thinking:

  • Statement of the issue;
  • Analysis of said issue;
  • Consideration of general approaches; and
  • Identification of specific actions.

By keeping these elements of the process distinct, and honoring that practice even when challenged by others in the room, a few things happen. First and foremost, it prevents the ideation stage (listed third here) to operate independently from the judgment and narrowing stage, by design. An additional benefit: the potential to hear multiple sides of an issue is preserved. Rushing through that first step often silences testimonies that allow issues to be multidimensional.

TRY IT: If your group is challenged by fully hearing ideas from individuals, for whatever reason, seeking to make the ideation process anonymous may help. Creating a time period that allows multiple viewpoints to be shared, and for those viewpoints to be shared without any stigma that individuals may carry, can bring out thoughts and suggestions that alternate circumstances may not. The analog version of this could be done through a “Suggestion Box” or Post-It wall type practice, or you could use digital tools like Attentiv, Candor, or even a Google Drive document or form to let stakeholders submit and discuss ideas anonymously.

Obstacle #2: Intent to Narrow
Closely related to Obstacle #1, intent to narrow means that participants may come to idea generating spaces looking to quickly hone in on a solution, any solution at all, and adjourn. When I work through the Design Thinking model in my workshops, I caution against this mindset and seek to illuminate its dangers. The one that I tend to focus on is the possibility of freezing out other stakeholders. The model prevents this by placing a key step between Discovery (the moment where one identifies a problem) and Ideation (the generation of potential solution), called Interpretation.

Interpretation of a problem acts as a buffer, by creating a space to interrogate the issue at hand. I describe it to students as the questioning phase, encouraging them to wonder: “who do we need to talk to, to get a full view of the issue?” Put another way, combat the intent to narrow with an explicit directive to widen, first.

TRY IT: As groups are seeking to solve a problem, encourage them to present a list of stakeholders, populations, or affected offices/departments/parties that should be consulted before any solutions are generated. They might find that the ideas they were considering will have an adverse impact on others, or that their solution might create a new problem for someone else. Alternate versions of the design thinking model name the first step as “empathy,” rather than “discovery,” and it’s that principle that this practice is aimed at. When you rush to conclusions, who does that affect and how?

Obstacle #3: Win-Lose Orientation
When conflicts are attacked with a win-lose orientation, the seeds for later conflict are sowed. It minimizes the miles of middle ground that exist for mutually satisfactory solutions, instead focusing on a “winner take all” mentality that decimates the “opposite” side…who will still have to be worked with, regardless.

Fisher and Ury recommend reinforcing the idea of shared interests as conflict resolution gets underway. It reminds me of a strategy that I learned from friends at a workshop a few years back, about how to say no in a way that preserves relationships. In their words, declining an act while honoring the shared ground upon which it was made, can help shape action without seeming combative or needlessly contrary. As an example, consider for a moment the decision to cut board member positions without seeing if there are general members or new students interested in filling them. Pushing back on this proposal may look like, “I appreciate your desire to streamline the organization and I also like to keep things simple, but…” In this way, there is an island of common ground placed between the “win” and “lose” territory.

TRY IT: In a manner that has echoes of a prior step in Fisher and Ury’s model (focusing on interest rather than position), preface any movement on conflict with a discussion of needs. Not just what you want from the end result, but why. What informs that want. What the backstory is. This humanizes the two (or more!) sides of the debate, grounds what might seem like abstract demands in a context that is essential for making decisions. Prompt this conversation with requests for storytelling about how the idea came to pass, a more detailed testimony of who the organization serves, and even a frank conversation about where blindspots might lie: “who or what can you admit you’re not seeing?”

Obstacle #4: Abdication of Responsibility
In positions of conflict, it’s common for the party who believes they’re not causing a problem to yield responsibility, saying they “didn’t do anything,” “it’s not our fault,” or “why should we have to fix this?” But for the sake of organizational health, this can be a damaging mindset to perpetuate.

Fisher and Ury recommend combatting this mindset by thinking about potential solutions in a way that address and honor the needs of the other side. Then, craft a proposal for a conflict resolution that combines each party’s needs and wants. To briefly come back to obstacle #3, this is an added defense against win-lose thinking. The best scenario will address the needs of both sides; having the information to know what they think and need, can help you frame your own argument in a way that is most likely to go over well. This empathetic strategy can help mitigate some of the single-minded thinking that abdicating responsibility tends to perpetuate.

TRY IT: Prior to making proposals for solutions, have each side summarize what they believe the other side’s needs are. Then, allow each side to clarify what their needs are, encouraging conversation about where misunderstandings or misinterpretations may arise. This will require a strong implementation of Fisher and Ury’s first point of the theory (“Separate people from the problem”), but can be done civilly if the group in question adheres to ground rules of openness, civility, and focus on the task.

In summary, creativity can be hampered mightily in the face of conflict. But by working through these issues en route to new solutions, a landscape can be created where new ideas arise even – especially! – when leadership doesn’t always see eye to eye. By ensuring that the underlying needs of conflicting parties are clearly articulated, measures are put in place to ensure that ideas can be heard on their own merit, and that the requisite amount of time is taken to investigate an issue before solving it, some of the points of collision can be smoothed over, clearing a path to a future that looks quite different from the status quo.

[PODCAST] NACA’s 212°F Series: Campus Activities in the Age of President Trump

In addition to my cohosting duties with the ladies of The Imposters podcast, I am also the host of the National Association for Campus Activities‘ 212°F: Hot Topics on Campus series. This initiative was developed to create a space for discussing and dissecting current events that impact the work of campus activities professionals. After several outings as an online webcast, we’ve adapted to a podcast format- and our first edition in the new medium surrounded “Campus Activities in the Age of President Trump.”

Join me, along with panelists Randy Flowers (Baker University), Katie Winstead Reichner (Christopher Newport University), and James Thomas (DePaul University) as we explore how the recent change in power has affected our interactions with students, the nature of programming, and the policies that impact our offices and institutions.

Thanks, as always, to Telesia Davis and Kayla Brennan at NACA, who tapped me for this always fun and insightful role.

[PODCAST] Advocating for Introverts, Online Community Building and Creating Relatable Content on “Josie and the Podcast”

I am so pleased to share with you the first 2017 edition of “Josie and the Podcast,” hosted by my dear friend and outstanding scholar Josie Ahlquist, featuring yours truly! As the title would imply, we talk a bit about empowering introverts both face to face and in the online space, why I think creativity is so important, and some of the wizardry that goes into developing useful and engaging content. Also, Questlove and Hamilton come up. Because why not?

And to Josie, my partner in “defector-style” work: thank you so much for having me on the podcast- happy to do so again anytime!

Listen to Episode 9 of Josie and the Podcast Here!

[INTERVIEW] 820AM Tampa Bay: On SNL, Trump, and Immigration

Earlier this week, I was invited on 820AM Tampa Bay’s “Your Wake Up Call” to talk about my recent Interrobang article, “Time to Dump Trump on SNL?” In it, I talk with hosts Chris Fisher and Kurt Shriner about their portrayal over the course of his campaign, what it represents, and why I chose to take this stance. Later on, we talked about the early chaos of the immigration ban and how it played out for me as an immigrant and as the child of immigrants.

Listen to the full interview at NewsTalkFlorida


Coming This Thursday: NILC Readathon


Donate now to the NILC Readathon

The Goal: Raise money for the National Immigration Law Center, an organization

exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants.

At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S.—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we’ve been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of polices that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive.

The Method: As with so many other things, to me the answer was in a book.

For the month of February, I’ll be doing a readathon to benefit the National Immigration Law Center, a group seeking to defend the rights of those needing legal representation on their path to becoming American.

My reading will seek to center the voices of:

-Female and GNC writers;
-Writers of color;
-LGBTQ+ writers;
-Writers who identify as immigrants or first-generation Americans; or
-International writers whose work has made an impact in the United States

I invite you to donate whatever you can to this project. You can donate a “per book” number or a lump sum, and I’ll aim to keep the fundraiser open for a few days of March in case anyone wants to donate based on how far I get. Will you join me?


Here is the goal list of books I hope to carry on my journey with me. If you know of any books I should add to this list, let me know via the form at the bottom!

  • Amistad, Walter Dean Myers
  • Einstein on Race and Racism, Fred Jerome
  • Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
  • The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  • I Am Malala, Malala Yousefzai
  • Immigrant America, Alejandro Portes
  • My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
  • Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, Angela Davis
  • No Land’s Man, Aasif Mandvi
  • Trans* in College, Z Nicolazzo
  • Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
  • Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
  • Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You, Kunal Nayyar
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • Sons and Other Flammable Objects, Porochista Khakpour

My Best Reads of 2016

Over sixty books this year. Whew. No time to review them all, but I did want to share a few recs for my most impactful and enjoyable reads. Click on each book for more about why it made the list, let me know what you enjoyed, and check out the full list if you’re looking for more!

My Best Laughs of 2016

The summer of 2016 brought me a silly but welcome challenge: writing a joke a day for 100 days as part of Elle Luna’s 100 Day Project. Despite being a prolific (if nothing else) writer, writing with the aim of humor has always proved to be a considerable, but always worthy, challenge. Writing on days where I was tired, or busy, or not feeling funny, gave me even more respect for some of the best jokes I know and giggle at.

So, as a means of rewarding the hard – and superior – work that surrounds me, I am sharing with you my list of outstanding laughs that 2016 put forth. I can’t/don’t want to play favorites, so they’re in alphabetical order. Check them out!

Ali Wong, Baby Cobra (Netflix)
The press would have you believe that the revolutionary part of this special is that Ali performs it while seven months pregnant. And while that’s true, it’s among the less interesting parts of her hilarious hour. Her jokes about bathroom stall dominance, countering Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in” argument, and wishes to eat mango sliced by white people are hysterical.

The revolutionary part of this to me, as someone who knows several women who have struggled to have kids, was for her to write and tell jokes about those struggles. The revolutionary part wasn’t that she did this while pregnant, but that she used such a public forum to talk about how hard it was to get that way. And that matters. Infertility is both fairly common and wildly underreported, so I appreciated – and laughed at – her successful efforts to make these circumstances funny. As she says, “it’s super common, and I wish more women would talk about it so they wouldn’t feel so bad when they go through it.” Glad you did, Ali, and in such an accessible way.

Aparna Nancherla, Just Putting It Out There (Secretly Canadian)
Aparna Nancherla speaks for me. Her ruminations on struggling to work from home, moving awkwardly within office norms, and struggling with anxiety were a comforting reminder that other women out in the world are ill-at-ease in their own skin, but managing to do big things and make their mark on the world anyway. It’s especially comforting to know that this is true of another woman of color; we don’t typically get that opportunity.

I was familiar with her writing and supporting work, including the criminally underwatched Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. But this album was an exciting discovery. I look forward to making a live outing to see her part of my 2017.

Atlanta– “B.A.N.” season 1, episode 7 (FX)
Atlanta is something special. In a year that has given us a few examples that confound black TV portrayals and black humor (see also: Insecure), the surrealism and quiet humor of Donald Glover’s brainchild hit me just perfectly. Of the ten episodes released this year, “B.A.N.” is my favorite for its stark departure from its surroundings. Beyond a “bottle episode,” “B.A.N.” moves into “concept episode” territory, taking on the gestalt of a public access show about black issues. And as the sole thread between this alternate format and the show’s regular happenings, Brian Tyree Henry (as Alfred “Paperboi” Miles) plays it perfectly.

The humor is niche, to be sure, but it’s also spot-on for those familiar with the genre. It takes on the falsely combative nature of talking head television, while also poking at cultural and identity appropriation. Like the invisible car or black Justin Bieber from other episodes of the show, Atlanta cements its status as newly representative and wholly original with this episode.

Chris Redd in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
There aren’t a lot of people who have paid money for a Lonely Island album. There are even fewer who have done it more than once. But that’s who I am. So from the first mention of Popstar, I was already sold. Combine that with the fact that my honors thesis was on documentary filmmaking, including mockumentaries, and you’d think they basically made a movie for me.

This was a midweek, midday movie outing with my sister- one that allowed us to be alone in the theater, and therefore react authentically. Turns out, our authentic reaction was heaving, sobbing laughter for the duration. And the surprise source of many of those laughs was Chris Redd’s Hunter the Hungry, a bombastic and underhanded (or is he? I don’t know!) rapper who joins Connor 4 Real’s tour. I need Redd to go places. There were rumors he’d be joining SNL this year that, sadly, proved to be untrue; let’s fix this, Hollywood? Please?

Dan Soder, Not Special (Comedy Central)
When your favorite comedians recommend someone’s work, listen to them. This is how, in early May, I happened upon Dan Soder. I listened to it for the first time during the intermission of a hockey game, and got caught up enough in the laughs to miss parts of the game. And those who know me recognize that that is a big deal.

This album is comfortable in the best of ways, like a hoodie- a comparison I’d like to think Dan would appreciate. It’s my go-to album when I need a giggle, and anyone who’s been in a car with me over the past six months has been made to listen to it. You can ask, I’ve got references. As someone who loves stories and appreciates their power to bring people together, Dan’s easy conversational style appeals to me. You’ll feel the same. How do I know? Try listening to Not Special, and then seeing how many daily occurrences make you giggle afterward. Guys in tank tops. Abandoned cell phones in cabs. Crying at videos of unlikely animal pairings.

Dave Chappelle monologue, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
I believe my exact words projected to the world via Twitter when I learned that Chappelle would be hosting SNL were “AMMA’S NOT HERE ANYMORE SHE IS DEAD.” After so many years of following Chappelle – yes, even when we lost him to Africa for a bit – it was a dream come true to see him take on Studio 8H (serious question: did they lure him there with the promise of A Tribe Called Quest, or was their appearance part of his terms to do it? Anyone know?).

His monologue had the feel of his standup, which wasn’t a given when you consider the nature of his language and what the FCC tends to allow. It felt unfiltered and true to him, and that tenor was precisely what I needed on the Saturday after a historic and earth-shaking election.The full episode echoed with his frank and critically observational style of writing. I needed his perspective, and I’m so glad that SNL gave him the freedom to provide it in his own way- and I’m so glad that Netflix will be giving him the stage three times in the years ahead. We need you, man.

David S. Pumpkins, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
I can’t explain why this one tickles me as it does. I have no explanation. All I know is that the song was stuck in my head for a solid week, and I laughed harder every time I watched it. And the fact that it was Tom Hanks’ actual Halloween costume? My God.

Hasan Minhaj, Homecoming King
This is one of two live performances that made this list, which is likely remarkable given how much live comedy I consume. And Hasan earned it. The Daily Show correspondent crafted an engaging, emotional, and incredibly funny one-man-show talking about his experience as a first generation American. And from the transformation of his relationship with his younger sister, to dismaying experience “dating white” in high school, the full ninety minutes felt intimately familiar. It stuck with me for days. Because while I hear relatively few stories like his, or like mine, they exist in huge numbers- and I love that Minhaj created a companion space for those stories online. If you have the opportunity to see this show, get there. It’s amazing, no matter who you are.


Josh Gondelman, Physical Whisper (Rooftop Comedy)
I consider myself to be a  reasonably kind person, and Josh exceeds my kindness by an embarrassing measure. And whereas most stereotypes of comedy imply shades of rudeness or even meanness, Josh manages to be wildly funny and profoundly nice at once. Wherever his writing is – Last Week Tonight, Twitter, or a terse email to a nemesis – is a happier place.

Physical Whisper is a pleasure of an album to listen to, touching on the quirks of family members and our friends at fancy events in a way that is so relatable.  As an example, I haven’t been to a wedding where this bit didn’t come to mind since the first time I heard it. So get it, listen to it, love it. It comes on cassette!

Lady Dynamite, “Jack and Diane”- season 1, episode 4 (Netflix)
I’ve written before about why I love what Maria Bamford did with Lady Dynamite. It was something I needed to see this year to deal with my own stuff. And there are so many episodes that caught my attention that could have landed on this list (give “White Trash,” “Bisexual Because of Meth,” and “Mein Ramp” a watch). But I love the episode in question (a) because it explicitly calls out how introverts fake fun at parties, and (b) a relationship ends because someone doesn’t find farts funny. Farts are funny. I’ll carry that opinion to the grave.

In a larger sense, I needed to see Maria Bamford joke about her mental illness for the same reason I and so many other women needed to see Ali Wong joke about infertility. It legitimized humor as a viable way to cope and heal for me, in a way that I desperately needed. And being able to count jokes about my anxiety as part of my hundred, came in large part because of what I saw them do. And going into the year ahead and years to come, I plan to continue laughing through it. Why the hell not, right?

Last Man on Earth, “You’re All Going to Diet” -season 3, episode 3
Last Man on Earth is a quietly hilarious staple of FOX’s Sunday night lineup- but anything that allows the minds of Clone High creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller to run free, I’m on board with. It challenges the viewer by blending legitimate drama and serious topics, with a silliness that allows it to hold its title as a comedy.

This moment, from earlier this fall, brought me to sobbing, gut-cramping tears. Easily my heartiest laugh of the 2016-2017 TV season to date. Like David S. Pumpkins, I couldn’t really explain why if pushed to use my words. But it’s the fact that moments like this can exist on a show that’s about a civilization-ending plague and the loneliness that presents, that forced my hand in adding it to this list (and yes, it was the last one added despite its relative middle positioning). So watch it. Love it. And keep it from getting cancelled because I have terrible luck in that way.

Matthew Broussard, pedantic. (Comedy Central)
I’m smart enough to recognize that most of the jokes that we see on specials or in albums originated long before we see them. And the benefit of a line of work that lets me watch comedians develop, is that you get to celebrate when they get the recognition they rightfully deserve. Whip-smart and wildly talented Matthew Broussard got that this year, and I refuse to stop talking about it.

pedantic. is an accurate portrayal of the Matthew I’ve come to know: self-aware and unapologetic in nerdiness, and yet accessibly hilarious. Yes, he knows that his face makes it a surprising development. But stick with him- you’ll laugh AND most assuredly learn something.

Michael Che, Michael Che Matters (Netflix)
Most people’s Black Friday was dedicated to a hasty return to Stars Hollow. Mine was spent watching this special, more than once. As a longtime SNL fan, this was going to be a must-watch for me regardless, but those only familiar with Che through the Update desk will find something new and hopefully entertaining about his one-hour outing with Netflix. His “Black Lives Matter” and 9/11 joke has gotten all the attention, but I’m a bigger fan of his arc on women taking hats at clubs to dance.

Che’s matter-of-fact delivery and willingness to tackle tough topics is in some ways like his Update stints that come into our home on a weekly basis, and yet there’s an element of freedom from his surroundings that feels palpable as he tackles topics like Jesus’ carpentry record, his desire to be best friends with Donald Trump, and phrases that only white people can say. For me, it was a welcome addition to my go-to stable of standup specials, and I recommend you give it a watch.

The Characters, “Natasha Rothwell” season 1, episode 5 (Netflix)
“Riddle me this! Why are you dressed for the job you have, instead of the job you want?” Tynesha, the precocious kid sent home from school is only one of the fantastic personas that Natasha dons during her half-hour turn on The Characters. Her outspoken and well-read hobo, her cadre of jury duty candidates, and willing girlfriend of “Black Bernie Madoff” Tyson Beckford pack her episode with so many outstanding moments, I can’t even name them all here. Rothwell just got upped to series regular on Insecure, and I can’t wait to see more of her. She may identify as a basic bitch, but I’m fine with it- she’s a genuine joy.

Two Dope Queens podcast (WNYC)
If you’re reading this, Jessica and Phoebe, couple things. Thank you for Two Dope Queens- it’s a welcome refuge for a black female standup geek, which up until you hit the block I was made to believe was on par with being an actual unicorn. Thank you for hitting upon the challenges of my late twenties and early thirties with equal shares of humor and critical truth. Thank you for introducing me to some of my new favorite comedians, and for introducing some of my favorite comedians to the rest of the world. And do you want to hang out when you’re in Boston? We can get nachos and walk around near the water.

I had the opportunity to see Two Dope Queens live in August, and it was such a fun experience. There was a dog there! I laughed so hard! And I got to watch Jordan Carlos crush a set- on the day that he learned of The Nightly Show’s cancellation. As odd as it might sound, that was the best part to see. Eight hours after crushing news, Jordan got onstage and killed it. Blew me away. It was a great reminder of how powerful humor can be- yes, when it’s easy to be funny, but also when it’s hard. Can’t wait to do it again in January!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt– “Kimmy Goes to a Play!” season 2, episode 3 (Netflix)
I won’t say much more about this one, because I have written about it before. But I bring it up to reinforce the idea that some laughs can be explicitly designed to encourage you to ask questions. What was designed to be a throwaway joke about Aisha Tyler on Friends, thumped me in the chest hard. This conversation ensued (internally):


“What’s going on with you?”

“That felt weird.”

“Yeah? Why?”

“Doesn’t feel weird to assume Aisha Tyler was white.”


“Because she isn’t!”

“Yeah, I know. But why would Kimmy have come to that conclusion?”

“Oh, I don’t know, the whole rest of Friends’ run? There weren’t many other black people, so her reasoning was that they must have just assumed she wasn’t”

“Yup. And what was that about, by the way? Where in New York was that even possible?”

“Not now, you’re watching something, remember?” 

As I go into 2017, particularly since the grant work I’ll be doing means I’ll be watching A LOT MORE COMEDY, I plan to engage with it in ways that lean into the challenge of tough jokes. More from the previous post:

I think problematic comedy can be good. Now, unlike the Internet commenter refusing to get to the end, hear me out here. Well crafted jokes, ones not purely out for shock or amateurishly slapped together, can provoke thought and encourage the listener to examine their behavior. A joke that you struggle with is telling you something, whether you’re ready and able to hear it or not. But there are two sides to that process, and that means the listener has to be willing to rumble with it a bit.

Special Commendation: Rogue Island Comedy Festival
This past October, I spent three days in Newport, RI, watching a fantastic and diverse slate of comedians show their best stuff in one of my favorite cities. I would’ve spent four, but I had a thing…never mind. The brainchild of comedians Doug Key and Rob Greene and supported by an incredibly kind and competent support team, RICF attracts top-level local talent while also bringing national acts to a town that doesn’t always get to see them. And frankly, the commendation designation is only because I can’t identify a favorite moment. Too much good to rank! Only in its second year, I can’t wait to see how it’ll continue to grow. Try and get rid of me, guys. I’m just gonna keep coming 🙂

Coming next week: this, but with books. Stay tuned!

BONUS: a few of my favorite #100dayproject jokes. Maybe not the best ones, but my favorites!

From “You Had to Be There” to “You Have to Hear This”

We’ve all said it, and I’m sure many of us have fallen victim to it. A friend, family member or colleague comes to us with a story they’re eager to tell. They start strong (or not, that happens to), but the story starts to fall apart as they forget things, stumble over the delivery, or leave out crucial details, finally trailing off with “you had to be there.”

When I started working with the students at Startup Institute Boston over the summer, I decided to harness the lessons of this infuriating phenomenon for good. I see these students in the fifth week of their eight-week bootcamp program, just before they start making contact with prospective employers and network with people who could be their future colleagues and bosses. And as I think about the nature of these “you had to be there” stories, they have some instructive elements that could help those who struggle in networking, job interview, and other scenarios dependent on connection.

I have them break into groups (typically the ones they use for a separate project they work on), and have them rotate telling the story of something funny that happened to them. I focus less on having them tell a joke, and more on a funny occurrence, because many are intimidated by the burden of having to be funny on command. After they move around the group, I have them designate a “winner” in the circle, and talk through why that person’s attempt was so successful.


This is where the connections start to come together. All the stories we tell one another, no matter the goal (educational, entertainment, informative) are sensitive in a number of ways. And the best ones are brief enough to hold the listener’s attention for their duration, detailed but not exhaustively so, and invite minimal clarifying questions. I encourage students to tell stories with humor as a goal, because funny stories are especially sensitive to missing details; in the absence of these details, they don’t “land.” For anyone desiring to make a good impression, being able to master sharing information in this fashion is crucial; as such, I like this exercise for students (or anyone!) needing to be compelling because it can help them refine strategy.

This conversation, for them, is framed in terms of temperament because each “side” can help the other when participating in this refinement. Introverts, with their natural neural proficiency for listening, can invite meaningful clarifying questions and encourage their extroverted counterparts to include key details while leaving out or changing less important ones. And extroverts, who find more comfort in verbal expression, can coach their introverted counterparts on details of delivery like tone or accompanying body language. Together, working to practice and prepare in advance of high-stakes scenarios, each side can prove highly advantageous to its opposite.

If you’re interested in doing a version of this with your friends, classmates, colleagues, or students, here are a few tips to harness the power of “you had to be there”:

  • Provide individuals time to come up with a story; this story can be about anything, but I find that the exercise is particularly effective if its goal is humor. The few minutes of think time will reduce the particular conversational tics that come with a lack of preparedness. Further, this underscores the idea that one should not go into any scenario where an impression is being made – an interview, a networking social, even speed dating – unprepared.
  • Let each individual tell their story, noting their tone and body language. Sharing focus across words, tone, and body language is crucial for first impressions, because those meeting you will have little else to judge you on.
  • After the story is told, share the questions that arose during it. The storyteller can choose to answer them or not, but it’s important to note the nature of the questions and the bearing of their answers on the final results. For extroverts, their “external processing” tendency may mean that they talked past an important detail without realizing its role in the understanding of the story. Conversely, for introverts who process inwardly, they may have skipped a crucial detail verbally while addressing it mentally. By sharing the questions that arise during these stories, we can pinpoint our individual weaknesses and address them in service of a good final story.
  • Continue to refine the story, addressing questions that arise along the way, and checking in with your “counterpart” or “wingperson” to assess clarity and effectiveness.

What are the qualities of a good storyteller that you admire? What is your favorite story to tell, and why?