Judy Carter is a legendary comedian turned keynote speaker, who graced the Hollywood comedy club scene with all of the legends in the 70’s and 80’s, sharing the stage with the likes of Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, to then headlining as a stand-up comic in Vegas and Atlantic City, and as an opening act for performers like Prince.
Judy has performed on over 100 TV shows and is the author of six books. She even wrote the Bible. Not a joke, she wrote the (Simon and Schuster) bestseller “The Comedy Bible,” and The NEW Comedy Bible released in 2020, printed in 12 languages.
Judy’s proven methods are legendary among today’s top performers. Alumni of her workshops include: Seth Rogan, Hannah Gadsby, and Sherri Sheppard, among others. And as Lily Tomlin says, “Judy Carter helps others find their authentic persona and communicate in a way that makes audiences laugh.” Interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on her show, she said, “Judy Carter can show you how to make your sense of humor pay off.”
Judy’s journey, from a headlining standup comic to becoming an in-demand corporate speaker, and coining the phrase Motivational Humorist, is incredible! Judy hilariously performs and speaks as an expert on topics like leadership and communication techniques, as well as finding purpose and stress reduction. She’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, on Oprah, and as a frequent contributor to NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
For more info on Judy or to book her to speak: https://www.calentertainment.com/port…
Listen to the podcast here
Get Funny With Judy Carter
Joining us is Judy Carter, a legendary comedian turned keynote speaker who graced the Hollywood comedy club scene with all of the legends in the ’70s and ’80s. She’s sharing the stage with the likes of Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld to then headlining as a stand-up in Vegas and Atlantic City, and as an opening act for performers like Prince. Judy has performed on over 100 TV shows and is the author of six books. She even wrote the Bible. It’s not a joke. She wrote the Simon & Schuster bestseller, The Comedy Bible and The NEW Comedy Bible released in 2020.
Judy’s proven methods are legendary among today’s top performers. Alumni of her workshops include Seth Rogen, Hannah Gadsby, Sherri Shepherd, among others. As Lily Tomlin says, “Judy Carter helps others find their authentic persona and communicate it in a way that makes audiences laugh.” Interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on her show, she said, “Judy Carter can show you how to make your sense of humor pay off.”
From a headlining stand-up comic to becoming an in-demand corporate speaker who coined the phrase Motivational Humorist, Judy hilariously performs and speaks as an expert on leadership and communication techniques, as well as purpose and stress reduction. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, on Oprah, and as a frequent contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered. Please join me now with the legendary Judy Carter.
Judy Carter, thank you for joining me here on the show. How are you doing?
It’s still pandemic and still in the house. I wish we can meet in person but it’s great to talk to you.
You’re always fun in person. I love watching your videos of the performances that you give as a speaker and as a motivational humorist, which is a term you may have coined. Am I giving you too much credit?
I’m going to take all that credit. Why not?
Your story is amazing. The more and more I find out and learn about you, the more it gets exciting and interesting. You started out on the Sunset Strip as a comedian in The Comedy Store. Is that right?
That’s right. I started off as a comic. At this time, it was The Comedy Store and a woman was running it. You know her, Mitzi Shore. She passed away.
She’s Pauly Shore’s mom.
I never thought I would hear that. She didn’t even have a liquor license. Those were the days where she go and Mitzi talked like that, “Judy, I need you to do a show tonight.” “Mitzi, I can’t do it every night.” “I don’t have any comics.” Now, everybody and your gynecologist are comics like, “Here’s your pap smear. Come see me, I’m performing it.” Back then, there weren’t many comics. It’s not like now where people line up forever.
Who were your peers? Who was performing with you in those days that you were friendly with?
My buddies were Robin Williams, Jay Leno, Elayne Boosler, and Jerry Seinfeld. We all went through it together. It was on that stage that helped me become what I am now, which is a corporate speaker. It’s because we had to work with all sorts of different audiences. You and I are from California, and you do a corporate gig. What works in New York or California might not work in Alabama or South Carolina.
It’s interesting because we had many different kinds of audiences. Sometimes there would be a bus tour of religious groups and all sorts of things. It taught me, “How do I work that audience in front of me?” That’s so important when you have a corporate gig and they want to laugh. You and I know that you can’t say what you say in a comedy club at a corporate gig.
I had one comedian who did this. He was very famous. He did his first-ever corporate gig and he said the F-word many times. The client was like, “What the heck is going on here?” He wrote them an apology and he said, “I could have not said the F-word at all in my routine, but that’s what I normally do.” His manager was like, “I’m so sorry. I forgot to tell him what corporate meant.” You’re funny. The great thing about you is as a motivational humorist, you do customize better and more than even regular speakers do. You go into the trials and tribulations of your audiences and you help them laugh about it.There's always a way to get to any audience. Click To Tweet
I’ve been doing a lot of gigs in healthcare. I did one at Caesars with 1,000 surgical technologists. Here’s the thing about the people in the audience. There’s a difference between being lectured to and the speaker is like, “You’ve got to follow your dream. You’ve got to do this.” Don’t tell people what they got to do. What I do is I call up people in the audience before the gig and I say, “Tell me what’s a bad day,” and they’ll give me all this insider information. The beautiful thing about it is I make my speech about them. It’s like a surgical technologist. I said, “Were there signs in childhood that you were going to be a surgical technologist or you were the one going, ‘Cover me. Get off that slide. I haven’t sterilized it yet?'” It hits a home run because it’s about them.
I do a whole thing about their acronyms. People in corporate do not speak with full words. There are a lot of acronyms. I like getting a list of everybody’s acronyms. I’m like, “Here are the top ten ways you know you’re stressed,” and then I’ll do like, “You stay in a bad marriage because you can’t handle training anybody new.” They crack up because it’s about them. That’s how I found out going from the standup comedy stage where you talk about anything, to the Corporate World, where the audiences look at you and go, “Is that appropriate? Is HR laughing? If HR is laughing, I’ll laugh. Is it okay? I don’t want to lose my job.” It’s a little tricky but I figured it out.
There are many other humorists who owe it all to you in many ways because they saw you or you paved the way for that type of speaker. I want to go back quickly to the comedy life that you had as a comedian. There was one video that I uncovered on my own one day. You were opening for a band or a huge name in a big arena. I thought it was so cool. I know you must have done a lot of that. Tell us a little bit about a couple of the big gigs that you had as a comedian.
I traveled with Prince and that was hard. They told me, “His audience won’t like you. You’re going to bum.” I went, “There’s always a way to crack open any audience.” It was at the Roxy on Sunset. Everybody was standing in line. It was ultra cool people. I got out there while they were standing in line and I pretended to be a blind accordion player. I played the same song on the accordion over and over again. The line starts to move and they go, “Thank God, we don’t have to listen to that. That was terrible.” They all go in, order their drinks and go, “We’re going to see Prince.” Everybody goes, “Yeah.” “Opening the show is Judy Carter.” I came out with the accordion and the entire audience said, “Oh shit.” I had them in the palm of my hands. I started my act before they came in because I knew there was something. There’s always a way to get to any audience.
You wrote the book, The Comedy Bible.
I’ve written books. This is a good story. This is so weird. It was a time in my life where I was down. My mom had died and I didn’t want to do comedy anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I quit in the middle of the tour. It’s not an easy life for a girl being a comic. I’m always on the road, always by yourself, and always getting knocked and heckled when you go on date. I thought I would get a job but I have no job skills. I rented an office with an office share. I went there every day. People said, “What do you do?” I said, “Nothing.” They assumed I was in management.
I started typing for this girl and she said, “You should write a book.” I wrote this book on how to do comedy. It was rejected by 59 agents, and number 60, I never gave up. Nobody wants to know how to learn how to do comedy. It was a book about how to turn your problems into punchlines and do comedy. The next thing you know, Random House published it. The next thing you know, I got a call from Oprah Winfrey’s TV show. They said, “We like to have her on and interview her. We didn’t know you could teach people how to be funny.”
I went on that show and that’s when I did my first corporate gig because I didn’t know they existed. It was for the fresh produce company or something. I don’t know. I remember a dancing avocado next to me. Who knows? I went, “Do you know how I do my act? Do you want me to talk about lightening up and humor techniques for the office?” They go, “Yes.” I went, “Really? I don’t have to stay in a comedy condo and you’re going to pay me what?” The occupation isn’t there on career day in high school.
What did Oprah say to you? Had she read the book? Was she excited about it and implementing some of your teachings?
I don’t think Oprah needs to implement any of my teachings. She can choose to do just fine on her own. She said, “My guest, Judy Carter, wrote this book.” She held up the book right there next to her face. She said, “Judy can make anyone funny and here she is.” Anything held next to Oprah becomes successful. The next thing you know, everybody wanted to study with me and my students have now all gone on a hugely successful career. Seth Rogen started in my class. Hannah Gadsby, I did a tour of Australia because my book has come out in Australia. She won two Emmys for her Netflix specials. Sherri Shepherd, Master Ronnie, the list goes on and on of the people who have taken the class.
Now, it has been amazing. I like to look at the positive side of things. During this pandemic, I’ve connected with many people from other countries. I don’t think I would have had that opportunity. Comedy is becoming huge. My book ushered in the comedy boom of the ’80s where everything turned to comedy clubs. Everybody was opening a comedy club. Everyone wants to be a comic housewife. They want to be a comic dentist if you’re a funny dentist. Now, that boom is happening in places. I sold the rights to Mongolia, Taiwan and Russia.
We need humor in life. We need to laugh at this time more than ever.
What’s interesting to me and beautiful is that no matter what country anybody lives in, humor is something that connects us all. American humor is a bit different from the humor in China. They don’t necessarily find shame funny. The American humor is, “I can’t seem to lose weight.” People aren’t used to revealing. They’re more like, “Tell a joke.” What I show people is that you have a choice in life. You can get stressed out and drink or you can laugh and drink.When you laugh at a problem, you have some power over it. Click To Tweet
That’s what I teach in the corporate. I go like, “You’re not in a miserable marriage. It’s comedy material. You don’t have the boss from hell. It’s a heckler and here’s how you handle that.” It’s interesting to me that when I do corporate, I’m not going to tell people, “Quit your job and become a comic.” That’s not what I’m there for. I find that they appreciate that information that when you laugh at a problem, you have some power over it.
You have a choice. I love your line. You said, “My kid didn’t get arrested on Cops. He is in entertainment.”
The setup for that was, “There’s nothing you can’t turn into comedy. My son wasn’t arrested drunk on the TV show, Cops. I have a relative in show business.” Someone said that comedy is tragedy plus time. There comes a point when you maybe need to move on from the pain and find a target for your humor. Humor gets people in trouble for making fun of other people, other races, and all of that stuff. It’s a tough time with comedy now.
It’s all the politically correct movement and all that. You’ve done probably more gigs than almost anybody I know. You’ve done thousands of speaking engagements. I know that to be a fact. You’ve been featured by The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN and everybody with your books. I’m curious. What is the feedback that you have gotten from the corporate world? What is it that they say afterwards that touched you that you didn’t think you were going to hear or that you weren’t expecting?
I’m certainly appreciative when they go, “We have a problem. Who are we going to get next year?” I say, “Call Chris Lee.” That will be hard but they will find someone. When I first started doing this, there weren’t a lot of women doing it. They said, “We’re so tired of having football players.” The one thing hard for a comic is doing something not funny. I started to tell some personal stories that weren’t that funny from my life like closing with it.
Sometimes it’s like the effect that I’ve had on somebody or talking about growing up with my disabled sister. I would tell a story and I wasn’t getting laughs, but I could feel something else. I felt from the audience that they were so moved. Afterwards, a lot of times, I’ll have a book signing. I noticed that when I told jokes without a poignant story, they would go, “We loved you. You were great,” but they go, “You really touched me.” They wanted to share their life and talk about things from their life. I went, “I’m doing something right. I’m getting past entertainment into truly moving people.”
It’s touching in a different kind of way. I noticed, which is not good during COVID, that they all wanted to hug me like, “You were great. Slap my shoulders.” They wanted to have a connection with me because I connected with them. That’s when I wrote this book called The Message of You. I wrote it because I feel that we all have a strong message in our lives like an essential message. I’ve been working with a lot of speakers to help them find it. I did a TED Talk on it. That was the one you helped me get, which was a big deal for me because it helped me solidify what I’m talking about.
The word message came to me and I said, “You can’t spell message without a “mess,” the first four letters of the word message. You can’t see that mess without “age.” Mess-age and you have your message. I discovered that our process in life, all of us, is to be more of truly who we are like our authentic self. That has been my goal in life. That seems to be what I’m headed towards now when I speak to people. I feel when I’m more myself, people that are more themselves. It has become an honor to have this job. It’s spectacular.
That sounds like leadership. These are great points and lessons for leaders. For anybody who is working with other people on a team, whether virtually or in person. That’s a strong message.
I never thought of that. I haven’t done a lot of leadership.
I’m going to think more of you in leadership as well because these are great traits and lessons for leaders. Leadership is a word that I hear a lot. My clients are looking for speakers who can talk about leadership and who are experts on it and you certainly are.
Humor and personal stories are great ways to inspire others.
Storytelling is the other thing.
Storytelling is very strong. Storytelling with humor is good and then ending with a strong message. It’s so great to go to places I never go. I have a gig in Des Moines. No one ever goes, “I want to go on a vacation. Let’s go to Des Moines.” Nobody ever, “I got a couple of weeks off. Let’s hit Nebraska or Grand Forks, North Dakota.”Comedy is tragedy plus time. There comes a point when you need to move on from the pain and find a target for your humor. Click To Tweet
You know that when you’re there, the people are going to be unbelievable and so great.
Those places have become such a great experience of meeting people. I feel that there’s such a divide between people, political divides and cultural divides. Everybody seems so angry. When we share a story or a laugh with somebody, it profoundly connects us to them.
That’s why comedians, comedy, fun, funniness, laughing and humor are so important to the planners in the events. They know that no matter who you’re sitting next to, even music can create, “I don’t like that kind of music. Country, R&B or rock are not for me. I’m more this kind of guy or gal.” With humor, this one funny thing in the room can easily make everybody connect and say, “I love that,” because we’re all living the same life. Even though we try and divide ourselves, we’re all living the life of human beings. What was it that made you write The NEW Comedy Bible? Did you talk about some of these in there?
I have to tell you my luck. The Comedy Bible came out on September 12, 2001. That’s when I launched a comedy tour.
I thought your book was not even before that.
That was another one, but that was 9/11. That was like I’m launching a comedy tour after one of America’s largest tragedies. How the hell am I going to pull that off? I started my show. I remember September 12th. There we are and I went, “Let’s have a moment.” I started with a moment and then I go, “These terrorists can take away those buildings and lives. I’ll be damned that they’re going to take away my sense of humor.” Everybody applauded. We started to ease into it and then we had a good time. Levity is no longer something that just happens. It seems like we do have to make a bit of an effort now and a little drink.
The new book, The NEW Comedy Bible, what was the reason behind that?
My old book had things in it like, “Bill Cosby is such a wonderful legend. Louis C.K. is someone to emulate.” I went, “It’s time to write a new book.” It’s not even just an update. I totally rewrote it and I’m glad I did. I wrote it with an international audience in mind. Now, it’s being released in twelve different languages. I’m excited about that.
Is that book also for people who are not aspiring comedians to read? What would they get out of it?
Let’s face it. We all think our life is a joke. Comedy is a bunch of formulas. Everybody wants to be funny. When my first book came out, National Public Radio set a challenge, “You say you can make anyone funny. We’re going to find the most unfunny person American so you can make them funny.” He was a captain at a Naval base in Port Hueneme. This guy cleared a room. Anytime he opened it, he was so boring. He made Mr. Spock on Star Trek look exciting. He was awful. He talks and you wanted to poke your eyes open. He had to lecture the new cadets, and they were all sleeping.
I accepted their challenge and I made him funny. The way I did it is that comedy is always the truth. What is the truth about you? That’s why I had him go, “I know I’m boring,” and everybody perked up and laughed. He’s like, “This is my idea of getting wild.” He loosened his tie a little bit and then go, “Is that too much?” This notion of a little lighthearted self-mocking is a real leadership trait.
A lot of women in leadership want to be respected, but they don’t get that making fun of yourself says you have confidence. You need the confidence to make fun of yourself. Everybody who has succeeded or wins elections are able to poke fun of themselves. The book has a lot of exercises in it that’s like that like, “Here’s how you do that.” If you want to do a speech and you don’t want to put people asleep, here’s what’s called the list of three. This is a list of three exercises like, “I should have known my marriage was over. There are three subtle clues when your marriage is over. You’re not kissing as much. You’re not eating dinner together, and he has moved in with his new wife.” The third one is a bit obvious. It’s a formula though.
Isn’t it great to be able to learn a few formulas so you can start getting laughs when you talk to people when you’re at a meeting? I do think that it’s something that you can learn. You can learn some basic comedy formulas. If you want a career as a stand-up comic, you got to have a lot of talent, but if you have no talent, I can make you funny for five minutes. You don’t need to be like, “I’m killing and rocking it.” You’re at a corporate meeting. You don’t need to. That’s what I’m saying. It’s good for people who want to have a couple of little tricks up their sleeve.
It’s a leadership type book that leaders should read because this is something that’s only going to help them be better leaders and own the room better.When we share a story or a laugh with somebody, it really profoundly connects us to them. Click To Tweet
I like that, “Own the room.” It’s interesting because I’ve always been more of a stress-reduction speaker or humorous speaker, but now I’m going like, “I’m going to be a leadership speaker.” Here’s the thing that’s interesting. Everything I’ve learned about being a standup comic could help any CEO. When I walk on stage, I’ve got a hostile audience in a comedy club. I have to grab the mic and get people’s attention.
That’s the other thing. If you’re walking up there, they’ve never seen you before, you don’t look like them, you’re too young or old. Whatever preconceived notion they have, you’ve got to overcome a lot in that role or in that room.
You got to know how to read a room.
I talk to speakers about that all the time, “How can I give something to this audience that nobody else can or what can I give them that nobody else can?”
It’s interesting. Handling hecklers is a conflict.
Who are your favorite comedians that you ever have seen in person or not in person these days and all the way back?
I grew up watching Screwball. Every girl my age grew up like, “That is so funny. She is so funny.” I remember seeing Joan Rivers on Carson. I didn’t realize then that comics spend so much time scrutinizing this word or that word, “How do I do that joke?” I thought, “She is up there. What comes out of her mouth are all funny.” Joan Rivers lost her way too soon. She was so funny.
Now, I love the people who are good writers. I love Chris Rock and Mike Birbiglia. He is amazing. Jeff Jefferies is so funny. My students, Master Ronnie and Sherri Shepherd. There are many incredible comics out there. Ali Wong is wonderful. It’s so much talent out there. It’s an exciting time. I can’t wait until COVID ends and we could take off our masks and start enjoying each other without fear.
I’m looking forward to getting back out there and seeing comedians and music again. I’m sure that it will happen before we know it.
I’m excited to go out, do a gig, be able to have a book signing, and not just touch people emotionally but give a couple of hugs as well, and not be scared that I’m going to die. Thank you, Chris. It has been a pleasure.
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I’m looking forward to reading the new book and seeing you in person again soon. Take care.
- Judy Carter
- The Comedy Bible
- The NEW Comedy Bible
- The Message of You
- TED Talk – You Can’t Spell Message Without a M-E-S-S
About Judy Carter
At an early age Judy Carter discovered that the messes in her life were great material. Judy’s message of using humor as a transformational tool led to her being featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, as well as being a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and a weekly blogger for Psychology Today.
Currently, Judy is an international keynote speaker, speaking coach, and workshop leader on the power of personal stories and humor to inspire others and reduce workplace stress. Her “wake-them-up” keynotes have thrilled attendees at many Fortune 500 companies including Fedex, Oracle, Disney, Boeing, as well as hundreds of finance, healthcare and women’s events.
As an author Judy doesn’t like to brag, but she did write the Bible. No joke, she’s the author of The Comedy Bible (Simon & Schuster) as well as, Standup Comedy: The Book (Dell Books). Judy’s book, The Message of You: Turn Your Life Story into a Money-Making Speaking Career (St. Martin’s Press), teaches readers how to become her competition.
Her latest book is an interactive workbook entitled: The Message of You Journal: Finding Extraordinary Stories in an Ordinary Day.
- Paul Smith: Lead With A Story. Top Storytelling Coach On How To Use Stories To Lead and Sell
- Pippa Malmgren: Presidential Economic Advisor Tells What’s About To Happen – Virtually Speaking Ep. 22
- Kevin Elko: The Top Performance Consultant Shares Success Secrets – Virtually Speaking Ep.10
- Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour – Being First, Being Gutsy – Virtually Speaking Episode 6