What the funniest advertising idea you’ve seen recently? 

I like you asked for the funniest advertising idea, rather than just the funniest ad. There’s a difference for me. The reigning champ continues to be Apple’s Underdogs. I can’t get enough of it. I actually seek it out. Multiple viewings. Obviously, great writing, stellar casting and performances, really thoughtful lensing (not all that common for the office-comedy genre) and the editing is masterful. They just sail. 

Apple – Escape From The Office

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But those are things a great ad should have, right? Where it really delivers is in the advertising idea. Perhaps the people at Apple can see around corners, but this all started pre-pandemic, and they nailed the drama of in-office collaboration. Who knew that, just months later, the same idea would be perfect for the world’s transition to working from home? And then the Great Resignation? I think they’ll be carrying this one on for years to come because the emotional territory of people+work is endless. What’s most amazing is that they’re good ol’ product demo spots. They don’t tiptoe around it. And the reason they don’t have to is the power of the idea. I imagine some TV exec is thinking about developing it into a show, but I bet it would suck. It would just blend in. It’s elevated by being advertising. It’s Apple and the consumer happily making a trade with one another.

What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought?

A left AirPod Pro. I was unmasking on an airway jet bridge and it popped out of my ear, down to the tarmac and (literally) under the plane. A gentleman who I believe was the co-pilot crouched around attempting to find it, which was an act of kindness that took away the sting of losing it. 

What product could you not live without?

My AirPods.

What’s the best comedy film you’ve seen over the last year? 

Not sure about that word 'best'. One that made a huge impression on me was French Dispatch. I found it almost exhausting to watch, but in a good way. It has so much quirky love baked into it. It’s probably the most complex of Wes Anderson’s films. Not in terms of story, but in terms of craft. As a comedy director, I know all about the sheer multitude of decisions you must make for every single scene you frame up. All those micro-choices contribute to the wit of the scene. Well, there’s not an unintentional frame in that entire film. He made literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of conscious choices that colour the humour, and it shows. I’m not sure if it’s a laugh-out-loud film, but my face ached afterwards because I had a huge grin from start to finish.

What comedy do you think everyone should have seen? 

Well, I don’t exactly prescribe comedies. There are specific scenes from comedies I refer to during the course of making funny ads. Here’s a scene I will never forget. It’s a deep cut from a movie in the 80s called The Money Pit. A couple has sunk all their money into a charming old home that turns out to need a colossal amount of repair work. It takes over their lives and in a 'just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse' moment, they are drawing a bath in the clawfoot tub upstairs and it falls through the floor, crashing spectacularly in the living room below. 

A great visual gag you just didn’t see coming. But that actually pales in comparison to what follows immediately after. Tom Hanks is looking down through this hole and starts laughing at their terrible circumstances. It’s a laugh that morphs into six different varieties of laugh, and runs for about 25 seconds. That scene is forever seared in my brain and it continues to guide me to this day— physical gags are great, but when you layer in the human element, it goes totally next level.

What’s your preferred social media platform? 

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Instagram’s my preferred because I get to scroll through pictures. I love the unspoken commentary people can make with simply an image, like a perfectly manicured, potted bonsai tree in the back of a beat up pickup truck. Most of the writing, though… I see so few captions these days that don’t make my eyes roll. I wish Instagram would occasionally institute a No Captions Month just to shake things up.

What’s your favourite TV comedy show? 

Succession. Better Call Saul. I guess I prefer the darker comedies over sitcoms. More complexly flawed characters. Again, it’s the amplified 'human' element that makes the comedy all the more delicious for me.

What show/exhibition has most inspired you recently? 

It was a winter trip to Mexico City that inspired me. It’s got a freshness that New York City’s been short on lately.  And so many dogs. They LOVE their dogs there.

What’s the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the industry since you started working in it? 

How about a non-change? Coming up through the advertising industry, I’ve heard the death knell for commercials get sounded about every five-to-seven years, and everyone scrambles around terrified for a bit, then goes to shoot more ads. I don’t see them going away. People won’t pay for all their content.

Who or what has most influenced your career? 

Cliff Freeman. He was truly one of a kind. The undisputed king of advertising comedy. Everyone in the industry watched his work with glee. It was living proof that ads could be disguised as entertainment. Thing is, it’s nowhere near as easy as he made it look. It’s a discipline that takes lots of practice, trial and error, and attention to detail. It’s all in the details. Those micro-decisions I mentioned. The very best advertising comedy is not egregious. It actually wears its marketing message on its sleeve. Think about it. “Where’s the beef?”

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Better wi-fi. 

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.

I love 80s hair metal. No apologies. You know you do, too.