What jazz and comedy reveal to marketers about creativity

9 August 2021 | By: Dora Wang, Marketing Manager

How is jazz like comedy?

That was a question posed by Lauren Anderson, Co-Head of Content and Programming, IMDb TV, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2021. She had a good reason for asking – she was hosting a conversation with actor and writer Daniel Lawrence Taylor, creator of Timewasters, a BAFTA-nominated comedy about a struggling South London jazz band who go back in time to the 1920s.

Taylor had plenty of insights to share about the relationship between these two art forms – and what's more, marketers and advertisers can leverage those insights to cultivate creativity in their work.

Daniel Lawrence Taylor – Timewasters, Romarna Campbell – the Romarna Campbell Trio and Lauren Anderson – Co-Head of IMDb TV Content and Programming respectively

Daniel Lawrence Taylor – Timewasters, Romarna Campbell – the Romarna Campbell Trio and Lauren Anderson – Co-Head of IMDb TV Content and Programming respectively

Collaborate and improvise

Jazz is an art form rooted in improvisation and collaboration, with musicians riffing off and building upon others’ notes. The same is true for comedy.

Reflecting on both his work on Timewasters and his previous experience as part of a comedy double act, Taylor agreed. Creating the right cast for Timewasters meant finding four actors who could come together and draw from one another's creative energy to create comedy magic. Once they did, Taylor received an impressive compliment from an executive: “Oh, it's amazing that you've been able to get all your friends into your show,” Taylor recalled hearing.

The only problem with that compliment was that it wasn't accurate – “I was like, 'Well, I don't know these people,'” Taylor recounted. But that misunderstanding was proof of the chemistry the cast created. The success of Timewasters is not only about the talents of the individual actors; it's about how they work together. “We all kind of moulded together really well,” Taylor said.

Whether it's comedy writing, jazz music or any other creative endeavour – like marketing – collaborating with fellow artists can help you create something engaging, surprising or beautiful.

Draw from your lived experiences

One of the reasons Taylor thought of combining jazz and comedy was because he was learning to play the trumpet. Unfortunately, after getting inspired with the synergy of these two ideas, he had to break them up. “Funnily enough,” he shared, “because I started writing the show, I had no time to continue learning the trumpet. So that had to go out the window.” Still, the experience allowed him to see how well the two art forms could combine and led him to the unexpected, intriguing combination for Timewasters.

Romarna Campbell of the Romarna Campbell Trio, a group of British jazz musicians, echoed the importance of the artist's own experiences. “I think that's when creativity happens, me being as authentic and true to myself as I can be,” Campbell explained. “The originality comes in when it's your truth.”

Connect on a meaningful level

For Campbell, human connection also plays a big role in creativity. “I think [jazz is] very much a social music,” she explained. “A lot of the music that I've written or performed is informed by what's happening in my life. It has intense meaning because it's to do with [...] people that are really close to me.”

In any creative work, don't overlook the power of human connection. Marketers may not personally know their audience like in Campbell's example, but we can strive for authentic connections when communicating to people through marketing. No matter what you're creating, you'll be more successful when you can make people truly care about it.

Create what the world hasn't seen yet

When he came up with the idea of Timewasters, Taylor noted the popularity of comedy shows in Britain that featured a gang of characters, like Plebs, The Inbetweeners and Drifters. He knew one way to expand the medium: “I wanted to create something like that, but with an all-Black cast.” For viewers who may not have seen themselves reflected in the existing shows, Timewasters could offer something they were sorely missing.

“I wanted to push the boat out [...] and be a bit different,” Taylor said. Truly bringing creativity to your work means making something new, so you can offer the world something it's never experienced before.

Comedy provides the medium for Taylor, and jazz does the same for the Romarna Campbell Trio. “Jazz gives you a set of rules,” Campbell commented, “and then it says, take those rules – throw it out. And the only limitation you have is your imagination.”

Marketers would benefit from remembering the same – that by pushing the boundaries of their imaginations and creating something that’s never been done before, they can connect with audiences on a meaningful level.