Great business people are able to adapt, think on their feet, speak and captivate an audience, and collaborate and communicate with a variety of people in a variety of situations.
These also happen to be the exact types of skills you learn in improv.
Improv training is fantastic business training. The skills necessary to stand on stage and improvise any topic thrown at you, is an extremely transferable skill to business.
Jonas Koffler of the improv and training group Four Day Weekend, has been helping businesses learn these skills for the past 20 years. What started as a limited six week run at a local theatre, has grown into a 20 year successful business where the group has now worked the who’s who of Fortune 500 companies, toured with the USO, and performed for two different U.S. presidents.
We were lucky to sit down with Jonas Koffler, and get his story, company background and advice as part of Small Business War Stories.
Also, make sure you check out their book Happy Accidents: The Transformative Power of “YES, AND” at Work and in Life.
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A summary of our interview with Jonas Koffler of Four Day Weekend is below.
You can use the links below to jump to your interests.
- What is Four Day Weekend and where is it based?
- What would you say you guys do, and what’s the history, how did this all get started?
- How did you start, what was the evolution like from the early days of having an improv troop to now having training programs?
- It seems like that philosophy of “Yes, and” is what permeates everything that you guys do, from the performance side to the training side. What is “Yes, and”?
- What happens if you actually do think it’s a bad idea?
- Let’s talk about the performance side. What happens behind the scenes?
- Let’s talk a little bit about the book. You guys have a book called Happy Accidents coming out. Can you tell me more about that?
- What are some examples of applications of “Yes, and” in the book?
- How do you combine the idea of “Yes, and” with maintaining your focus, and what’s the process of giving the ideas equal merit, and then actually not be paralyzed by this consideration and trying everything, because you have to do something?
- How do you kind of think about this “Yes, and” philosophy, and taking advantage of opportunities while also keeping that focus, and making sure that you’re not constantly chasing a new thing?
- What are some examples of happy accidents that brought you guys together?
- There was a group that went to Second City and then came back to Fort Worth to start this kind of splinter off of that?
- You guys have done a lot of work with mental health and with veterans. What are the things that you guys are doing on that front?
- What’s the response that you get from veterans?
- How can people apply that to their business? How do you take that idea and then help people in your company and your business have a sense of belonging such that they’re happier to be there?
- What are some crazy stories you can think of?
- Tell me about a time when things didn’t go well, and what did you guys do about it?
- What is your vision? What do the next 10 years look like?
- Where can people find your business?
What is Four Day Weekend and where is it based?
Jonas Koffler: We are an Improv show based in downtown Fort Worth at Sundance Square. We have quite a robust team and a cast of very colorful characters. We do work all over the country, all over the continent, and all over the world for that matter.
What would you say you guys do, and what’s the history, how did this all get started?
Jonas Koffler: That’s a great question, and it’s one with a lot of interesting twists and turns and what we call happy accidents. We’re going to unpack that a bit more a little later, but essentially Four Day Weekend Comedy is an entertainment and training company. We were born in February of 1997 after a series of missteps and surprises. What started as a limited six-week run at a small, 99-seat theater called Casa Theatre in the town of down Fort Worth has evolved into what is now arguably one of the most successful improvisation and comedy theaters anywhere for the last 20 years.
We grew into our own theater, it’s 212 seats in historic beautiful downtown Fort Worth. We have our own corporate communications division, which includes corporate training for keynotes and workshops, and we also have a full student training center where we work with students and professionals, as well as a touring company, and we also have our own creative division, which does film and TV and all sorts of other kinds of fun stuff.
How did you start, what was the evolution like from the early days of having an improv troop to now having training programs? A lot of stuff must have happened in between. How did you guys make that leap into doing training and things like that?
Jonas Koffler: Leap’s the key word, Pablo. In improvisation it’s all about the leap, not about the landing. If you use that as a metaphor for life, for business as well obviously, we’re talking about business and the business world, but I think inherently there is an implicit risk in improvisation. We don’t know where we’re going, we only know where we’ve been.
That’s true in the evolution of our theater company. We started at small potatoes, literally making pennies, and the guys scraped together every cent they made in the show, and they put it back in, reinvested it in the company. Eventually they got really good. When you get to a certain level of competency at something, and especially if you can connect with human beings and make them smile and laugh, and escape from whatever challenges they may be facing outside, whether familial, workplace, or whatever, they seem to like it and resonate. What happens, word of mouth. They tell their friends.
We’re a company that has never spent a dime on advertising. Not a dime, not a penny. It’s all word of mouth and a lot of happy accidents, meaning surprises or disruptions to the normal routine, in which people take notice of us. One of those people who took notice of us was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star Telegram. He wrote up a story on us and did a full-page spread, and what happened? It ultimately snowballed into more awareness for us, more interest in us, other reporters getting onboard, that led to, as I said, a much bigger theater show. Our first run in six weeks, which now has turned into 20 years.
We’ve literally worked with thousands and thousands of companies over the years, fortune 500 companies, in our communications and corporate division doing corporate work. We’ve worked in films, we’ve done a lot of commercial work, we’ve done work in the education space with teachers and students. We’re actually right Entrepreneurs in Residence at the Neeley School of Business, it’s one of the top 20 programs nationally in entrepreneurship. We’ve had a lot of lucky breaks, but again, it’s all about putting ourselves out there and saying, “Yes.” “Yes and,” and allowing ourselves the space to navigate the opportunity landscape to welcome in these happy accidents, these surprises.
I love the philosophy of “Yes, and,” and it’s something that I learned probably about seven or eight years ago. It’s a really cool way to look at things. Let’s talk a bit more about specifically what that is. It seems like that philosophy of “Yes, and” is what permeates everything that you guys do, from the performance side to the training side. What is “Yes, and”?
Jonas Koffler: “Yes, and” is a simple philosophy wherein we strike the word “no” from our philosophy and replace it with “Yes, and“. On its surface that seems really simple, doesn’t it. But on a deeper, even spiritual level, what “Yes, and” does is allow us to open up our minds and our hearts to opportunity in new ways. It means that what we do is, we listen actively. We’re open to everyone’s ideas. Literally what it means is that there are no bad ideas. When you’re in a group, if you’re a business owner, if you’re listening to other employees, other stakeholders, you want to be receptive to their ideas, and recognize that there are no wrong choices, only higher and lower percentage ones. No wrong ideas, only higher and lower percentage ones. Let me give you an example of that.
If you’re a business owner and you’re starting a food truck, let’s say, instead of spending a ton of money developing some kind of gourmet dish and going out to the middle of the desert where no one is and setting up shop and serving it, that would be a very low-percentage choice. You might serve a dish to a passerby or something, but you’re probably not going to blow up in your business. It’s not going to go very well. But instead, if you go out there and start asking questions of people, “What are you interested in, what kind of food would maybe meet your fancy, what would whet your appetite, your palate,” and you get some feedback and you say, “I’m going to run a little experiment here, I’m going to start this little food truck in a very high-density populated area,” where there probably are no other food trucks hopefully, you have a much higher percentage choice of success.
What happens if you actually do think it’s a bad idea? Let’s say, for example, that right now in the middle of the podcast here, I suggest that it’s a little chilly, the AC is really blasting, so we should light this chair on fire? Next time you’re out here, how do you “Yes, and” that?
Jonas Koffler: It’s not a 100% hard and fast rule, everything deserves a “Yes, and“. In that case you would apply what we call a considerate or reflective “no“. The “no” there would be, “Well that’s an interesting idea Pablo, and perhaps given the right situation, where you’re not putting other people at risk, namely me and yourself and everyone else in this building, it might be better to light it on fire out in the field where there’s nothing else to light on fire and we can just observe the effects.” We’re going to say no in that case, and we’ll discuss it and hopefully work toward a solution.
Let’s talk about the performance side. What happens behind the scenes? At the base level you basically get the audience to say a word. Then somebody says “monkey,” and from then on you create a story. What’s happening behind the scenes? What are you guys thinking about, what are the tools that you have when you’re doing this show?
Jonas Koffler: There are a number of tools, but the mindset again, fundamentally, is oriented around this idea of, “Yes, and“. Why is that? Because the shows are unscripted. There are some set pieces that provide some degree of structure, act I and act II let’s say, but we’re open to getting feedback from the audience. We ask for their contributions in the form of ideas or words that they all write before the show begins, and we use that to develop scenes. As I said, in improvisation everything is unscripted. We don’t have the luxury of saying no. Why? Because “no” stops progress. Instead we “Yes, and” each other, and we recognize that no one is more important than everyone else, we’re all working together in a group, and we’re building the show as we go. If you say something we’re responding to you and building upon that.
That is what allows to evolve and develop scenes, and hopefully they come to some kind of happy or funny ending, and we find surprises along the way. That’s how these things are structured. In terms of the thinking, it’s more about listening actively. Because you don’t know where you’re going, you only know where you’ve been. Everything is new. You’re co-creating the entire time. We’re listening to cues that were provided, much in the same way I’m responding to your questions right now. I’m trying to build on that, and you’re going to then build on that, and it’s the same idea.
Let’s talk a little bit about the book. You guys have a book called Happy Accidents coming out. Can you tell me more about that?
Jonas Koffler: Yeah. The book is called Happy Accidents. We did it with John Wiley & Sons, and it’ll be releasing here in the US in September, and globally as well. The subtitle is The Transformative Power of Yes, And, At Work And In Life. In the book we map our journey and share stories and practical tips about the power of “Yes, and“, how it applied in our journey, and how other people can apply it. Whether you are a small business owner, or you run a large enterprise company, or you’re a teacher, or you’re having relational issues, it’s some of the same improvisational tools. It’s line-building, listening, it’s play, again recognizing that there are no bad ideas, only higher and lower percentage choices, and really finding ways to empower other people to apply “Yes, and” thinking. We think that “Yes, and” thinking is an expression of human imagination. If people can harness the tools of human imagination, really it’s about making the impossible possible. It’s a mindset shift, and then there’s an action layer too.
There’s another aspect of it that I think is very important, especially in days and times when people feel beaten down or trapped or stuck. Improvisation is sort of like a Jedi’s tool. It’s a way of using this energy within us, and harnessing this way of being, that is very positive and impactful and supportive of other people, so there’s an empathy component to it. We find it’s very liberating, because you’re fundamentally more present in the moment. You can’t ignore it, you can’t drift off. When you really tune in and you start listening actively, and instead of ignoring what other people say and saying you’re in your own box, you’re opening up to what other people give you, and you’re in turn providing support to them as well.
What are some examples of applications of “Yes, and” in the book?
Jonas Koffler: Absolutely. It’s chock full of examples, and a few that we can share. There’s this concept called ROI, and in the business world, it’s about return on investment. In the improvisation world we treat that a little bit. We call it the return on improvisation. When you remove that “no, but” thinking, good things happen. If you’re in charge and you’re “no-ing” everything because you know what’s best for your company, you’re not allowing the unknown ideas that could lead to innovation.
If you think about lean startup methodology or things of that nature, if everything is “no,” and you’re not running any experiments, you’re not taking any risks, there’s no possibility for growth. All of the potential, I would argue, either meeting customer demands or trying new things and bringing in new ideas into the business, is based upon this idea of being open. ROI is all about trying new things, being open to everyone’s ideas, giving them equal merit, and then making some decisions based on what you think is the best path as a group, collaboratively. Basically it’s the same philosophy as we use in the theater, that we use in our business. What we would encourage people to do, and our readers to do, is to be on to collaborating in new ways, focusing on the unknown, that potential that they can start mapping and navigating around, and they’re going to discover, not only what their team’s really good at and really enjoys, but new ways to grow the company.
How do you combine the idea of “Yes, and” with maintaining your focus, and what’s the process of giving the ideas equal merit, and then actually not be paralyzed by this consideration and trying everything, because you have to do something?
Jonas Koffler: We’re not suggesting you don’t do anything. I think a big component or tenet of improvisation is adaptability. As you said, you probably started with your own premise, and we certainly did in our business. We were a comedy theater company. But if you open up to adapting, and listening, you’re listening to feedback, because that validates what you’re doing, and generally it will allow you to persevere or pivot. As a small business owner you need to be willing to change at times. You’re staying the course but you’re giving up some degree of control or freedom in the spirit of discovering new ways of growing the business.
For us it was knowing that, when we got approached after a show by a member of a company saying, “We’d love to apply some of the work you do at our company,” or, “We’d love for you to host an event,” instead of saying, “No, we can’t do that, we’re only a theater company,” we say, “Yes, and” because we’re going to do that, we’re going to start growing a new division of our company. These are the things that allowed us to grow, so it’s listening to that feedback actively, saying “Yes, and“, being open to it, and figuring out what would be a low-cost, low-risk choice to move forward.
It sounds like at that point it was the right substrate and the right time for you guys to do that. I have encountered in my own business experience, and I’ve met many people who have, what I call a shiny penny problem. Shiny penny means that your focus in walking forward makes sense for your business that’s growing, that’s doing well, but as you know, succeeding takes a lot of boring stuff and the dedication to do it every day. The sexy part is starting in the beginning, and then obviously the execution can get pretty tedious at times, but that’s what makes you successful. But then you look to the sidewalk and there’s a shiny penny like a new product line, or a new store, a new market, and you may or may not be ready for that how do you kind of think about this “Yes, and” philosophy, and taking advantage of opportunities while also keeping that focus, and making sure that you’re not constantly chasing a new thing?
Jonas Koffler: Again, our core focus is, one of our lines of business is the theater company itself. We’re doing four shows a week: two shows on Fridays and two shows on Saturdays, in a packed theater of 212 people. We have a bar, that’s our core business. That allows us, one, to sort of cement, or anchor, our root business. We can take these little risks knowing that we’ve got a very solid foundation. With that, we have the confident, and we also have 20 years of experience, and knowing that we’ve done 6,000 live shows. Not only in Fort Worth, but we’ve done USO tours, we’ve worked with a “who’s who” of Fortune 500 companies, and these are our friends and business partners at this point. Again, you’ve got to find the confidence, first and that core competency and foundation that you can then build upon. When we were just starting out, we weren’t ready to take those risks.
Had we not been ready when the suggestion came up, we would have thanked them for the suggestion, and we would’ve discussed it behind the scenes and during the week between shows, and in fact that’s what happened for a long time. It took one of us having the confident to say we should probably start incorporating, or should look into it, or we should just try this and see how it goes. You’re not throwing all your eggs into one basket, you’re slowly starting to build other baskets.
There you go, that’s the part that I want to make sure we get to, is that it takes a lot of focus to get to success, and nobody has ever succeeded by starting six things at the same time, but there’s many examples of people succeeding in one thing and adding things later, right?
Jonas Koffler: Absolutely, I agree with that, and let me give that a little more color. As I said, the group dynamic is the essence of improvisation. It’s not about what I say, it’s about what we say as a group. It’s moving from what we call from ego to we-go. We talk about this at length in the book, and we have some exercises around this. I think small business owners especially, entrepreneurs in general, are some of the most disillusioned people in the world. That’s good, we need that disillusionment. We gain our confidence, and we surround ourselves with like-minded people, what we call happy friendly people that we know, like, and trust and have a shared experience with. We’re building that shared experience together. When you have that support, the strength in numbers, the power of we, you can send an emissary if you will, an ambassador to represent the company, and to run these small experiments in innovation and trying to grow the company in new ways, and come back with feedback. So you’re not doing it alone. We’ve got a big team of partners, a big cast behind us, and so forth. That allows us that flexibility, that adaptability.
What are some examples of happy accidents that brought you guys together?
Jonas Koffler: There are a number of them. We come from a background, the guys primarily, in stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy is very different from improvisation. In standup comedy you’re getting people who are essentially ranting or tearing the world apart, with all of its problems, and making light of the fact that there are a lot of wrongs in the universe. It’s a set show. Everything is known. As opposed to improvisation, which is all about the unknown, it’s totally unscripted.
It’s funny, I know both standup comedians and improv people, and both groups think that what the other one does is the hardest thing ever…
Jonas Koffler: The truth is, they’re both incredibly hard. Making people laugh is a hard thing to do. Again, the subtle difference, or big difference, depending on how you see it, is one is overtly negative, shrill at times.
The other is overtly positive, and about constructing a human experience that is positive. You can still make light on either side. I’m not saying one is wrong or right or better than the other, they’re just very different.
I think what brought us together is, one, a shared passion and love for comedy. Two, some of us having a stand-up background, David Ahearn and David Wilk, and then Troy, Grant, and Frank Ford brought more of the improvisational philosophy. Frank, in fact, it’s interesting, he was a product engineer at Texas Instruments. He loved acting, was a performer, a really brilliant guy, and he found his way to Second City in Chicago.
Between the two of us, we both have sort of the longest running shows, they’ve been around a little longer than we have. We give credit where credit is due, and certainly they influenced our life and our work, or life’s work for that matter, and desire to have a positive impact on the world and make people experience joy. But Frank went up there first, he sort of pioneered and Wilk followed suit. Troy and Ahearn got onboard. The happy accident that brought us together was the desire to do something interesting and constructive together, and to be able to pay for having light in the office and other things that are important.
There was a group that went to Second City and then came back to Fort Worth to start this kind of splinter off of that?
Jonas Koffler: Yeah, as individuals, and then came back, and then we were in discussions to work together. Rent, that was the main thing. I think this is another important point that many of us overlook. In our world, in improvisation, we treat each other as artists and poets. We have a deep-seated empathy, an ability to hear each other out, and to laugh and have fun together and support each other. I think that strength in the group element, the group dynamic, again, can’t be overlooked. Because that’s what has empowered us and supported us along our journey from day one.
Yeah, I think a lot of artists have that. Musicians certainly have that, we have an empathy for other people. It takes guts to put it out there, and to get your stuff town down. It’s pretty easy to criticize other people, it’s much harder to go and create.
Jonas Koffler: It’s also hard to perform for one person, or five people in the theater, and to keep going and be persistent about it. You talk about building that core competency; you have to sit through a lot of nights where you might have a theater that’s packed on day one, as Four Day did, and then a week later we have three people in the audience.
Yeah, within the last couple weeks I’ve played a show for, at one place I had 50 people, and the other place had five. And you have to play the show for five people the same way you would play for 50 or 500. That’s the key.
Jonas Koffler: Right, you are performing for them. When you are in business you’re there for your customer. We’ve always seen it that way, and we are dedicated to the idea of giving everyone a memorable experience. Why is that? One, because it gives them a sense of joy, and two, because they’re going to tell their friends.
You guys have done a lot of work with mental health and with veterans. What are the things that you guys are doing on that front?
Jonas Koffler: A number of things, and it’s veterans, but it’s also anyone who’s sort of vulnerable. There are a lot of people with mental health issues these days, and we’re talking about numbers as high as one in four. Sometimes two in four depending on your locality. With veterans in particular, folks who suffer from PTSD, and folks who are transitioning out of active duty to civilian life, professional life, we have a program called From Yes Sir To Yes, And.
In the military the chain of command is very strict, and it works for a reason, and it has to be followed. In the outside world, civilian life, there’s more of an adaptability component that improvisation offers to veterans, so there’s that component. The other side of it is mindset, and the other side of it is giving people the tools to communicate and listen, and to develop a sense of understanding and empathy. Veterans who’ve been exposed to some horrific situations and very high stress need these tools. We’ve done USO tour over seas, multiple bases all over Europe and the Balkans, and we continue working with vets in the local community and nation wide as well.
That’s one component of what we do. We’re also involved in a venture that I started called the Mental Wellness Summit. The Mental Wellness Summit is a global summit. We have subscribers on four continents and over 150,000 people at this point, and it’s for people who are dealing with depression and anxiety and other sorts of challenges. Addiction and so forth. We see improvisation again as a tool for being more present, for listening, developing a deeper sense of empathy, and again it’s the same tools that apply. It’s “Yes, and“, and being adaptable, and finding the support of other folks that you can work with and help build a better life for yourself, and build a better way of looking at the world.
A lot of the things we’re talking about, so improv and music, all have the common element that it’s impossible to be in your own head when you’re doing it. It’s impossible to check your phone because you have to be focused on doing that…
Jonas Koffler: Again, it’s back to this concept of, from ego to we-go. What I’ve found, and I don’t know about you in your ventures, when you get out of your own head and start listening to people, and see the world with new eyes, there’s something very liberating about that. It gives you a new perspective.
We are trapped in our own heads, especially when we’re stuck behind a screen of electrons for 12 hours a day. You want to be interacting with people. Because ultimately you’re in the people business, I don’t care what you do. We know that, and get it at a deep level, addition we’re trying to convey an experience to people, and have them have some kind of emotional response to it.
That’s very important, and I think that the more we shut ourselves off from that experience, the more we deprive ourselves of having some kind of meaningful impact on someone else’s life.
What’s the response that you get from veterans? I have a lot of friends who have served, and I would say there’s a broad array that I’ve seen of, what’s the right way to put it, I guess willingness to open up about the difficulties of it. Some are very willing to open up about it and some are more closed off, because generally, almost by definition, to be successful in the military I think you have to kind of shut some of that out, because that’s the only way you can continuity of function as a human being in these really difficult conditions, being at war. What’s the response that you see from people?
Jonas Koffler: Again, healing is a process, and improvisation is simply one tool of many, many healing modalities that veterans can apply. What we’ve gotten is that this heightened sense of awareness, being more present, being in a group element, Sebastian Junger’s a friend of mine, he writes about this in Tribe at length.
Sebastian wrote a book called Tribe. He was a war time journalist. He just did a new film. He did Restrepo, which you probably have seen, and he also did a new film called The Rise of Isis: Hell On Earth, which I just saw at Tribeca actually. Fantastic film.
The premise is, we evolved as people operating in these small communities of people, 48 people, something like that. We came out of the caves and we worked together in groups, and we figured out that some of us had certain strengths and others had other strengths. Same thing is true in an improv troop. I’m only as good as you’re as good as someone else is good and so forth, and we build it as a team. In the military, and veterans coming out of a battle, who are looking for trust in other people, and getting that shared experience. Many of them have had a very rough go, and have seen things, seen their friends die, and as I said, dealt with some really challenging situations. Well that transition into the real world, this world, the civilian world, is one that requires, again, that sense of trust and empathy, listening, getting out of your own mind, and being able to empathize with other people.
And also having a sense of belonging with other people, because probably the number one thing I hear from friends of mine who have served is that they miss the camaraderie. There’s nothing that they encounter in the world here that is similar to going down range, arm-in-arm with your teammates…
Jonas Koffler: Yeah, we know, based on whatever dates that you’re looking at, but one of the ones we’ve looked at, one of the strongest determinants of your sense of happiness and fulfillment, is that sense of belonging, is that sense of community. Improvisational troops inherently have that community element, that belonging element, we trust each other. We can look at each other for support. When you’re out in the world and you’re feeling isolated, it’s only going to accelerate that experience of trauma, of being alone in the world.
How can people apply that to their business? How do you take that idea and then help people in your company and your business have a sense of belonging such that they’re happier to be there?
Jonas Koffler: The foundation here is recognizing that there are no bad ideas. It’s actively listening to solicit or elicit responses from your team, giving people equal weighting as a premise for running your company. You’re all in this thing together. Recognizing that there are no bad ideas, only higher and lower percentage choices. That openness is a big piece of it. It’s not “no-but-ing” everyone. It’s instead saying “Yes, and” when appropriate, and when necessary a reflective and considerate “no.” That’s a way to engender the sense of community belonging, trust, shared experience, treating each other as artists and poet with respect and dignity, being open to it, and creating that joyful shared experience together.
We underestimate the amount of times that people just want to be heard instead of having a solution to their problem. It’s actually pretty wild how important that can be…
Jonas Koffler: Absolutely, and I would argue, if improvisation is fundamentally about listening to each other, because you’re building, that’s how you construct the experience that’s shared, when we’re, again, especially now, so much of our communication is not facilitated interactively, me looking into your eyes, you looking into my eyes, we’re listening to each other, we’re nodding, we’re affirming what each other is saying, we’re giving each other feedback, if it’s done online we lose that human interaction component, that connectivity, that really connectivity, not electronic connectivity. The human element.
Yeah, that’s why I do the podcast in person. I feel like a lot of the power of this show is this interaction…
Jonas Koffler: It’s these quirks that are happening as well. It’s the little signals that we send each other. That’s a cool thing. I can see into the soul of this Pablo guy, I get it, he’s an interesting cat, and he’s doing some interesting work. I think that if we’re to have impact, what we’re trying to do is to encourage more people to listen to each other, and look each other in the eyes and say, “You know what, we’re having a shared experience right now. You know what else is also really interesting, we’re improvising as we go”.
I’m sure you’ve seen some really wacky, odd things happen, whether it be in trainings or onstage. What are some crazy stories you can think of?
Jonas Koffler: Oh man, there’s so many. We can talk about the live theater experience. We’ve had angry guests who get a little too drunk. They can interrupt the show, they can confront us in the middle, and that’s part of the improvisational experience. Doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, look out. In this case we had to have a gentleman escorted away from the theater.
We invite the audience to participate in the show. In one case we had this lady come on the show and participate, and he didn’t like that very much. There was another situation where one of the jokes was misinterpreted by the audience, and that caused some derision and discomfort. On the whole that’s 0.5% of what the positive experience would be. We’ve had so many incredibly life-changing experiences, and I’ll qualify that. Experiences where people bring their first date to a show. We’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of examples. That was the most significant thing that not only cemented their sense of being together, but led them to developing a deeper relationship and getting married.
You guys have been around for a long time, and as a matter of existing, things sometimes don’t go well in a business. Tell me about a time when things didn’t go well, and what did you guys do about it?
Jonas Koffler: Sure. A good example of when things didn’t go well was when our show was disintegrating because of our own egos getting in the way. We had lost touch.
Three of the founding partners were not seeing eye to eye on things. Dave was in the midst of writing a film, I believe Get Lost was it, and he had Harvey Keitel affiliated with it, and was raising funds, and he was all about himself. Frank and Wilk had their own project, a TV show, and they went out to LA, and they signed with, I believe it was UTA United Talent, or APA rather, and went on to sell their show. I believe it was to Fox. That created even more friction, because two of the guys that still had the show, and one was still working on a film, and they weren’t seeing eye to eye, and one team’s stuff was better than the other’s. Literally there was a point where the whole thing could’ve gone to hell. This was after thousands of shows under their belt. This was in the early 2000s.
They went out to LA, sold the show, came back, had a come-to-Jesus moment, and decided, this is a brotherhood, this is a shared experience that we’re going to continue building. The reality is that, I don’t know how much time you spent in Los Angeles, but Hollywood can eat you up. When you have other handlers involved, and agents … There’s nothing wrong with it, that’s just a different world, that showbiz world.
It’s very intense, and very ego-driven, and it’s not about the team or group element at all. It’s really the opposite of that. That’s not what improv is about. Our roots and our hearts and our minds are in improv, we treat each other as artists and poets, we’re happy people who know and like each other and trust each other, but want to build a shared experience. For us to get away from that was very painful, but coming back we recognized that none of us was as good as all of us.
What was the catalyst for reuniting? Because what I’m hearing is, maybe there were some more ego-driven quests. What was the catalyst that turned it from, using your words, the ego to the we-go?
Jonas Koffler: The catalyst, I think, was that they understood that they could do more great work together than going it alone. They also recognized that, you know this as a business owner, when you put your life essence and all of that creative energy and intellectual power into building something, it’s very hard to walk away from that. In fact, that is a representational reflection of who you are in the world, your identity, and that identity was core to the essence of Four Day Weekend to each of our partners. They wanted to continue building on it. I think simply what it was, was a reset or an inflection point, where they came together at a meal and said, “We’re in this together, and we’re going to continue doing this thing.“
Cool, and they’ve continued to be successful after that?
Jonas Koffler: It’s been great…winning the key to the city of Fort Worth, being named small business of the year in Fort Worth, being named Entrepreneurs in Residence at Neeley School of Business, having done shows for Congress, for multiple fortune 500 companies, for two sitting presidents, for President Barack Obama, for President Bush, doing the USO tour, we’re getting all sorts of validation. For us the sky’s the limit. As I said, it’s only what our imagination will allow us.
What is your vision? What do the next 10 years look like?
Jonas Koffler: Again, we don’t know where we’re going, we only know where we’ve been, so we’re open to many, many ideas. Again, lower and higher percentage choices. We’re currently developing a program with the Texas Christian University and the Neeley School of Business for certification and training. We’re also working on, as I said, the Yes Sir to Yes And program for veterans. We have our online team and our creative division as well working on various video projects. The whole innovation component is, with our book Happy Accidents, we see that as leading to one of many opportunities for us to continue growing the business, one of which is, we’ve had our core theater, and have had our core theater, and will have our core theater, or home, in Fort Worth; we’re opening up a new satellite theater as well in Dallas, Fort Worth. I anticipate us scaling, so we’ll probably grow a few more theaters in the region if not nationally.
How many people are currently involved with Four Day Weekend?
Jonas Koffler: We’re under 20 people as a small business right now, which is a good number. Who knows, if we continue on our growth trajectory, which I imagine we will, we could double in the next few years.
Where can people find your business?
Jonas Koffler: Happy Accidents: The Transformative Power of “YES, AND” at Work and in Life is the book coming out the first week of September. You can find much more information about Four Day Weekend at FourDayWeekend.com. We are quite active on social media . You can join our Facebook, like our page if you like. Many thousands and thousands of other people have done that. We’re active on Twitter and on Instagram as well.
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