CPAs have a reputation of being very serious people. I hope to challenge that because I’m both an accountant and a stand-up comedian.
Although I never considered myself a class clown as a kid, I have always liked to make people laugh. But it wasn’t until 2002 that I finally decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy. At that point I had been teaching eighth-grade math for several years. I knew that every student had the ability to pass math; what they needed was motivation. So, I carved out “motivation Mondays” to help my students find their passion. I emphasized to them that finding and following their passion was the key to success. One day I realized that I had to follow my own advice. I had always wanted to do stand-up comedy, so I decided to give it a try.
Over time I built my routine, drawing mostly on relationships, family and headlines for my jokes. I began performing at open-mike nights at local comedy clubs, and before I knew it, I was headlining local clubs and even getting some out-of-town gigs.
Being a comic was very satisfying, but I was not content teaching middle school math. So, I went back to school and, over the course of four years, earned a bachelor’s in accounting and an MBA, and passed the CPA exam.
In 2008, I went to work for a local public accounting firm. The firm had a mandatory monthly staff meeting for everyone, even the administrative assistants. I asked the partner in charge if I could kick off the meetings with a comedy routine based on articles in the JofA. I’m still not sure if the managing partner appreciated my humor, but another partner pulled me aside once and said, “The only reason I come to staff meetings is to hear you do your ‘Accounting Update.’” Those types of comments were great, but it was both satisfying and unexpected to find that my jokes pointed my co-workers to important information in the Journal of Accountancy that they didn’t even know was there.
Today, as the controller for a small group of medical office buildings, I still create monthly accounting updates, but now I perform them in local comedy clubs, and post them online (gregkyte.com/Videos.html). I’ve been shocked at the great response that I’ve received from normal, non-CPA crowds to my material, such as, “The IRS often fails to notify people when personal information is leaked. Sorry, Adam Prows, SSN: 538-11-2637, DOB: 4/11/68.” The other night I was at a comedy club and did a five-minute rant on the estate tax. The audience ate it up. Afterward, one of my comic buddies, an HVAC repairer by day, said, “Dude, you’re not just funny; you explain things in a way that I can understand!” Something resonates in me as a former educator when I can inform people and simultaneously make them laugh.
For most of my comedic career, I have performed relatively generic comedy. But now I am rebranding myself as an accountant comedian. I think the profession suffers from the image that accountants don’t have a sense of humor. In a way, I feel I am serving as an ambassador of the profession as I try to change that image. There’s power in poking fun at yourself and allowing others to poke fun at you as well.
My comedy has taken me to some pretty amazing and unexpected places, too. Through it, I have been awarded the G. Robert Newhart Non-Value-Added Fellowship of the VeraSage Institute, a think tank dedicated to burying the billable hour and time sheets. (G. Robert Newhart is comedian Bob Newhart, who started his career as an accountant.) Through VeraSage, I met Jason Blumer, the founder of the THRIVEal+CPA Network, another group that is working to change the CPA profession. Jason and I host an accounting podcast, the THRIVEcast, in which we explore community, collaboration, innovation, technology, Neil Diamond, carnies and fortune cookies.
I love being a stand-up comedian, and I love being a CPA. Synthesizing these two disparate strengths has been a great ride so far, and I am excited about where it may lead. I have been toying with a lot of different ideas, one of which is putting together continuing education courses that are both educational and entertaining. I would love to be able to give my colleagues some truly engaging and enriching CPE experiences that are so entertaining their spouses would want to come.
—As told to Linda Segall, firstname.lastname@example.org,
a freelance writer from Jacksonville, Fla.
Photo by Joy LaRue
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