How to think differently and come up with fresh ideas: A conversation with comedy writer and creative consultant Tim Reid
Tim, thanks for talking to us ahead of the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) next month.
Hi Wendy. It’s a pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
Although you won’t be in Lisbon and will miss out on those lovely custard tarts they have there, the good thing is that you’ll be talking to a much bigger audience that’s joining WYSTC from across the globe.
Yes, that’s one of the advantages of the pandemic-fuelled move to virtual talks and webinars isn’t it. Bigger, global audiences for me and a smaller carbon footprint… it almost makes up for missing out on the custard tarts.
Almost! So, you have a rather interesting dual profession – a comedy writer for television and a creative facilitator for teams. Which came first and how did things evolve?
I’ve worked in the creative sector, in advertising agencies and innovation consultancies for 30 years. About 15 years ago I focussed on innovation and creativity, running ideas sessions, training people in how to facilitate better brainstorms. And at about the same time I started writing comedy scripts. Ten years ago I wrote Car Share, a BAFTA winning BBC sitcom. And since then I’ve kept both “jobs” going. Because I love both the comedy writing and helping others up their creativity.
Your approach to creativity and innovation tends to view humour as a gateway to creative thinking. Are there any pre-requisites for humour in this context? What if I’m just not a funny person?
No, you don’t need to think of yourself as a funny person to be able to use humour in your creativity. If you’ve ever laughed or made anyone else laugh then you have all the ingredients you need to be a creative genius.
We laugh at the truth and we laugh when we’re surprised. And when we laugh we relax and our brains get ready to imagine. So being prepared to laugh means we are prepared to entertain new possibilities and new ideas. The best brainstorms are full of laughter and full of ideas. An overly-serious atmosphere does not lend itself to the unleashing of our imaginations.
The travel industry has been facing the dire consequences of restricted movement of people across borders due to COVID-19. Isn’t it risky to find humour in this?
Einstein said “If at first the idea doesn’t seem absurd then there is no hope for it”. And we laugh at the absurd. If you want to think differently and come up with fresh ideas, new ways of doing things, you need to make a safe time and space to challenge conventions, to think the unthinkable, to explore ideas that seem absurd and laughable. You also need to follow that up with serious, rigorous examination of potential ideas, of course. But you need to be open to the absurd, the challenging ideas first. Otherwise you’re not being creative enough.
What’s an outcome of your client work that you are particularly proud of?
Apart from my sitcoms, helping Carling to reinvent their brand and come up with new format ideas, helping a major pharmaceutical company develop an award-winning training programme, and helping Durex innovate and develop, and successfully launch, a whole range of products outside of their core business.
You did some work for Durex? Ok, well maybe I should leave that for further enquiry at WYSTC – I’m sure the audience will get a rise out of it. Right…so, where do you look for inspiration for your own work as a writer?
The short answer is everywhere. People, and how they live their lives. Inspiration comes from being nosey and just observing life.
Is there a TV programme, play or other piece of work that you are enjoying now or recently?
I love and watch most comedies, but I’m also a sucker for a good drama. Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spin off is probably my favourite TV show of recent years.
How can WYSTC attendees best prepare themselves for your talk?
Just come with an open mind, and maybe think about the best and the worst “brainstorms” you’ve been part of. That would be good prep.