Chances are the average American worker is not ever going to be subject to a chorus of "boos" forcing him or her out of the conference room.
However, early in his career, former "Saturday Night Live" mainstay Darrell Hammond was occasionally the target of the aforementioned public disapproval for a job not well done. Yet he persevered.
Much has already been published about the intense competition between cast members of the iconic television sweatshop known as "Saturday Night Live." Though many of us work in businesses that provide a product or service to the public, Hammond's less tangible product was "laughter" and his considerable tools included the ability to impersonate some of the most powerful and recognized men in the world: President Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, Sen. John McCain, Donald Trump, and an Alex Trebek-loathing Sean Connery.
With Hammond's laying claim to the longest tenure of any SNL performer (1995-2009), one might expect him to preach the gospel of maintaining a healthy sense of humor in the workplace, but Hammond ultimately sermonizes the value of hard work, determination, and goal setting.
Crediting the work of Edwards Demming, an American statistician, professor, and consultant best known for his work in post-World War II Japan, a young Hammond adopted the practice of setting reasonable weekly goals. His expectation? By year's end he would achieve "exponential improvement" through 52 subtle-yet-discernible enhancements in his comedic skill set.
This Demming-inspired process continued for 12 years and countless stages until, at age 39, Hammond found his way to New York's fabled Rockefeller Center and "Saturday Night Live."
The veteran comic's survival technique revolved around a goal of providing something for everyone — attempting to make both Republicans and Democrats laugh. His mantra: "Never get personal and don't play to half the house."
In addition, Hammond's benchmark for joke selection was for each on-air remark to represent no more than the comedy equivalent of, in his words, "a locker room towel snap."
Hammond also recognized the importance of understanding his audience. For example, if a person or topic warranted two or more mentions in The New York Times, he intuitively knew additional study was in order. And though his well-honed craft would ultimately bring laughter to millions, Hammond maintains, "You can have a sense of humor only if you're confident in your strategy."
His time-tested methods have certainly worked well. Hammond also recently added the title of "New York Times Bestselling Author" to his resume with his 2011 book "God, If You're Not Up There…."
Though the Melbourne native may chide himself for his University of Florida cumulative 2.1 GPA, the self-deprecating funnyman was certainly clever enough to successfully navigate turbulent political waters and ever-changing public attitudes — all while having the eyes of the world on him for 14 high-profile years on SNL.
As former President Bill Clinton once said to him, "I make the headlines, you turn them into gold."
Set goals, persevere, provide something for everyone, and, when appropriate, confidently snap the towel.
Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of professional-courtesy initiative, RediscoverCourtesy.org, and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications agency headquartered in Naples. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or 239-304-9611.