The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius

'Telepathy in Action' with Improv Guru Paul Z Jackson: On Life, Laughter, Gratitude & Legacy. A Celebration of all things Comedy Improvisation and its Liberating & Life-Affirming Mindset of 'Yes and...'

December 04, 2023 Chris Grimes - Facilitator. Coach. Motivational Comedian
The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius
'Telepathy in Action' with Improv Guru Paul Z Jackson: On Life, Laughter, Gratitude & Legacy. A Celebration of all things Comedy Improvisation and its Liberating & Life-Affirming Mindset of 'Yes and...'
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready to peek behind the curtain of comedy improvisation? This week's episode is a treasure trove of insights, all thanks to our special guest, Paul Z Jackson. Fun, fascinating, and full of life, Jackson opens up about his journey from arts lover to improv guru. He shares his unique perspective on improvisation, describing it as "telepathy in action" and discusses his deep-seated love for literature, writing, and the arts that have all played influential roles in his life.

Our conversation takes an interesting turn as we discuss the pivotal moments that have shaped Jackson's life. From a spontaneous visit to an improv show that ignited his love for the art form, to the larger-than-life influence of football manager Graham Taylor and the captivating book and film "All the President's Men". But it’s not all serious talk - we also bond over our shared love for tennis, table tennis, and the never-ending hunt for the perfect scone!

You can also Watch/Listen to Paul's episode here: https://vimeo.com/chrisgrimes/paulzjackson

This episode isn't just about listening; it's a masterclass in the art of conversation, facilitated by none other than Jackson himself. He provides valuable insights into how to conduct a structured conversation, emphasizing the power of provocative questions, the magic of storytelling, and understanding the dynamics of a conversation. Injecting a healthy dose of laughter into the mix, Jackson reveals the fascinating world of improvisation and its surprising utility in our day-to-day lives. So, are you ready to spark some joy, pick up some wisdom, and possibly fall in love with improvisation? Come along for the ride!

Tune in next week for more stories of 'Distinction & Genius' from The Good Listening To Show 'Clearing'. If you would like to be my Guest too then you can find out HOW via the different 'series strands' at 'The Good Listening To Show' website.

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW wherever you get your Podcasts :)

Thanks for listening!

Speaker 1:

Welcome to another episode of the Good Listening To Show your life and times with me, chris Grimes, the storytelling show that features the clearing, where all good questions come to get asked and all good stories come to be told, and where all my guests have two things in common they're all creative individuals and all with an interesting story to tell. There are some lovely storytelling metaphors a clearing, a tree, a juicy storytelling exercise called 5-4-3-2-1, some alchemy, some gold, a cheeky bit of Shakespeare and a cake. So it's all to play for. So, yes, welcome to the Good Listening To Show your life and times with me, chris Grimes, are you sitting comfortably here? Then we shall begin. Get quite literally in and hello LinkedIn and hello Paul Z Jackson is in the clearing of the Good Listening To Show Stories of Distinction and Genius. It's a show in which I invite movers, makers, shakers, mavericks, influencers and also personal heroes into a clearing or serious happy place of their choosing to all share with us their stories of distinction and genius. And today is a very delightful day in the clearing because it's my opportunity to, after many, many years, come full circle back to Paul Z Jackson to thank him for being sort of the godfather of comedy improvisation. He is the man, this very man in front of me, is the man who got me on the open road of and first ever taught me the silky skills that have equipped me ever since of comedy improvisation. So, paul Z Jackson, it is my great privilege and pleasure and delight. That's three things, the rule of three, to welcome you to the Good, listening To Show clearing.

Speaker 2:

Privilege, pleasure and delight for me as well. Thanks.

Speaker 1:

Chris, lovely, and thank you for bearing with me, as I did, the one man clapping sound, which we all know Wonderful. So yes, you know, I know, you know and we all know who you are. But I'm just going to blow a bit of happy smoke at you. You are the president of the Applied Improvisation Network. You've also the Improvisation Academy, so you've just got bells and whistles pertaining to improvisation just all over the place. So if you get a clunky question which we all have to experience, so what do you do then Over to you now, paul. If somebody does ask you that clunky question, what's your favourite way of answering or avoiding that question?

Speaker 2:

Well, happy to answer it. The work I do is applying improvisation, mostly in organisations. I've always had a theatrical strand which is where we met up and have improvisation performances with four different groups over the years. One running currently in Oxford called Awkward Actors but that makes no money, as we core thespians know. So at some point along the way I discovered that people wanted to learn the skills that improvisers use on stage creativity, teamwork, responding in the moment and teaching that in organisations funds other enterprises and is enjoyable, and so on. We call that applied improvisation and, as you mentioned, I co-founded the Applied Improvisation Network and was president for a long time and still on the board and involved in that.

Speaker 1:

And that is other alumnae and prestigious people within the improvisation world. That's Neil Malarkey, who has been a previous guest on my show, Lee Simpson also, who's part of Improbable as well. So you are, yes, the president within an illustrious, in a board or in a sanctum.

Speaker 2:

But it's a non-the hierarchical. Anyone can join organisation. It's more than 8,000 people on the Facebook group lots of free resources. That has a conference every year at some parts of the world recently been to Spain, to Vancouver, next year in Prague. It was once in Oxford, it's been in Berlin and all over the place. It's a gathering of people who are interested in applying these very accessible and very useful arts.

Speaker 1:

And it's as we know, it's the underlying mindset and skill set of yes and yes and yes and yes, and which is so powerful and profound and, as I say, has equipped me ever since you got me on the open road of that. As I say, this is a really wonderful opportunity. We met with one of your previous incarnations, which is Morphil us, at the Bar Theatre Royal and in fact, I'm now in another improvisation company called Instant Wet, and we were back at the Bar Theatre Royal again extolling your praises, the fact we're there, in no small part because 30 years ago we were all there with you. It's lasted well, hasn't it? It has, and I love that whole thing about you know, playing it forward and paying it back and being sincerely grateful for teachers of the past, and I've got certain people at the Bristol Big Theatre School that I have, you know, been on this programme going. It's all thanks to them. So, yes, improvisation is a very important part of what I now do and thanks to you, that that's where it all began. You were the sort of genesis point for me, if you like.

Speaker 2:

That's good to know. I learned from other people before Keith Johnston, for example, one of the great gurus who wrote improv. I was lucky to study with Augusto Boal, who was inventor of many games and very interesting use of political theatre and many, many others.

Speaker 1:

Yes, by the way, I googled you just before we started and the first hit I get for Paul Z Jackson. By the way, just before I tell you what I googled and what I found, the question on everyone's lips is, and I don't think I do know the answer to this, but what does the Z stand for, please?

Speaker 2:

Ah, that's a good question. So I was born Paul Jackson, very plainly, and my parents told me that I could add an initial or middle name if I wanted to. They did the same with my brother, david, and I thought nothing of this until I joined the BBC, which was before we formed Morphable Us. I had a proper job as a comedy producer working with improvisers, and there was another Paul Jackson there, a famous one, yes, I directed the two Ronnies and many other comedy greats, and we were both based in Manchester, both working in comedy, and I could only pick his pace, slip up so many times.

Speaker 1:

Sounds like he has a good pace slip to get hold of at that time it would be a very good one.

Speaker 2:

He wasn't so keen on that. He was producing Red Dwarf at the time.

Speaker 1:

Oh.

Speaker 2:

OK, I was working with the radio both in Manchester and I added the Z, which was extremely useful when it turned out, because there aren't many Paul Zed Jacksons around where there's hundreds of Paul Jackson's around so far.

Speaker 1:

You are the only one I know who's Paul Zed Jackson, which makes you extra memorable too, actually.

Speaker 2:

I was very lucky with that.

Speaker 1:

I'm now going to give you the prize of the first hit I got about. Try this at Home. People Google Paul Zed Jackson. It came up straight away, boom with. He's a brilliant coach and trainer. His sessions with our team have been playful, insightful and hugely useful in unlocking our team's creativity.

Speaker 2:

That's very nice.

Speaker 1:

You're very welcome. If you wrote it yourself, it's very well done. I don't think you did so. Paul, it's my great, great pleasure to curate you through the journey of the Good Listening To Show there's going to be a clearing a tree, a juicy storytelling exercise called 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. There's going to be some alchemy, some gold, a couple of random squirrels, a cheeky bit of Shakespeare, a golden baton and a cake. So it's absolutely all to play for.

Speaker 2:

It's a lovely menu.

Speaker 1:

Lovely, so shall we get you on the path of the open road. You can go as deep as you like, where you like, to talk about all the wonderful work that you do using the silky skills of the mindset of yes and and comedy, improvisation. You're also an author, by the way, which I forgot to sort of blow smoke at you about too, so you can even read an extract from one of your books, if you like, as we approach the end.

Speaker 2:

Oh, spare you that.

Speaker 1:

But I'd like to mention them and talk about them? Sure, Wonderful. So let's get you on the open road, so clearing or serious happy place. Where does Paul Z Jackson go to get clutter free, inspirational and able to think?

Speaker 2:

The clue to that is in the background I've chosen here. I like a library, I like cafes and trains and other semi private, semi public spaces, so there's other people around but they're not messing around with you and a nice old library which there are several, of course in Oxford is a great place to retreat, think and do the writing, and that's a very happy place. It contrasts with other happy places, like in the midst of a workshop, where everything's flying around and you're in flow, managing things and working out what comes next.

Speaker 1:

And, by the way, it's such a beautiful, it makes such sense because one of your in your profile, your biography on awkward actors at the moment, your current troop, your biography. It says describe. It says that bloke over there. So if you're in a library, who's who's that? Well, is that bloke over there in the library? Sh happens to be Paul Z Jackson. That's lovely, yes.

Speaker 2:

Did you?

Speaker 1:

go to Oxford University as well, by the way.

Speaker 2:

I did, yes, so I've returned to the city, but this time around it's, it's better not being a student no exams, and I can afford a cup of coffee.

Speaker 1:

Yes, nicely put. So we're going to be in your hearing then, and it sounds like you are. I mean, is the back, that is that, an Oxford based library on your screen saver there, or is that a? I'm not sure? Oh, I thought it might be a very specific one, so you can be very specific. So, a bit like what three words? We can pin a sort of pin in a map of a specific library, or, if you just want to be in the library, what would you prefer?

Speaker 2:

Oh, or the loveliest looking library from the outside here is the Radcliffe camera. It's the round building that's on lots of the tourist photos and I have a card that gets me into that I mean it's not so wonderful on the inside because it's very old.

Speaker 1:

So did you say the Radcliffe camera?

Speaker 2:

Radcliffe, that looks fun.

Speaker 1:

Let's put it there. Okay, I'm now going to arrive with a tree in your clearing, a bit waiting for Godot-esque and existentially deliberate, and I'm going to shake your tree to see which storytelling apples fall out. I've got a few comedy props. How do you like these apples? You're welcome, no extra charge. And this is where you've been kind enough to think about. You've had five minutes to have thought about four things that have shaped you, paul Z Jackson, three things that inspire you, two things that never fail to grab your attention, and that's where the random squirrels are going to come in. And then a quicker, unusual fact about you we couldn't possibly know until you tell us. So over to you to interpret the shaking of your canopy as you see fit.

Speaker 2:

Okay, I've given it some thoughts and it's very difficult. They're good questions, just they probe and the first thing that I think shaped me is one of those decisions that you make when you're young and you have to go this direction or that direction. And in my school you had to choose arts or sciences, for which GCSEs you would do, and I was down for science for some reason, but luckily I was persuaded by some combination of an English teacher and parents. Second thoughts to go to the arts side. I nearly set the dark side. That came later.

Speaker 1:

By the way, I love the sort of binary choice of that and also first impressions. You might look like a bit of a boffin, I suppose. So they might have thought, ah, the sliding doors, moment, left right, we'll put them in the boffin camp. So that's a compliment as well as a sort of you're about to make the wrong life choice.

Speaker 2:

Well, I've always been interested in science and still read sciencey books, but I would never have managed the maths and the physics and the stuff that's hard work.

Speaker 1:

Although you have, if I may, you've described improvisation as being telepathy in action. Yes, so it is a science. I get that.

Speaker 2:

I forget the description, but it sounds right. If you're watching improv done well, it is like magic, isn't it? Absolutely Telepathy in action, but it's not actually. There's techniques you've mentioned, yes, and careful listening, turn taking. There's lots to it that anyone can learn, and I'm proof of that, because you taught me that's cool. You're in good company. There were things, then, that arose from going on to the art side. Being in phase studying literature, writing was encouraged rather than calculating, all of which have served me well. So that was a fortunate and decisive foundation.

Speaker 1:

It was Wineford slightly. Your first proper job was as a journalist, I believe, so that did put you in good stead.

Speaker 2:

yes, it did, and that was also very shaping of me encountering journalism, and to do that I had to move to Cardiff, which was where the newspaper was based. Do you remember newspapers? I do.

Speaker 1:

I'm old as well, so yes, I do.

Speaker 2:

I worked on a newspaper for 10 years and was able to write about a million words for this newspaper, mostly in feature writing, so longer articles.

Speaker 1:

That's the equivalent of 20,000 hours for mastery. A million words sounds about the equivalent of that.

Speaker 2:

It was more than enough. More than enough, and during that time there was enough space to follow theatre, film, literature, interview people who were exceptionally good at these things and learn from them, and started the first of the improvisation groups, and that led to me being able to get this comedy job with the BBC and set up the groups that followed.

Speaker 1:

And you always chose. As I understood it, you're always wanting to be that bloke over there in the background as opposed to being the actor on stage. So you always wanted to curate the improvisational troops rather than be their front and centre.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I had no great desire to be on stage. Occasionally in some of the gigs that we did I would go on stage partly to introduce it, partly to perform, but it was quite rare. My favourite time was when we did a three-person show, with more for us and the other two were Rob Bryden and Toby Longworth, both of whom you'll remember very well. Yes, we did a show in Stroud in little pub theatre called the Pelican, and Toby and Rob both brilliant impressionists and they started doing this sequence of improvised impressions. It's foreshadowed the trip by some considerable distance and I was on stage with them bouncing around with that and that was wonderful. So I know how nice it can be and the feeling you can get, but it was never what I particularly wanted to do. But seeing other people develop and being able to put their talents forward and watch them flourish, that's what gives me real satisfaction.

Speaker 1:

So we're still in the shaping. So the next thing to shape you.

Speaker 2:

The next thing to shape me was getting involved in youth clubs and organising things. I organised a football team when I was about 10, called the Pinot Torpedos, and it mostly existed on paper, writing down the names of people and putting them in positions. But we did play a couple of games which were not terribly successful, but I had this organising streak and getting things to happen that featured through. So seeing that I could do that and get away with it was pretty foundational as well.

Speaker 1:

Put you in a league of your own. See what I'm doing there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was the best place to be. Yes, the pillar torpedoes.

Speaker 1:

Are they still running, thanks to you, the pillar torpedoes? They're not. They did sink without trace. Okay, then the third shape is then. So you, now you've got an acumen for organizational development.

Speaker 2:

The third shaping thing was leaving home at 17 and going to America before I went to university for six months and experiencing that culture shock Also doing some work on an office boy and a publisher, that freedom to start going to rock concerts and just not being constrained by that family environment. That's of course very important and was a shaker in itself.

Speaker 1:

But the contrast were different. What part of America was it you went to?

Speaker 2:

I went to Los Angeles and the office I was working in was in Beverly Hills lovely district, but there were a lot of less lovely places and I couldn't drive, so traveling around by Greyham bus and relying on other people for transport. It was a good exercise in independence and experiencing different things.

Speaker 1:

Nice shapeage very good. Do you could be onto the last shaping thing now?

Speaker 2:

The last shapeage, gonna say, university, we mentioned Oxford and I studied philosophy and politics and, apart from having an interest in them, which I still have in both of those subjects, it shaped me by revealing that you could analyze things. I don't think we've done much thinking about what was going on. You live life and that's all fine and on it goes. But you could take this step back, philosophical step back, and look at things. How did they work? What makes a story successful? What are the ingredients of a business? What is it in a person that's gonna help them to flourish, the conditions for them to work well, and having that discipline of starting to analyze and study. What makes things tick? How do they work? What are the conditions for success?

Speaker 1:

There's a natural through line towards the path of being a facilitator and enabler and curating groups. Because of that interest.

Speaker 2:

Yes, so I had the experience of groups, football teams, youth clubs, and this was all enjoyable, but it was all done without any sense of what was going on. I had to do it well or what would make it work. But if you put that together with the analytical part, then, as you say, it leads you towards facilitating and creating things, which I didn't do then for 10 years as a journalist.

Speaker 1:

you're very much a lone wolf and not managing anyone, not creating projects, you're just writing stuff that comes out as you alluded to, you weren't sitting on your thumbs, you were busy well plying the currency of a million words to sort of learn your craft.

Speaker 2:

You'd certainly learn the craft, get out and about see a lot of the world. So that was all very good foundational stuff as well, and, gracing its own right, each thing leads on to the next in some way, even if it's not obvious at the time how that happened.

Speaker 1:

Is that links that sort of lovely Steve Jobs film where he talks about if you look over your shoulder in life, you can join the dots up backwards as to what brings you to today. So it's all been a jigsaw of opportunity Very interesting.

Speaker 2:

Keith Johnson in his writing about improvisation says scenes work by the performers in the scene looking backwards as to how come they could possibly be wherever they're purporting to be now. So they imagine and create the whole history of how they got there by looking through the rear view mirror.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and there is that comedy, improvisational format of doing a scene backwards, and that's one I could never quite master.

Speaker 2:

Actually it's one of the hardest ones to do.

Speaker 1:

I would always stand back and be in awe while others manage that. But it was a lovely framework whereby you'd get a last line I think it was a last line from an audience and a first line and then you'd work out the scene backwards.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it is very impressive and it is genuinely difficult.

Speaker 1:

Wonderful shape pitch, by the way. Now onto three things that inspire you.

Speaker 2:

Paul Zejakson yes, I have to mention the inspiration that got me into improvisation, because I had no idea it existed or it was a form, just that sort of vague idea that improvisation was second rate stuff. If you couldn't do a thing properly, somehow you'd improvise. And my brother asked me to come to a show. But he demanded I come to a show in London, the Don Mar warehouse, performed by Jim Sweeney and Steve Steen, both of whom went on to do many shows with comedy store players or on whose lines?

Speaker 1:

they were on the broadcasting. They were on the broadcasting. So that just came to me as a sort of epiphany of eggs in a pan On the broadcasting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think this was a side venture without all of the eggs that made up the omelette, but it was those people and Sweeney and Steve had been part of on the broadcasting and the TV show which I'd never heard of and indeed had never seen, called the Wee Wees before.

Speaker 1:

It's a Wee Wees. I haven't seen that like that. No.

Speaker 2:

I went to this show and it was Sweeney and Steve and a few others improvising and I went with expectations of zero, just a humor, my brother and the show was brilliant. And I was very suspicious, being a journalist and having done some theatre stuff at school and even up to the Edinburgh Festival, and wondered how they were doing it and went again the next week for another improvised show, completely different, just as good and using audience suggestions, including one from me and my friend. So I was pretty convinced this was genuine by now and I went to interview them and asked them how was this done, using my journalistic entry card? And they said, well, it's very easy, you just say yes. And I looked disappointed and they said, well, there's a book by Keith Johnston. And they told me how they worked on these things and I picked it up from there, went to a couple of workshops and then went to Cardiff where there was no improvisation, if they saw and started my own group.

Speaker 1:

What a great sort of what's meant for you won't pass you by with your brother nudging you into a venue to sort of have a look at an omelet you weren't expecting to have to consume.

Speaker 2:

So nearly did. Yeah, I may not have seen that and would have been missing out on something that was Another sliding doors moment. If I may Life changing? Yes, life changing.

Speaker 1:

Yes, science or the arts, come to the theatre. Don't go to the theatre. What's meant for you won't pass you by. Love, that Great inspiration.

Speaker 2:

A second inspiration, my second inspiration comes from a different field entirely and is Graham Taylor, the former Watford and not so successfully England football manager, and I grew up near Watford and watched Watford before Graham Taylor arrived, and they were dismal. Slept your way.

Speaker 1:

Worse than your Pelican team. Whatever you called them.

Speaker 2:

But they were in the same strata as the Pinna torpedoes, a little better organised, but they weren't doing well.

Speaker 1:

The Pinna sorry, I'm just getting the name right the Pinna torpedoes. Yes, I had Pelican. I was improvising on a whole different thing there.

Speaker 2:

That was the theatre in Stroud. It's all in there somewhere.

Speaker 1:

Yes and Sorry back to you.

Speaker 2:

And with Elton John taking over as the chairman, he recruited this young, bright manager, graham Taylor, and they rose up the divisions and he took them from pretty much bottom of the league to second place and FA Cup final in the top divisions. And he did it not just once, he did it twice, because he went away and managed other teams, then came back after Watford had sunk closer to their proper level and took them back to the top division again. I was fortunate enough to meet him actually at that time the season where they went back up and had interested in the work I was doing the improvisation and solution focus and had a fantastic couple of hours meeting with him, talking about all these things, and he was such an accessible and inspirational figure. He revitalised this whole club but he would insist that players lived within a certain distance of the ground so that they had an affinity with the local team. They'd go out and work in the community, do hospital visits and all sorts of things that you don't expect footballers to readily do, but they did this and he'd improve pretty average players into a phenomenal team. They never did so well when they went elsewhere, with the exception of one or two. John Barnes was a big success wherever he went, but most of the players reached their peak when they were working on the Grand Tade, and I met him a couple of times afterwards. He was always very generous with his time and views.

Speaker 1:

There's something really apposite in that about the nature of ensemble. When you get a particular group of people together, a particular and very specific magic happens that's only particular to that group.

Speaker 2:

I think he created that environment quite deliberately for it to work and that's the secret. I think you can get not exactly a random group of people there's something about who you select to work with but if you've got a decent group of people and give them the conditions, they'll inspire each other. They'll work together in certain ways to exceed any expectations that they may have come with.

Speaker 1:

Yes, lovely inspiration.

Speaker 2:

And third one, now A third inspiration, bringing together the American visit and the journalism I was inspired by the All the Presidents Men film and book on the Watergate scandal, which younger viewers may remember was the downfall of Robert Redford, is the name I remember as the Robert Redford wasn't his downfall. He was in the film with Dustin Hoffman. They played Woodward and Bernstein, the journalist from the Washington Post who brought down President Nixon. In those days we weren't used to presidents being corrupt or dubious in any way. They were held in very high esteem. But they did this phenomenal research and the book and the film inspired me towards journalism.

Speaker 1:

Fantastic shape, an inspirer. Now it's two things squirrels and never fail to grab your attention. That's borrowed from the film up as a reference for you. But what two things never fail to grab your attention, paul.

Speaker 2:

Never fail to grab my attention would be a good looking scon.

Speaker 1:

I wondered where you were going there. A good looking scon Can you just qualify what a good looking one is for you? Any old scon?

Speaker 2:

This is a lifetime's quest to find the perfect scon, cream and jam combination.

Speaker 1:

What do we flop on first or second? That's the other important thing for the aficionados.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. The order is crucial. It's difficult to find. You can find a good scon and then the cream will be disappointing. Or if you're very lucky and a good scon, will have bits in. It's not plain scon, it's a scon Raisins, currants, maybe a bit of fruit. It's large and crispy and crusty and then it needs the cream to offset that. And then the jam has to be good. I'm pretty much disbared of jam and put fresh fruit on Some berries slices.

Speaker 1:

To give you a perfect scon, a bit like Desert Island is your perfect scon. Where would you go for your perfect scon? I'm still questing You're still on searching.

Speaker 2:

I've had some good ones. I don't obsessively keep a list, so I can't tell you where they were.

Speaker 1:

When he tried to return to go again. The window in the universe is closed and that scon is no more.

Speaker 2:

I will say to my wife where did we have that good scon? She'll either remember or not. Garden sensors are quite good. If you want a scon-seeking tip, Garden sensors are quite good.

Speaker 1:

So is that bloke over there? No, no, no, no, he's probably Paul Z Jackson. Very likely. No one's ever said scon before. I'm delighted with that answer. It may serve us well for the cake later, indeed. So now a second squirrel, please.

Speaker 2:

A second squirrel, a bit more obscure, is I love a good crossword kluge, so in my quiet space like this, I would take breaks from writing whenever possible, because that's hard work.

Speaker 1:

Do a crossword I would say a good crossword with a definitional wireman or cryptic, and we'll be seen looking at a clue and admiring the clever ones, and I love the fact that your million word period of time will also inform your ability to solve a good old cryptic crossword as well. I didn't say I was any good at it, but you like one, so scon and a crossword seem like a really good combo for you in the garden centre.

Speaker 2:

I'm sitting here very sad old guy now, sitting with my scon and newspaper.

Speaker 1:

No, it's very enjoyable. And now we're on to a quirky or unusual fact about you. We couldn't possibly know until you tell us, Paul.

Speaker 2:

Yes, well, so you know that I'm entrepreneurial and set things up and formed these different improvisation groups and different businesses and written the books. And I don't know and very few people would know is my children have all turned out to be self employed. Chinese Bizarre reflection. How many of these do I have? I have three children and my oldest daughter is a wedding makeup and hair specialist. So if you're having a wedding and you want your hair and makeup done, it's usually the win it. But I'm sure she's happy to treat anyone the same. She'll do that. She set her own business up to do that.

Speaker 1:

And you can plug the business here, please. This is what this is for. I'm likely to be.

Speaker 2:

She's very busy doing that. Second daughter is freelance piano teacher, so again followed the artistic route.

Speaker 1:

There is that joke, peripatetic. Oh, I thought she was very good. Ok, so she's a piano teacher and a tuner as well. So no, there was a stereotype that a lot of piano tuners are blind, good, good at listening.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that was a stereotype based in fact.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for affirming that. Sorry back to you. It's your fact, Sorry. And the third child son Joe.

Speaker 2:

he started with sensible work. Like I did have proper job to begin with and his was in Charter to Vain and he decided he didn't like it. The surveying stuff. He'd done three years and all the exams, was working for a big firm, an American firm in London, threw it all in, retrained himself as a graphic designer and joined by independent children's set or following artistic pursuits, I don't know what that says but I'm sort of proud of her and think good for them.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and it ties in beautifully with that whole thing about comedy, improvisation, the yes and the noes and the fact there's no script for life, and the fact that you've got to make it up as you go along and if you don't like something, change. It is the other liberating maxim.

Speaker 2:

I couldn't agree more, but that's what I've done, very opportunistically. I couldn't have predicted any of those things happening and that they've picked that up somehow maybe not for me.

Speaker 1:

maybe they have that yes.

Speaker 2:

But I've done it practically some other way. I've used their diet and realised it yes so that was a surprise to me.

Speaker 1:

Wonderful. So we've shaken your cherry, hurrah. Now we're going to stay in the clearing. Move away from the tree. Next we're going to talk about alchemy and gold, paul Z Jackson. So when you're at purpose and in flow, what are you absolutely happiest doing and what you're here to reveal to the world?

Speaker 2:

Oh, that would have to be working with improvisation working in a positive, we call it solution focused way. It's one of the books that I've written and recently rewritten, coming out next May, and that's knowing what we're trying to do. So we have some sort of vision of the outcome that we want and we're engaging our resources very fully, as you say, in flow, to do it, and I'm still the bloke at the side, nudging things, creating conditions, encouraging people, applauding them, joining in a bit where necessary to see what we can do together. And that might be an improvisation show where it's very obvious whether you're succeeding or not. The audience are loving it or they're working quietly out and in organizations, in businesses, in teams. How can they flourish? And, as you all know, they so often don't, and work is disappointing and dismal. But the talent's there, the willingness is there. It's just mixing things up in a certain way A nudge here and encouragement there, a rethink something else, and they can get it and really enjoy what they're doing and do it well and create good things in the world.

Speaker 1:

Lovely answer to your alchemy and purpose there. Lovely, I did have a gold bar which I could have shown you alchemy and gold, but I've got to pick that up.

Speaker 2:

So now I'm going to Never too late.

Speaker 1:

I just flashed it in front of the screen. Oh, alchemy and gold, there it is. So now I'm going to award you with a cake. Ah, so we've established. You like cake because of scone, or scone, as I say, scone, I like you, but you can choose a different cake now. So you're going to get to put a cherry on the cake shortly, but what would your cake of choice please be?

Speaker 2:

So I could line up a cake after I finish my scone. A slither It'd have to be a slither.

Speaker 1:

I like staying fit and healthy say tennis and walk every day. Don't play tennis. That was the other connection we re-established when we regod in touch recently about tennis. We must have a game of tennis soon. Tennis and table tennis yes, prepare to be my bitch at both. I'm kidding, but I doubt it. I was playing yesterday you pressed yourself with how good you were.

Speaker 2:

I beat the previously mentioned brother. Ah, that's always very satisfying.

Speaker 1:

By the way, this will appeal to you. I played a club around the corner at the VPTC, but anyway, it's in a place called Windmill Hill and this year I was the Windmill Hill-Baldun champion. Thank you very much. I applaud you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much, and now we're reluctant to take you on because you sound good, I like to talk a good game.

Speaker 1:

But if it scared you that's the idea, but I'd love to do that We'll play tennis and ping pong and make a point of it. Anyway, back to you and your cake. So what cake would you like a slither of?

Speaker 2:

Slither of a nice chocolate cake.

Speaker 1:

Lovely. So now you get to put a cherry on the cake and this is Stuff Like. Now a final sort of metaphor suffused cake. A favourite inspirational quote, paul, that's always given you succour and pulled you towards your future.

Speaker 2:

Yes, this is one that I heard when I was learning about solutions focus. This is the approach to change that I use and fell in love with, partly through the founders of it that bought it to the world, who were Steve D'Shaeser and Insoot Kim Berg. He was American, she was American of Korean origin, and they're very contrasting characters. So there's something about you don't have to follow a particular person's style, but there's the thinking that they did, and one of Insoot's great sayings was if you want to go fast, go slow, and maybe this resonates with what you were saying earlier. The things will come to you in some way if you're looking out for them and take advantage of them when they do arise.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Speaker 2:

If you want to go fast, go slow. Don't rush into it, but take the time and wait for that opportune moment and then step in In life or in an improv scene your eyes all over the place.

Speaker 1:

It reminds me of. There's a proverb attributed as an African proverb, which is if you want to go far, go alone, but if you want to go further, go together. That's lovely. Which is very. That's where I thought you were going. I was quiet for a moment, thinking there was a second half. Yours was perfect, by the way, because it's more concise, so just say yours once again.

Speaker 2:

If you want to go fast, go slow.

Speaker 1:

And there's something in the leadership canon at the moment about slow leadership as well. Isn't there which relates to that there?

Speaker 2:

is, yes, slow conversations. There are books, these interesting management books about things to think about. That will help, and slowness is there and it's a necessary corrective to move fast and break things.

Speaker 1:

Yes, for example, by the way, that's also beautifully just reminded me that sliding doors, I nearly didn't come and auditioned for more for the last, because Toby Longworth was so brilliant that I worried that comedy improvisation was going to be lots of people competing to be funny and that I was going to fear having to get a grappling hook in the back of somebody else who I knew was very, very funny and try to keep up. But then very, very quickly, thanks to your teaching and the fact of comedy improvisation, it's very, very, very collaborative.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

And everyone is able to pull in their own authentic way. So you play to your own strengths.

Speaker 2:

Isn't that lovely that you're working together, but everyone has a chance to shine in their own way too. Yes, which, if I may say so, you always did. You're, I remember I've actually got videos of some of your scenes, but the physical comedy and the quick wit and you were very collaborative, it was everything needed to be a good improviser.

Speaker 1:

And probably this many 30-odd years later, even here, the clearing is in my head an empty space brimming and charged with potential, where anything is possible with a mindset of yes. And so it really is about the gratitude of the idea, of the mindset of comedy, improvisation.

Speaker 2:

Well, we're all tapping into that and it's still relatively unknown. So there's work for us to do to spread that word.

Speaker 1:

Still to be done. Lovely, what notes help or advice might you profit a younger version of yourself now with a beautiful gift of hindsight. A bit more patience along the lines A bit more of a pension or a bit more patience? Did you say Both of those?

Speaker 2:

yes, if you go self-employed, which I did after leaving the BBC, then there's no pension.

Speaker 1:

And you didn't say that, did you? I was being facetious. You said a bit more patience.

Speaker 2:

I did. It was along the if you want to be fast, go slow, but I tended to be, when I was younger, very competitive, hence the tennis and table tennis banter, and I'm less so now. I did play much more to play, play to play rather than play to win. So one of my improv adages is play to play. Contrast that with play to win and also add play to learn. They're all valid, but my advice would have been a bit more attention on the play to play.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and, by the way, within comedy, improvisation, whenever we're teaching it, I know this. There are times when you know that someone's trying to be the funniest and the best and of course, that's where it never quite works because it's not collaborative.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, there's space for people to be very funny, very creative within the collective and the collaborative, and if we can find that, then it really works well. Same with leadership groups, teams and organizations If one person runs off in a very different direction and the others aren't with them, then it's not going to be sustainable.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and what's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Speaker 2:

This is going to sound very weird. I was asked in my interview for getting the job in the newspaper are you a morning person or an evening person? And I said, well, I'm an evening person. I'm not that keen on getting up early in the morning, which was true at the time and fairly pronounced. I didn't get to any morning lectures for many years, so that was in my mind, and they said oh, in that case you'll need to work on a morning newspaper. I thought, well, that sounds like a big nonsense. I just told you I'm an evening person, but this is why I was. I think we're not listening. Oh well, are you not listening? I was almost annoyed, are you not listening? And it turned out to be the best piece of advice that I was ever given, because the evening paper works during the morning and the morning paper works during the afternoon and evening, so that it can come out on time the next day or, in the case of the evening paper, the same day. Hence, the best piece of advice you've ever been given. I was on the right shift. I was on afternoon and evening shifts and never, very rarely, on a morning shift. So fabulous advice.

Speaker 1:

Fabulous advice, and so now we're ramping up slowly to a bit of Shakespeare in a minute, but just before we get there, this is the past. The golden baton moment, please. So who would you most like to pass the golden baton along to, to keep the golden thread of the storytelling going? Paulse Jackson in your network, do you think?

Speaker 2:

One of the most interesting people I met this year was Professor Denise Barden, d-e-n-i-s-e, b-a-d-e-n from University of Southampton, who I was looking for a keynote speaker for a conference, along with other colleagues in the solution-focused world, and somebody mentioned her. I've never heard of her, looked her up and she's done all these superb solution-focused bits of quirky research. So she's worked with more environmentally friendly hairdressing, for example. She's looked at whether stories about climate change inspire people to action or not. They're so worried about what's going to happen they do nothing and she's got very practical tips and ideas from this and she gets involved in writing and editing compilations of books. Very interesting person and I think she'd be fabulous Thought leader to get hold of and quiz.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for that gift and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to furnish me with a warm introduction so that it becomes a yes and Awesome.

Speaker 2:

Very happy to do so.

Speaker 1:

And now, inspired by Shakespeare and all the worlds of stage and all the bedded wibbied mealy players. This is the actual. Well, it's not a first failure, but this is the one that I bought for myself when I went to the Bristol Ulvig Theatre School circa 1986. And it says Chris Grimes, 16986, please. In the inside cover.

Speaker 2:

It was your first failure.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, yes, good listening, yes, it was. Thanks, norm's ever said that before. Thank you A gift. So now, inspired by all the worlds of stage and all the men and women, mealy players from, as you like it, and jakey's, when all is said and done, paul's a Jackson. How would you most like to be remembered?

Speaker 2:

I would like to be remembered for founding some communities, so community of the applied improvisation network, to continue, to continue to have that flourish. And they, oh, one of the founders was that.

Speaker 1:

We've just gone and a cryptic crossword in the garden centre.

Speaker 2:

And the solution focused community which I've helped to found, and nurture over the years. So these are things that are going worldwide in pleasing ways and, if I remember, there's been foundational and contributory towards them. I think that would be very satisfactory.

Speaker 1:

Lovely, great answer. So, as this has been your moment in the clearing of the Good, listening To Show stories of distinction and genius, is there anything else you'd like to say, paul?

Speaker 2:

I feel you have found out everything there is to be known.

Speaker 1:

We've reached the edge of your personality. It's time to stop. So thank you so much for being here. It's been a real delight to reconnect with you and the really important thing for me is I wanted you to hear a big thank you all these years later, in all sincerity, for getting me on the path of comedy improvisation, so thank you.

Speaker 2:

I appreciate that. It's lovely to hear, lovely to reconnect.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, and yes, please to let's Place and Tennis and Zipingkong and make a point of it. I'll even bring you a scone round and a slither of a little chocolate cake as well. So thank you for listening on at LinkedIn too, and do look out for wwwTheGoodListeningToShowcom if you'd like to be my guest too. So thank you very much also for watching here on LinkedIn too. Is there anything else you'd like to say? Paul?

Speaker 2:

Should I mention my website?

Speaker 1:

Oh, sorry. Yes, I'm so happy. I asked that question in case we've forgotten to say something Normally because the guest has, but that was. Where can we find out all about Paul Z Jackson on the Internet?

Speaker 2:

Thank you, as you've said, google search will produce something and I have two websites, the improvisation one, wwwimproorguk and wwwsolutionsfocuscom.

Speaker 1:

And we can connect with you on LinkedIn as well. And if you haven't done that, if you're watching this, make a point of connecting with Paul Z Jackson now. Hurrah, thank you very much for that. So, on that note, I believe we can now stop broadcasting to the world here on LinkedIn and you're also going to be pulled into the UK Health Radio Network Paul Z Jackson, where there's 54 countries and, across the network, an audience reach of about 1.3 million. Hurrah.

Speaker 2:

Bonjour.

Speaker 1:

It's just one of the languages. Bonjour, thank you very much. Yes, and good night. You've been listening to the Good Listening To Show here on UK Health Radio with me, chris Grimes. Oh, it's my son. If you've enjoyed the show, then please do tune in next week to listen to more stories from the Clearing. If you'd like to connect with me on LinkedIn, then please do so. There's also a dedicated Facebook group for the show too. You can contact me about the programme or, if you'd be interested in experiencing some personal impact coaching with me, carry my level up. Your impact programme. That's chrisatsecondcurveuk On Twitter and Instagram. It's At that, chris Grimes. So until next time for me, chris Grimes from UK Health Radio. I'm from Stan. To your good health and goodbye. So, paul Z Jackson, you've just been given a damn good listening to in this structure. If I could get your immediate feedback on what that was like for you to be in this structure, how was it for you?

Speaker 2:

It was great. You're a very hospitable conductor of conversation, alert and taking us through it with good pace, and the questions are very provocative and got me to think through many of the things that I've done and organise them in some vaguely coherent way. And then it was fun to have the conversation as we went with the hunter and back and forth within it, wonderful, right back at you.

Speaker 1:

That was a delight. I shall stop recording there.

Interview With Paul Z Jackson
Paul Z Jackson's Journey
Three Inspirations
Artistic Pursuits, Power of Improvisation
Alchemy, Gold, Tennis, and Cake
Positive Feedback on Conversation Structure