Profiles

Texas Based Comedy Troupe Turns from Creative Outlet to Successful Business

Four Day Weekend is not your average improv/comedy troupe. The three partners have worked for clients like Disney, Dish Network, Hallmark, The Gap, Southwest Airlines, State Farm and Verizon. If that's not enough, Four Day Weekend has also performed for Congress and President Barack Obama. If that's not enough, they perform four shows every weekend at their theatre in Sundance Square in Ft. Worth, they have appeared in 100's of commercials and even written a book called “The Art of ImproviZEN.” 

Hearpreneur had the opportunity to interview Four Day Weekend about their success, how they started and some of their favorite experiences.  

How did you come up with your business?

The reality is we really never intended to start a business.  The three partners (David Ahearn, David Wilk and Frank Ford) had all been performing in different comedy shows around the Dallas area and we decided to join forces to do a limited 6-week run of our show Four Day Weekend.  We actually created this show primarily as a creative outlet to explore our comedy vision and we had little intention of actually creating a business.  We hadn’t really considered going beyond the limited run however we experienced some moderate success and the theater venue where we were performing asked us to extend our run.

6 weeks turned into 17 years on February 28, 2014.  As the show continued it became necessary for us to build a business infrastructure around the show and it happened very gradually.  What started as a live comedy show soon morphed into a corporate communications division, 5 level theater training center and a film and production arm of the business.  These divisions were added incrementally as they were necessary and we attribute this to the long-term success of the business.  We grew and expanded as we needed to and therefore we were allowed to grow into our current business model.

We built our show first and foremost and then we created the necessary infrastructure around the show to support us from the business side of things.  During our 17-year run we have watched as other shows have tried to emulate our success however their downfall has been trying to build a business first and then creating a show after the fact.  Our success is directly attributable to creating a hit show and then building from the inside out.

How did you come up with the name Four Day Weekend?

The name is actually an homage to one of our favorite television shows at the time, The Simpsons.  In one episode Marge Simpson tells Homer that his boss called him and said if Homer doesn’t come in Friday don’t bother coming in Monday.  Homer misunderstands the threat and responds, “Woo hoo, Four Day Weekend.”  We were sitting around watching the show and we laughed and we said if we ever started a show we would call it Four Day Weekend.

Why are you also referred to Second City of the Southwest?

The Second City is by all accounts the premiere place in the country for improvisation.  Two of our founders (David Wilk and Frank Ford) studied at the Second City and credit it for the inspiration to try and start a theater company similar to the Second City in the Southwest.

There was a huge vacuum for improvisation in the Southwest so we tried to fill the void by creating a show.  Quite simply, we looked at Second City’s business model and we decided to mimic (or stole) it in the south.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Second City should be very flattered by Four Day Weekend.  We owe everything to the Second City and we are thankful we were never sued.

What was your favorite event that you performed at?

The most surreal moment and the most memorable was delivering our comedy keynote address to the Democratic Caucus of the United States House of Representatives.  We were brought it to help to teach Congress how to communicate better and as we looked out at the audience we could see just about every Democrat that is on the Sunday political talk show circuit.  Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance.  Nancy Pelosi was sitting directly in the front row.  When we were brought in Congress had a 9% approval rating and that rating now has inched up to 11%.  All we can say is, you’re welcome, America.

Immediately following the performance we had the pleasure of meeting and talking with President Barack Obama.  For a little comedy show that was only supposed to make it 6 weeks this was an unprecedented achievement.  This was the moment when we felt, “Maybe we have made it.”

What is “The Art of ImproviZEN”?

The Art of ImproviZEN is our book that takes you inside the world of improvisational comedy and offers you a guide of how to combine creativity with commerce to create harmony in the workplace. The Art of Improvizen reveals the secret to improvisation and how it can change your life and make you more productive both at work and in your private life. Welcome to the world of “yes, and.”

The Art of ImproviZEN tells the tale of Four Day Weekend’s storybook success story and how two little words, “yes and,” changed their lives for the better. The Art of ImproviZEN reveals step by step how you can implement “yes, and” into your life to help you manifest your dreams. Four Day Weekend takes you into the world where all things are possible,  “no”  doesn’t  exist and your dreams await.

What is “Yes, and”?

“Yes, and” is the foundation of all improvisation.  In improvisation we strike the word “no” from our vocabulary and we replace it with the word “yes.”  We have discovered in improvisation using the word “no” stops progress while using the word “yes” encourages growth and possibility.

In improvisation we approach comedy scenes as happy friendly people who know and like each other and are working together with the common goal of succeeding as a team.  No one’s ideas are any better or any worse than anyone else’s.  We value all ideas and we will work with anything.  Our job in improvisation is to work to make each idea better (this is the “and” part of “yes, and”).  We agree with every idea and work to bring it to its maximum potential.

By creating an atmosphere where all ideas are honored we have discovered the greatest chance for success becomes possible.  Imagine a world where people not only accepted your ideas but actually helped you to make your ideas better.  This is “yes, and.”  We foster an environment where every idea is valued.  In improvisation we know that the first idea may not be the eventual idea we end up using but that initial concept might be the very impetus that leads us to our solution.  Therefore we honor every idea with “yes” and we improve it with “and.”

We teach this philosophy in business seminars around the country to help businesses improve their efficiency and their productivity.  We ask that we forego the competitive dog eat dog world of most corporate culture and we instead treat our co-workers as artists and poets.  Together we succeed or together we fail.  Either way, it is your choice.

Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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