“One thing that I’ve learned in this business is that you don’t get anywhere on your own. You need other people to want to help you and the way that you get other people to want to help you is you help them out.”
Jamie Campbell knows all about helping people. He’s been doing that for over a decade using comedy and improvisation to help people heal and make sense of their journies. His grad school experience wasn’t what he needed: “I dropped out of graduate school because I was part of a theater program where a lot of the instructors were kind of people who quit being performers and it felt like my teachers were just in competition with each other to prove that they were great and a lot of what they did was berate students. If you took a risk and it didn’t pay off onstage, a lot of times you got berated and my confidence was being destroyed.”
Jamie Ups His Game in Chicago
Jamie moved to Chicago and got involved with the local chapter of a national comedy club. “I went to this place called ComedySportz (CSz) and they’re a national organization and they seem to focus on positive reinforcement of the things that you’re doing well. And what happened to me as I started going, ‘Oh, it’s okay if I take a risk because I’m not going to get berated for it’. And sometimes when you take a risk it does pay off.” Jamie’s mentor was Matt Elwell, now the Executive director of CSz Worldwide. “Matt gave me a platform where, uh, if something didn’t work, we’d go back and we’d talk about what did work about it or what were the things about it that had a chance or had potential and instead of throwing everything out, we’d take those seeds and then grow into something else.”
Matt upped Jamie’s game by giving him lots of responsibility: stage manager, training center manager, stage time for Jamie’s improv, and two radio talk shows: one that failed, and one that ran for 18 months. Jamie was constantly learning. “I was watching these phenomenal performers on stage and they all became what I aspire to and as a stage manager you were given basically free classes and so I get free classes in their training center.” After the first talk show failed, Matt said to Jamie “‘Hey, what if we did a different style talk show; what if we did like a late night talk show?’ He gave me the reins to do that and I had no idea what I was doing. And I brought in some friends and we just kind of put some things together. The show ended up running for a year and a half. Fridays at midnight we’d run a brand new 40-minute show and once it started being successful he just kind of walked away and just let me have the show for about a year and a half.”
Reaching Deep to Help Others
Jamie’s storytelling workshop grew from his desire to use telling his story to heal himself. “I really did it because I started telling my own story of past trauma and basically I take 12 years of childhood trauma. I had a pretty rough upbringing and I truncated into an hour and I had no idea how an audience would react. But just for my own healing, I decided to create a show and the way that audiences received that were phenomenal.I would have other people come up to me after the show wanting to share their own experiences…They got to know me and I started realizing I wanted to give people that same sense of release of getting rid of the weight of that trauma that I got in performing.
“So I created this workshop and it’s all about creating a safe space where no one’s being judged and at any point. One thing that I do in the workshop, as I say, I’m going to encourage you to talk about some things that maybe you weren’t sure if you were ready to, but at any point, if you need a break, you need to step away. It’s too much. You’re allowed to. No one’s being forced to do any of that. Because they’re free to stop at any point, it becomes easier to take that baby step forward and that baby step forward and at the end of a couple of hours, I’ll have a group of 12 complete strangers that are really baring their heart and soul to each other. And I culminate that in a live performance because what I got out of it was sharing my story with strangers.
“And by giving them a live performance, they get to also have that catharsis of letting go of this thing that has been weighing them down, by sharing. And then those strangers that are hearing the story, get that experience of not being alone in whatever they’ve been through as they come to the show.”
Jamie formed Yes, Company with his partner Michael Foster. Together they have over 20 years experience in improv. Yes, Co. builds on that to train corporations, businesses large and small, and individuals in improv techniques. It’s the power of “Yes, and…”
“Michael and I sat down and started talking about what our philosophies were and how we could bring what we did specifically to the corporate world. You have this power to go in and completely change the corporate culture. For example, the idea of ‘Yes, and…’ means I’m going to listen to your idea and I’m going to add to it rather than saying no.
“When you take that into a brainstorming session, instead of going, ‘Here are our resources, what can we do just with our resources?’ When you do that, you immediately box yourself in, but if you go, ‘Forget about what our resources are. If we had no money restrictions, if we had even the laws of time and space did not apply to us, what would we do?’ Then you’re going to come up with some ideas that will realistically probably would not be feasible. Sure, but then when you go back and you go, ‘Okay, cool, now what can we do with the resources we have inspired by these ideas?’ Then you suddenly start approaching what you’re doing from an angle that you never would have looked at it at before and you start coming up with ideas that if you put those restrictions on you, to begin with, you wouldn’t have even considered.”
Whether Jamie is helping someone overcome trauma, helping teams to work together more effectively, or helping individuals reach their potential, he does it with wit, compassion, and consummate professionalism. To learn more about Jamie Campbell and Yes, Co., visit https://www.jamiecampbellcomedy.com and https://yescompany.biz.