You may know Adam McKay as the director of such Will Ferrell movies as Anchorman, Talledega Nights, and Step Brothers, or as one of the founders of the video platform Funny or Die. But before all that, he was a writer on Saturday Night Live for six years in the late 90s.
McKay originally auditioned to be a cast member but got turned down. So, he started starting sketches and eventually became head writer. But, he really wanted to direct short videos and try lots of ideas the show hadn’t been doing. Eventually, he got fed up with not getting his more daring ideas through, so he told his agent he wanted to quit.
His manager gave him one piece of advice: “If you’re going to quit, make an unreasonable demand. What would you want in your dream world?” This is slight variation on the technique in some negotiation training circles known as “Never Say No”. Smart people understand that “no” is a dead end. Worse, it’s a sour dead end. It piles up negative feelings against a brick wall where they fester. It’s better to use a “no” moment as a chance for redirection.
McKay came up with 5 “unreasonable demands” to continue as head writer:
He didn’t want to go to production meetings.
He didn’t want to be in the room for the actual show taping, which he dreaded
He wanted a raise
He wanted a budget for short films
He wanted to name his own screen credit
To his incredible surprise, SNL creator Lorne Michaels said yes. To all five. So for the next two years, McKay was “Coordinator of Falconry.”
One person’s unreasonable demand is another person’s opportunity.
Founder, The Idea Enthusiast. Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator, and writer about all things creative consulting. DC-based consultant to individuals who want to be more creative, teams who want to collaborate without fear, and anyone who wants to deliver the best pitches and presentations.