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3 Late Night Comedy Trends that Mirror the CPA Profession

Jon StewartTwo weeks ago, Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, tearfully stepped out of the studio after 16 laughter-filled years, passing the baton to relatively unknown South African comedian Trevor Noah.

Like many Boomer-aged CPAs across the country, late night hosts have been stepping away from their microphones and focusing attention on the next phase of their careers. Not long ago, Jay Leno handed the reins of the Tonight Show over to the lovable Jimmy Fallon. More recently, Late Night’s David Letterman named his successor—the already-established Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report.

Late night television’s transition to a new generation would not be possible without attention to three very significant trends – all of which reflect what is happening in the CPA profession: leveraging technology, supporting emerging leaders and presenting a diverse and broad perspective. These trends offer lessons on how the CPA profession is on the verge of evolving over the coming years.



Leveraging technology

Research shows that in many cases, Millennials don’t consume television shows in their entirety or at scheduled times. They rely on social media conversations to direct them to the highlights of the show, often adding their own commentary and sharing these moments within their own social networks.

Late night hosts know exactly how to capitalize on this trend. Jimmy Fallon’s viral videos featuring him lip synching in a duel with Tom Cruise, or performing songs using toy instruments, are a huge hit among YouTube viewers. Stephen Colbert has 8.49 million Twitter followers and, as he prepares to go live on Late Night in September, he continues to attract attention with a video blog. Using these technologies, late night hosts are not only engaging younger audiences, they’re keeping the conversations going beyond the timeframes of their television shows, ensuring publicity at any moment of the day. And their staff members are in on the act as well: they write the skits, tweets and Facebook quotes, which keeps them that much more invested in their jobs.

CPAs can capitalize in a similar way, exploring new technologies that help better connect them to clients and using social media to engage staff in connecting to clients and prospects outside of more conventional touch points and meetings.

Supporting emerging leaders

We’ve discussed the comedy world’s knack for succession planning on AICPA Insights before, but here’s another thing comedians have going for them: they really know how to mentor talent. Jimmy Fallon got his nudge from Lorne Michaels; Stephen Colbert was encouraged to let loose on Jon Stewart’s show, which prepared him for his breakout role hosting the Report. Daily Show producers did not choose a seasoned host to take over for Stewart; they chose the relatively unknown but charming and culturally savvy Trevor Noah. Networks are making strategic moves to ensure the longevity of their flagship properties.

Identifying, encouraging and nurturing the next generation of CPAs is key to ensuring that the profession can meet the challenges of the future.

Presenting a diverse and broad perspective

The Daily Show often relies on a variety of news topics from diverse areas of the world to provide both a comedic and sobering view of how these issues impact the U.S. economy and political climate; with Trevor Noah, the show can expand upon how it tackles this humor niche. Expat hosts like the UK’s John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight and James Corden of the Late Late Show navigate the intricacies of American pop and political culture with ease while poking fun at their own home country. Tapping into a variety of cultural viewpoints could easily broaden late night shows’ reach over the coming years.

CPA firms should recognize that clients can conduct business with vendors, investors and customers anywhere in our borderless world. As a result, professionals who understand cultural and international issues are increasingly in demand. A diverse and broad perspective ultimately is about expanding your pool of clients and enhancing their businesses.

The CPA profession isn’t comedy, but we can learn from how networks craft their late night offerings to stay competitive. Is your firm interested in learning strategies for doing the same? The AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section has key resources to help you address issues like implementing new technology and succession planning. Check out the new Firm-inMotion e-toolkit and the frequently updated Human Capital and Succession Planning Resource Centers to learn more.

Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, Vice President, Firm Services & Global Alliances, American Institute of CPAs. 

Jon Stewart courtesy of Shutterstock.


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