Bob Wiltfong is an author, comedian, actor, teacher, consultant and stay at home dad who found time to write “The BS Dictionary: Uncovering the Origins and True Meanings of Business Speak,” which explores the backgrounds of unique words and phrases from the business world. The Nocatee resident also had an accomplished career as a comic, including stints as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
As told to Don Coble
What inspired you to write “The BS Dictionary?”
I’m married to the chief marketing officer of Korn Ferry. She’s a very successful business woman. As a result, she holds regular conference calls for work from home, pre-COVID days. About six years ago, this is how far it goes back, the kernel of this book, one day she took her conference call from home and she started to say words to her colleagues and her colleagues said words back to her that I’ve never heard before. What the heck does this mean? I recall in that conversation she mentioned “strawman,” “SCO” before I ever knew what SCO stood for and other phrases like that. When she got off the phone, I asked her what did that all mean. That kind of heightened my curiosity. The real switch that turned that curiosity into a book was I’m a business consultant. I teach presentations skills for corporate executives. I was in Seattle at T-Mobile teaching a class and during one of the breaks was talking to one of the participants about this very topic. That participant mentioned a phrase, very politically incorrect phrase, called “The tallest midget.” That through me for a loop. What does that mean? He explained it to me. He said its common at T-Mobile to use that phrase. It’s part of our business speak. From that moment forward, I started doing more research on phrases and collect the definitions and researched the origins over time. Fast forward six years, I get a literary agent; I find a publisher; and here is the book.
Where can you buy your book?
At Amazon, Barnes & Noble and anywhere fine books are sold.
Is it true you also worked as an improv comedian during your career?
As background, I graduated college with a journalism degree. I was a TV news reporter for 10 years. I did investigative reporting and worked at 24-hour news channel in New York called News 12 Long Island. That was my last job. While I was in New York, as a hobby, in my off hours I went into Manhattan and started taking improv comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade, otherwise known as UCB, and I loved it. I was doing more and more comedy during my off hours. One thing led to another, and 9/11 happens. Six months after 9/11, I decided I was going to quit TV news and pursue this dream that I really enjoy doing, improv comedy and acting. I started on my second career as an actor and comedian and was very fortunate to book some jobs that made me in that world, including “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Chappelle’s Show.” That led me down that path for a while.
What do you consider your job to be now?
I recently settled into the idea I’m a retired actor and comedian. I teach improv comedy to largely middle school children. I really enjoy that. I’m content with that. My wife is doing so well in the corporately, we’ve settled into I’m a stay at home parent for our kids. We’ve got a 14, 13 and 11 year old. We moved here to Nocatee in August of last year from L.A. Part of the reason we moved her is to support her company’s work with the PGA TOUR since taking over their tour that used to be called the web.com tour. Now it’s the Korn Ferry Tour. My primary job – and I have to remind myself of this at times while I’m here at home with the kids – is to be a great parent and to take care of the house. That’s my first, and foremost, responsibility. I’m trying to write books and I still do some consulting work. A buddy of mine has got a start-up in the marketing world and we’re working on that together.
What was it like being a comedian?
There were several people I came up with who are household names now. It’s an amazing energy and creativity that happens. Low and behold, some people get paid a lot of money for it.
Who have you worked with?
One of my teachers was Amy Poehler before she was on “Saturday Night Live.” She was a great influence for me, just to see her journey. She’s a rare person who’s really good at comedy and a really good teacher of comedy at the same time. Among the household names I played with was Ed Helms. He’s one of the guys I did shows with. I remember I did one show with him and there were seven people in the audience in New York. We almost out-numbered our audience. Other big names are Ellie Kemper, who was in the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” series; Kristen Schaal, whose voice you hear all over the place like in “Bob’s Burgers;” and a lot of character actors from shows. They have familiar faces. You just don’t know their names. An alternative comic who’s a good friend of mine is Kurt Braunohler, who’s had a Comedy Central special. He’s good friend of mine. We did improv for years.
How do you react when an audience doesn’t laugh?
I do improv work. I did stand-up a little bit, but I do improv with always changes. I recall several nights coming off stage and everybody internalizes a bad night differently. A lot of times, I just blame the energy in the room or the audience just wasn’t smart enough. The reality is my jokes probably weren’t that good. You always know the next night will be different and they’ll be a smarter crowd.