Creativity 50 2015

Creativity 50 2015: David Shane


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David Shane
David Shane Credit: Courtesy David Shane

Funny and edgy can equal comedy gold in advertising, but very few get the blend just right. Anyone seeking the magic formula these days knows where to head directly: to director David Shane.

Mr. Shane, represented by O Positive, has become a go-to name for black humor and nuanced, awkward performances.

The son of a comedian, his resume includes an early spell as a writer on "South Park." His recent work has included dark, hilarious shorts like "Plane Crash," "Second Thoughts" and "The One," all of which manage to be achingly funny despite edgy subject matter such as cannibalism or cult suicides.

His best commercials include 2014's multi-award-winning "Awkward Family Viewing" spots for HBO Go. The industry's most awarded television campaign in Ad Age's 2015 Awards Report, it brilliantly detailed the pain of watching shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective" with your parents.

More ridiculous discomfort was apparent in this year's outstanding holiday campaign for U.K. retailer Currys PC World, for which Mr. Shane directed Jeff Goldblum as a guru giving lessons on how to react with dignity to terrible gifts. And in a series of spots for ZocDoc, he brought his trademark edginess to medical matters.

Ad Age: What's your definition of creativity? Is there anything specific to working with comedy?

David Shane: If creativity has anything to do with the ability to define the word "creativity," then I'm definitely not creative. Comedy, on the other hand, is the two minutes it took my Hebrew school teacher, Mr. Epstein, to open his briefcase every morning. I guess I should add he had a wax hand and also that I was 7.

Ad Age: What was the biggest creative challenge this year for you?

Mr. Shane: Finding better comebacks when my kids insult me. I'm tired of adding "your face" to whatever they say, like, "Your face is an ineffectual parent who's too narcissistic to take any real interest in the lives of his children."

In my other job, the creative challenge is always the same. To try not to be derivative—to find the freshest, funniest way to tell the story.

Ad Age: What's the best advice you got when it comes to nurturing your creativity?

Mr. Shane: My grandfather once told me that when he was stuck creatively, he would try to think about what women like to wear on their heads. He was a hat maker. For women.

Ad Age: Any advice to people on how to get out of a creative slump?

Mr. Shane: Just try not to listen to the voices that say, "You suck." And if they persist, turn around and tell them that you know the coffee bar is crowded but they should stop looking over your shoulder and go back to their own fuckking laptop.

Ad Age: What's next on the horizon for you? What can we look out for in 2016?

Mr. Shane: I'm working on a movie about Steve Jobs.

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