2nd May 1997: Tony Blair and Austin Powers

I was in Los Angeles. I watched the first morning of the Blair government unfold on TV from the other side of the world. I couldn’t stay to see it all because I was heading out to the premiere of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, in which I had a small part. I’d “given” Mike the title.

Years before, when we were doing our double-act in London, Mike laughed uproariously when I told him that a small-time magician on the back pages of The Stage (the showbiz newspaper) described himself as, “An International Man of Mystery”. This splendid soubriquet had been brought to my attention by my friend, Richard Turner (who co-created BBC Radio 4′s Museum of Curiosity).

The premiere went very well. Big laughs all round. But there was this annoying fellow behind me. He kept laughing, applauding and repeating lines. You know the type. Eventually I turned round. It was Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the film’s release. A nice chap called Ryan Parker of The Hollywood Reporter asked me for my recollections. Here is his piece.

Quite rightly, he concentrates on the central players and only one of my responses to his questions makes the cut. But because I can, I have put all of them below.

So, twenty years on, I am still with The Comedy Store Players and teaching improv as a leadership skill, Tony Blair is back in London, fighting Brexit… and Mike is busy with something new. You’ll find out more about that next month.


Q: Is there a story behind the Swedish enlarger scene you’re in? Who wrote that?

Mike! It’s Mike’s script … I was just a hired hand. But I brought my own eye-brows.

Mike and I had done a double act in London. For some reason, we called it “Mullarkey & Myers”. It was B-Movie and cartoon pastiches, with a carful of props.

Mike was very kind to ask his old friend to fly over and do that scene, and looked after me beautifully. He’d sent the script over to me about a year before… I told him it was really funny, that he must make it, and must put Elizabeth Hurley in it.

Q: How many takes did it take to do that scene?

Not many. We started about 4pm and had to get out within a couple of hours, I think. Jay Roach was superb, helping me relax but make the best of the scene. They’d filmed a sequence with Basil Exposition earlier: the one where Austin has a very long pee.

Q: After the movie became a monster hit, did people recognize you and do lines from the scene? If so, do you have a most memorable interaction?

Sometimes they think they recognise me but aren’t sure from where. It’s just a nagging feeling they have, as If I might have been someone they nodded to down their local pub.

When people discover I was in the film, in that scene, their whole body lights up with joy, wherever I am in the world. They keep having to pinch themselves. I ask them not to pinch me.

I was on safari in South Africa once and the ranger Googled me. “Because of that scene, you may just be my hero”, he said. That’s exactly how I felt about him, as he drove the Land Rover within a few feet of a big lion.

I was on set the day before my scene, watching them film Dr Evil’s father/son encounter group. He says things like, “My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes, he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy.”

It was hilarious, but rather left-field, I thought. How would play in “middle America”? A couple of years later I was visiting California and a friend took me to the LA County Fair in Pomona. There were tea towels for sale, with the entire text of that monologue typed out on it…


The more I do leadership development and presentation training, the more I find them converging. If you cannot create (or even curate) the story of your organisation – its past, present and future – and tell it well, then you’re not leading. A story has purpose, meaning and choices. At least.
This blog by Leo Widrich of Buffer (the social media app) beautifully summarises why stories have power, and the neuroscience behind that.



Since 2001 I have been playing L. Vaughan Spencer, the Gangsta Motivator. His show is called “Don’t Be Needy, Be Succeedy”. Profile Books published a book of that name too. He’s a pastiche. But I’ve said I won’t do the full show after the performance on 17th November at the London Comedy Store. It has sold out. So now I am running a Kickstarter campaignto raise funds to film it and distribute DVDs (and their online equivalent). Plenty of individuals have pledged and we’re hoping that some organizations will too – in return for a bespoke Succeedy video or even a personal appearance at their offices from my absurd alter ego.

I’ve had enormous fun playing this satirical character. He may well appear in video form or performing cabaret sets in the future. However my work now has become more sincere. It’s “management training/leadership development” , yes, but pushing towards something more profound.

On 18th November, the day after the show (as it happens) I will be talking, not as a spoof, but as me at a conference in Brighton called Meaning. I agreed to it because I will have to push myself beyond anything I have done before.


Many thanks


I read this fascinating article about Steve Coogan and the changing emphasis of his work. In it, he says, “It’s tiring to never be sincere. It’s tiresome and tiring, and ultimately not very satisfying.” Yes, I notice plenty of people in comedy moving in later life towards something else. For me, the story has been towards teaching people the joys of improv theatre and how it can be a powerful way of connecting with others. And I mean that most sincerely.

Improvyourbiz February 2013

I rarely do open Improvyourbiz workshops. So don’t miss the one I am doing on 27th February 2013 in London. Early bird offer if you book before 26th January. What will you be missing if you fail to attend? This
If your browser didn’t show up the links above here they are…
For more workshop details click here
For the 5-minute show reel click here

Neil Mullarkey shows nerves can be tamed

The BBC asked me to talk about doing your best at interviews. On a sunny day I gave them the Four L’s


(Hello – these are a few notes, just to jog your memory if you were there, or spark your interest if you weren’t …Neil)

Impact: Where does it reside? Why so important?

An organisation is a social process. Not a thing, not an entity at all. In scientific terms, an organisation cannot be said to exist at all. Far less be like a machine.

An organisation is a series of processes of interactive communications – that’s improv! It is constantly being created through social interactions.
Leaders are “in charge but not in control” (Phil Streatfield).
Leaders need to connect with people, be influenced by as well as influence others. They need to continually respond and update.

“The meaning of a gesture is in the response” George Herbert Mead 1934

Ten Tweaks to Help Your Personal Impact (all beginning with L – hurrah)

1. Logistics
Get there early – so you can make it your territory
Prepare: left brain (where to sit, find socket, set up laptop) & right brain (clothes, visualisation)
Networking event: have some targets in mind.

2. Learn:  Learn names in advance. “A man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.” CARNEGIE   Learn about the other person. Become genuinely interested in them.

3. Look: Good eye contact linked to being seen as sincere and friendly.

4, Listen:
What stops us listening?
Real listening: much of our reaction to others comes from memory. A stored reaction not a fresh response. There is a difference between thinking and thoughts. Intelligence – inter and legere; “to gather between”.

5. Link:
“Talk in terms of the other man’s interest” CARNEGIE
Link now to what they said. and link back to older offers
Yes And rather than… Yes But

6. Let:
Things you disagree with: let them pass.
” The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it… Never tell a man he is wrong.” CARNEGIE
Trying to sell by telling the customer he or she is wrong to love their current product or service won’t work.
Let the other person talk about him/herself.
What is the outcome you want?
Let there be gaps: Use of pause/silence

7. Lighten:
OK to use humour
Smiling and nodding bring good reactions

8. Like
Assume you like the other person and they like you.
Find something you share: establish that you are alike.

9. Limbs
Hands: open palms tend to be persuasive
Think Status: assertive not aggressive Body Language

10. Leave well:
Good finish
Eye contact
Be the one to finish the encounter
At a networking event, pass them on to someone else
Give a promise to call and/or a business card

neilmullarkey at TEDx

This was a step into the relatively unknown for me. Talking seriously about myself and my work. I talk about my first encounters with improv, that has become a life-long love affair. I continue to perform with The Comedy Store Players but nowadays I spend most of my time teaching the skills and drills of improv to help people with their creative and communication skills. I’m finding more and more applications. The future is exciting. Here is something about my past… Neil Mullarkey at TEDx.

Christmas Fun

So Maria Franzoni liked Succeedy Song so much that she asked me to do a festive video for her. Here is the result Christmas of Love. We had fun making it. Those sprouts were fairly unpleasant. And that is real fire, rather near my face.

L. Vaughan Spencer on Biz Intelligence

Just released today – April 1st 2011. My alter ego gives his thoughts on the finer points of business analytics. You could learn a lot. Why Thinking is the Enemy of Innovation