By Elisa Ludwig
When he’s giving a seminar, New York-based corporate consultant Peter Yawitz, WG’86, can really work the crowd. “I usually know where I’ll get the most laughs,” he says. It’s a skill he has fine-tuned onstage in nightclubs, in his semi-secret double life as a cabaret performer.
While few of his corporate clients are aware of his second career, Yawitz’s day job features prominently in his one man show, “A New Man.” The show, which chronicles his experiences in and out of the office, recently won him the 2005 Nightlife Award for Outstanding Musical Comedy Performance from the New York City cabaret, jazz and comedy critics.
The challenge of juggling business and “the biz” is nothing new for Yawitz, who performed regularly in extracurricular theater through high school and college. After completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Princeton University, he started looking at graduate programs in real estate and finance. His sister, then an undergraduate at Penn, was the first to tell him about the Wharton Follies. “That really may have been my primary reason for choosing the school,” he says, laughing.
After graduating, Yawitz moved to New York and began working as an investment manager at Lincoln Realty Capital, getting his showbiz fix after hours by performing with the St. Barts Players. In 1989, Lincoln Realty Capital went out of business, and Yawitz decided to try acting fulltime. He ultimately found the uncertainty of the lifestyle too difficult and returned to the business world, founding Clear Communication, a consulting firm that specializes in communication strategy, message identification and speech coaching. But as his business grew, Yawitz had less time and energy for his theatrical pursuits. After a few years, he found himself missing the spotlight.
“About five years ago, I was really starting to drive my wife crazy,” he says. “She suggested I try cabaret, which was something I’d never even thought about.” He enrolled in a workshop with musical comedian Helen Baldassare, where he began developing his first one-man show, “Talk Like a Guy.”
“It’s about how regular guys speak with other guys,” says Yawitz. In the show he shares his thoughts on the elusive art of man-to-man water cooler conversation (“I’m really working on my swing.”) and imagines the college rejection letters of famous historical figures. “Talk Like a Guy” also featured what has become Yawitz’s signature anthem of sorts, “Cliché Bingo,” which names 85 business clichés in hilariously rapid succession:
“So net net, vis-à-vis all these key take-aways. Here’s some mindshare you won’t find deep in your old Roget’s: Just push the envelope next time that you liaise.”
Yawitz, who credits his love of crossword puzzles for helping him conjure witty lyrics, began collaborating with veteran musical director Dick Gallagher, who helped him match his words to melodies. “Talk Like a Guy” hit the club circuit in 2002 to critical acclaim. Yawitz followed up that success last year with “A New Man.” Serving as his own publicist and marketing consultant, he generated enough buzz to pack the clubs on a nightly basis.
Yawitz is currently busy developing his next show, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” and is taking his act on the road. He’s found that corporate audiences have been particularly appreciative of his lighthearted ruminations of everyday life. “There are very few married, forty-something dads in cabaret,” he says. “I’m just commenting on things people can relate to.”