John grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and received a BBA from Saint Norbert College in De Pere, WI. He quickly excelled in corporate real estate as a tenant representative. Despite his success, in 1993, John’s love for the art of improvisation compelled him to leave it all and become a full time actor and improviser. Since then, John has become a successful comedic writer, the owner of America’s oldest satirical comedy theatre, a leading corporate trainer, an author, a screenwriter, a much sought-after keynote speaker, and a creative consultant to some of the world’s most innovative companies.

John will be the first to tell you that his successes are not entirely due to his own talents, but rather are the result of utilizing a unique process of innovative, improv-based thought and action to achieve greater productivity and creativity in his business and his life. In his first book, Innovation at the Speed of Laughter: 8 Secrets to World Class Idea Generation, published in April 2005, John shared 8 Secrets that help companies and their leaders turn employees into idea factories. The Art of the Laugh: A Handbook for Sketch Writers, Actors, and Directors is John's second book and it details the sketch writing process used at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre for nearly half a century. It has become the curriculum for a variety of classes and is well on the road to becoming an academic favorite.

In 1997, John and his wife Jenni Lilledahl purchased the Brave New Workshop (BNW) Theatre from founder Dudley Riggs, integrating John’s talents for business and comedy into a unique and successful venture. The theatre has experienced a more than 500% increase in revenues since then and has grown from five to forty full and part-time employees. Increasingly driven to share improvisation, John and Jenni also grew the Brave New Institute (one of the nation’s premiere improvisational training centers) which currently teaches over 275 regular students.

As a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker and trainer, John has presented to hundreds of corporations and organizations around the globe, including clients like Yahoo!, Microsoft, American Express, US Bancorp, Target, British Airways, Carlson Companies, National Basketball Association, Altria, Medtronic, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was named one of the “40 under 40” to watch in the Twin Cities business community and has been featured in Forbes, How magazine, Executive Traveler, and a variety of other publications. You may have even glimpsed John in television commercials or clips on ESPN, the Today Show, or on your local news station.

John lives in Deephaven, Minnesota with his wife Jenni, sons William and Michael, and dog Burt. You can find out more about Sweeney (as we call him) or download a print version of his photograph by visiting our book website at If you’d like more information about John’s training and keynote speaking, visit the Brave New Workshop web site at Or, if you'd just like to see him at his most ridiculous, then by all means take a look at his video archives page here.