Blog Posts

So You Want To Do Stand-Up Comedy on Zoom

So You Want To Do Stand-Up Comedy on Zoom 1005 741 chasej

As a comedian, I thought the lockdown would deprive me of my one purpose in life: attention.

Instead, being forced into online comedy shows connected me to the whole world, created new revenue streams, and made me aware of my power as an entertainer with global resonance.

Zoom shows are a lot of fun, in their own special way. And you can do them too.

How do I know this?

Because I’ve produced and performed in almost 100 paid Zoom comedy shows since March 2020. And this number does not even factor in the unpaid shows, open mics, “swing-bys for comedy friends” and other special events.

Here is what I have learned.

How to get started

  1. Start with friends and family. Offer to do a 10 minute birthday show for free. Let those closest to you understand what the experience feels like and looks like.
  2. Offer free shows to non-profits. Schools, hospitals, any organization that doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on frivolous things like your career, will usually be up for a 15-minute show.
  3. Ask for reviews and referrals. Once you’ve done your free shows, ask the participants if they wouldn’t mind writing a one or two sentence review for you. Ask if they would consider hiring you for a paid show, or suggesting you to other people.
  4. Reach out for paid work. Tap into your network for groups that would benefit from getting together and laughing, whether they are businesses, clubs, or family events.
  5. Raise your price point with each experience. People speculate about zoom comedy show pricing all the time and I’ll tell you, you can charge in direct proportion to the value you bring. If you take it seriously, are meticulous in your planning, production, and communication with the client and generally hold yourself to a high standard of performance, you can charge in line with the expectation you create. Then maybe one day you can aspire booking a 20-minute Zoom show at a hedge fund for $50,000, like one top comedian I know of.
  6. All shows must be fully paid upfront. Give your client the confidence that you are there to resolve any issues if they should arise. But my time and show is not booked until it is fully paid for. I know the inquiry is real when I tell them that it’s a 100% paid up front and we still continue the conversation.

PRO TIP: It’s easier to sell an event than to sell individual tickets.

A comedian has her finger in the air, about to say something very important.

In the before times, you might pay to go see a comedian in a club, surrounded by strangers.

Is that what you want to do on Zoom? Go into a Zoom room looking at a bunch of tiny faces you’ve never met before?

Trying to sell your Zoom show to individuals is much tougher than trying to sell an entertainment event to a group of people who know each other for their baby shower / birthday / funeral.

It’s the same amount of marketing effort to sell one individual ticket as it is to sell a whole event. Your energy is better spent there.

Basic housekeeping

  1. Confirm and re-confirm time zones. I’ve had near disasters with people booking me on EST time, sending a Google invite with PST time on it, confirming in email with no specified time and then a round of panicked whatsapps/messages/emails at the last minute to resolve it all. And don’t hesitate to upcharge if you’re doing a show at 2 AM to accommodate an international venue.
  2. Keep your computer and phone charged, restarted, plugged in, and ready. Every once in a while something happens and the client needs to talk to you just moments before showtime or even during if there are multiple comics.
  3. Put your camera on something stable and at eye-level.
  4. Light your face. We need to see your facial expressions or else you’re just a shadowy blur with a voice. Ring lights are inexpensive and perfect. Wearers of makeup might want to check out some tutorials on YouTube for light-reflecting makeup. Try to avoid light sources above your head or you’ll end up looking like Seinfeld’s “Two Face” girlfriend.
Seinfeld’s girlfriend has two Zoom lighting techniques. Choose wisely.

5. Use a headphone or a great desk mic. Otherwise you’ll be screaming into your laptop while it echoes chillingly across your dark, cluttered, starving artist apartment/parents’ basement. I use a wired iPhone headphone all the time, and I’ve seen well-known comedians use it too. Airpods have a split-second bluetooth delay but many people seem to like the air of suspense that creates. Either way, clear audio is a must.

6. Nail your entrance. Ideally, enter the Zoom room with your camera and mic turned off at a pre-set time so your client knows you are there and can relax and enjoy their event. Do not turn on the camera/mic until you are called up on “stage”. Remember you are a performer/vendor at the event, not a guest, and the excitement of watching you come live will be lost if you’re puttering around in the room before it’s your time to perform.

7. Record the show if you can. Ask the clients if you can record the show. Sometimes clients request a copy of the tape because they would like to relive their event — often they don’t think about this beforehand. You can always review the tapes for your own education and feedback to see what you could have done better or differently. And if you really killed it, ask your clients if you can use a clip or two for your promotional purposes.

PRO TIP: On video, your brand is not just your writing and timing anymore.

A comedian sits on a couch with a laptop, coffee, and phone. She may or may not be working.
Hard at work en rose.

It’s your makeup, the clothes you wear, the room behind you.

What’s my brand? I’m an Indian immigrant stay-at-home mom turned standup comedian. I joke about my kids, immigrating to America, my extended family. My audience is middle-aged parents and professionals. And I want them to feel they are getting their money’s worth.

So I dress up in traditional Indian clothes with a modern twist, hair and makeup, jewelry, etc., like I’m hosting a fancy party, and I have a clean, homey background behind me.

Maybe your brand is that you are a slob and that’s supposed to be funny. Maybe your audience are also slobs and they want to pay to see you unwashed, unshaven, with takeout containers behind you. Sounds like comedy gold to me, until your mother buys one of your tickets.

I did a Zoom show with a comedian who had an Amazon box perched on a shelf above his head for the entire set. What do you think the audience was watching, him or the cardboard box?

Let’s put on a show!

  1. Format? The ideal zoom show is under 50 minutes. A 5 minute open/hang/settle down, a 5 minute close/goodbye hang and a 40-ish minute show with up to 4 comedians MAX. Host + 3, ideally, Host + 2. A show that moves fast and ends at 40 minutes is far better than a show that drags and ends at 60 minutes.
  2. Special requests? Keep notes on anything your clients have requested, things to highlight or absolute no-nos. Basic notes are part of any show, but if someone wants you to custom create a whole set for them, that should warrant a customization fee.
  3. To host or not to host? For shorter shows, 15–20 minutes, you don’t really need a host and can get away with doing the whole thing yourself, but pace your entry. Use your first minute to acknowledge that they’re still getting settled and that it may take them a moment to focus.
  4. Audience size? I’ve done shows as small as 4 people and as large as a few hundred people. The smaller set ups are intimate and allow for cameras and mics to be on and more lively interaction. For a larger set up, you may want to encourage a few people to turn off the mic and only request a chosen few in quiet spaces to keep their mics on. Some companies/institutions prefer a webinar format wherein you really only see a few people and everyone else is logging incognito and muted.

PRO-TIP: Bring the energy

A comedian waves her hands in the air, smiling, conveying energy and excitement (professionally).
Woooo!

In a club, the reactions from the audience build and bring energy to the room.

But in a Zoom show — especially the larger ones where so many people are on mute — everything hinges on the comedian’s own energy.

If you’re anxious and nervous, the audience will pick up on it. If you’re confident and on fire, the audience will go along on that ride with you.

Have faith in your material and in your ability to make people happy. Even if you are getting no feedback from the audience, your energy will be highly contagious.

There are pros and cons to this — a big pro is that you can control your own energy. With enough practice, you’ll know how to stay in the zone no matter what is happening.

But a big con is that the experience is lonely and feels less like an artistic performance and more like an endurance sport. There have been webinar-style shows when I have no clue when it finishes how I did. Until the first set of emails, notes, text messages, etc., start coming in.

The biggest compliment of course is when someone who saw you books you for another show or refers you for another event.

Have fun with the virtual bells and whistles

Just because we can barely hear and see each other over our internet devices doesn’t mean there’s nothing funny about our new online meeting features!

  1. Ask a poll question, the simpler the better. “Where are you logging in from?” always gets responses. “What are you drinking? Are you wearing pants?” But don’t ask a question that takes you out of your zone, like “Did you have a good day?” If someone’s friend or dog died, that’s the end of your show right there.
  2. Switching backgrounds is pretty basic but can still be funny. I tell a joke about how Hindu gods are so different from the other gods, and then unexpectedly, my background changes to a Hindu god standing behind me as if to chastise me.
  3. Playing certain music can be funny. During a show for one woman’s 50th birthday, I played an Indian song that is used as a fanfare when an important guest enters the room.
  4. When I have multiple comedians in a lineup, I will ask the audience to note in the chat which jokes they liked the best. At the end of the show, that gives the comedians and me some extra fodder to joke about, teasing each other about who scored laughs and who didn’t. “I guess you were sleeping through your set!” The joke’s on the comedians, not on the audience.
  5. Sometimes for a charity show I’ll put the comedians’ Venmo information in the chat in case anybody wants to tip them (and they do).
  6. Try to get a few photos with your Zoom room and/or boomerangs — if nothing else, you can gift them to your client. You can have your guests throw their hands in the air, do funny faces, make movements with their fingers, anything to show unity will make for a super fun photo.

But use these sparingly. The show should be about you, your performance, and your writing.

PRO-TIP: Go ahead and do a little bit of crowd work

A comedian stands in front of an outdoor audience in the park, everyone cheering
Socially distanced crowd work

Zoom shows are often organized by a certain group like a business, a school, a cultural center, a family. Let them know that you’re there for them specifically. Open with 1–2 short references to this event in particular and then let your set take over.

Be cautious of not embarrassing anyone. In a club, you make fun of someone and they fade back into the anonymous sea of strangers having a good time. But in a Zoom show, everyone knows who that person is that you picked on, and they all sit with it the rest of the night.

I will joke about one business’s product range (“Why so many knives? Knives and cologne? What are you getting ready for that we don’t know about?”) or tease a birthday girl about her friend who organized it (“Deepika told me you’re both among her very closest friends. Easily in her top 300!”)

But don’t overdo it — don’t make your audience feel like they have to do work in their own space.

Another PRO-TIP: Long jokes don’t work on Zoom

In a club, you pretty much have everyone’s undivided attention.

You can raise a question or tease the resolution of a story, and people will go silent to make sure they hear what you’re about to say next.

Not Zoom.

The connection issues, your tiny little faces on their screens, the myriad distractions all around your audience members from their phones to their kids to their dinners — all make it harder for them to follow every beat of what you say.

So keep it simple. No long setups. Jokes should be short and punchy.

Here are some clips to show you what I mean:

Short punchy Zoom clip number 1
Short punchy Zoom clip number 2

Go get that production fee.

On the one hand, we have you, a professional comedian who has set up dozens if not hundreds of zoom links, eventbrite tickets, and promotional flyers.

On the other hand, we have a business or school or hospital or charity who has never done this.

You should offer to produce the event, taking care of all these little bits and pieces, AND GET PAID A PRODUCTION FEE FOR IT.

This is an entirely separate service than showing up on their Zoom and performing without a care in the world.

Some final words…

Know that some shows won’t work no matter what. Be calm and do your job. Try not to start the post mortem analysis of the show until after it has ended. Often the comedian is way over-stating how badly it is going, even if it not gong as well as he expected. People are generally relaxed and in their own homes, the threshold is low. Don’t over think this. And if someone reaches out to you the next day, be courteous, hear them out and be generous in accommodating them in some way, either offer a discount on a future event or if something truly egregious happened, then offer some money back as a goodwill gesture. But for the most part, keep in mind, the check has already cleared!

Now get out there and start joking!

Love,

Zarna

A stand-up comedian does serious work lying on a beanbag with her laptop on the floor.
Go get ‘em!

My Top 10 Jokes of 2020

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Let’s admit it. 2020 was a real dumpster fire.

But it doesn’t mean we didn’t have some laughs!

I brought my comedy online this year and my videos were viewed more than 16 MILLION times on TikTok alone. So to help provide some final laughs in this extremely unfunny year, here are my Top 10 Jokes of 2020: 

(Click Here to watch the entire playlist!)

10. Meditation in America

Zarna Rule #1: Do NOT ask me to meditate.

9. I’m An Immigrant

What? Like you’re surprised?

8. My Kids Have Been Complaining

Scott SHOULD do it.

7. My Name Is Zarna

My Indian name is a permanent spelling error brought to you by the people who win every national spelling bee.

6. Questions From My 16-Year Old Daughter

Making my kids squirm is my favorite thing to do.

5. Want Some Water?

Everything looks so much more fun here…like people frolicking in hot tubs

4. Indian Babies

We’ve seen babies…millions of them!

3. Following My 13-Year Old Son

Brown kids complain that their moms intrude on their private lives. As if I’m not supposed to read their personal texts, emails, and chats…

2. I’ve Never Said “I Love You” To My Husband 

It’s only been 21 years…what’s the rush?

1. How I Show Love For My Husband

I love you, my fine friends ❤️. Cheers to a better 2021 for us all.

For more funny stuff that will make you forget that everything sucks, sign up for my newsletter!

 

5 Funny Things Indian Parents In America Can Relate To

5 Funny Things Indian Parents In America Can Relate To 2560 850 zarnagarg

If there’s anything that’s universal in this world, it’s parenting.

No matter your culture, background, or family dynamic, parenting woes transcend.

As a standup comedian, I try to get all of my parenting guidance exclusively from other comics (seems right), so I put together 5 of my favorite comedy videos about relatable parenting moments. 

1. Maz Jobrani’s Funny Take On Parenting Goals

Maz gets it right when he points out that our only goal as parents is to make our kids exhausted. But no matter what we do, they never want to sleep!

 

2. My Take On The Scariest Bully of Them All: An Indian Aunty

I wish I had bullies when I was a kid…instead, I had scary Indian aunties. Much worse. (BTW, if you want to see my full comedy set, scroll to the bottom of this post!)

3. Russell Peters Sometimes Wishes He Had Encouraging White Parents

Russell Peters nails it when he talks about the different choices Indian parents and white parents make.

4. Sindhu Vee’s Indian Parenting Dilemma: My Child Has Joined A Gang

Fellow brown comedian aunty Sindhu Vee has some amazing anecdotes about her troubles with disciplining her kids.

5. Cristela Alonzo Knows What It’s Like To Have Outspoken Immigrant Parents

Cristela Alonzo grew up with an immigrant mom and she was brutally honest…as only an immigrant mom can be.

 

By the way, if you want to see my full comedy set, it’s now playing on my YouTube channel.

 

For more funny stuff that Indian parents can relate to, sign up for my newsletter

 

Hair Love

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I was a motherless, homeless teen.

During the darkest period of my life, when I needed someone to take me in, I was often turned away because people were scared that my coarse, thick hair had lice in it.

To help alleviate the doubt, I kept my hair short, really short for years. Living as a guest in people’s homes, I learned to keep it as stress-free as possible for my hosts.

When Matthew Cherry’s movie, ‘Hair Love’ released last year, I was so deeply touched. I cried. I laughed. I sighed.

Hair plays such a big role in all our lives and to watch the dad in the movie be suspicious of it, fear it and then conquer it warmed my heart–although I didn’t have that happy ending, my heart wishes it for every child in difficult circumstances.

The Indian community has a lot in common with the black community–hair complications just being one of them. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you can watch it below…

To get more things I love right in your inbox sign up for my newsletter!

 

Blog Post: Is “I Love You” a First World Idea?

Blog Post: Is “I Love You” a First World Idea? 3300 5100 zarnagarg

I’ve never said “I love you” to my husband. And looks like many of you haven’t either.

Let me explain.

Even though I’m a stand-up comedian in New York City today, I grew up in India.

Like many Indian people, my life was consumed by making plans for the future and being ready for the apocalypse.

Love seemed like an unattainable luxury, because love is irrational, sees no boundaries, and is blind.

Most Indian people can’t afford to be blind — we’re already poor.

No one ever asked me if I loved something or someone.

When I met my husband of 22 years in America, we were two people from tough circumstances in India who were determined to make life work for us here. We didn’t really think much about ‘being in love’.

Our love story is more about the little everyday decisions made with consideration for the other’s feelings.

For example, every night I wake up in a panic with an irrational need for socks, even if it’s 100 degrees out. Now my husband puts a pair of socks by my side of the bed before he goes to sleep.

And he told me when we met that going to sleep early is a priority for him. We built our life around that schedule.

We figured since we’re married, we may as well help each other live our best lives and sleep our best sleeps.

We weren’t saying “I love you”, but maybe we were doing it?

Taking a stand on love

So when I started writing for my stand-up comedy act, I began thinking about the cultural differences I may have from others — especially compared to the American audiences who see me perform.

Love shot to the top of the list.

I’d get to the microphone in front of a dark room of a hundred or more people, and open with this line:

“I’ve never said ‘I love you’ to my husband. And if he said it to me… I’d know he’s cheating on me. With a white woman.”

Cue screams of laughter… there is a two drink minimum at comedy clubs.

Often, an audience member (brown or otherwise) would tell me afterwards that they’ve never said it either!

Latinas, Black women, Muslim women, Filipinas, Chinese women…

I discovered I wasn’t the only one.

Then I posted the joke on TikTok.

Within days of posting, it had more than 1.6 million views, 115,000+ likes and 1,000+ comments — many a variation of “I don’t say ‘I love you’ either!”

TikTok’s viewers are all over the world, a large percentage from Asia.

It all made me wonder if maybe there was a deeper meaning to this joke.

Maybe “I love you” is a first world idea.

Disney princesses and classic romantic Hollywood movies train people to say these words and expect all that those words bring with them.

In America, if you like someone, and if you want to marry them, you announce that you love them.

Some even spend a lot of money on artifacts to prove their love.

There are no engagement rings in India, just frantic calls to the closest hundred relatives.

In America, you can love someone deeply but also state certain parameters. “I love you, but just so you know, I’m high maintenance.” “I love you, but I can’t marry you while you have that job.”

You can even go “on a break” from loving each other as if love is a light switch with an on-off button.

The TV sitcom Friends was on when I was new in America.

I remember being so thoroughly worried about Ross and Rachel and their constant indecision about their love status that when I wrote my own personal ad in 1997, I clarified that I did not want to be friends with anyone. I was looking for marriage only.

I wasn’t looking to get married to be happy. I wanted to build a life with someone.

Security, a roof, some kids. (No pets, no matter how American our kids got.) I knew we’d work the kinks out.

My 17-year-old daughter has been raised in America by parents whose views of love are slightly different than what she saw on How I Met Your Mother.

She has had a lot to wrap her head around.

She’s never seen her parents hold hands.

Did we even…”you know?”

I tell her, “Of course we do. Why do you think we pay for so many tennis lessons for you?”

But now that I’ve shared my, “I’ve never said ‘I love you’” joke all over the world, to millions of people, I’ve learned that this kind of relationship is the reality for many, many people.

And maybe we need to come up with our own phrase.

So instead of “I love you,” I propose, “I You.”

What else is there?

Blog post: I Got A Million TikTok Views In 3 Days Because The World Wants To Hear From More Brown Women

Blog post: I Got A Million TikTok Views In 3 Days Because The World Wants To Hear From More Brown Women 2048 1365 zarnagarg

I don’t look like a TikTok “star.”

I’m a 45-year-old mother of three who moved from India 30 years ago, settled in New York, and started posting jokes about my experiences on the platform two weeks ago.

Then I got a million views in three days

I was shocked. 

Not as shocked as my kids, who only get about 25 views on their videos, but shocked nonetheless.

While I’ve had some success doing standup comedy in the past couple years and had a screenplay I wrote win an award and get optioned, nothing that’s happened in the “real world” made me believe I’d see this kind of traction on TikTok so quickly.

It’s made me wonder…

Why is this happening? 

Why does what I say resonate with so many people?

The answer to those questions may have a lot to do with another question I was recently asked.

“Why don’t more brown women do comedy?”

I was interviewed on a Rukus Avenue Radio show recently and when the host asked me that question, it stopped me in my tracks. 

I’m a brown woman doing comedy, and until that point hadn’t considered how unusual that may be.

There are a handful of brilliant women out there like Mindy Kaling and Priyanka Chopra, but as a whole we’re seriously underrepresented in the comedy world.

When I struggled to answer the host’s question, she offered a theory of her own:

“Maybe because Indian women aren’t supposed to laugh? I was told it’s considered vulgar?”

That really got me thinking.

Did I miss a memo and not realize I’m doing something I’m not “supposed” to do?

I left India at 16 years old, so it’s possible I never heard the “rules” quietly whispered into the ears of so many brown women by mothers in the hallways.

If those rules were written in a memo, it might read something like this:

“Brown women from South Asian countries are supposed to be seen and not heard.”

Renuka Chowdhury, an Indian Member of Parliament, recently laughed in public. The House reprimanded her for “flouting moral conduct.”

The Vice President also told her to lose weight. Somehow I doubt any male MP has been publicly chastised for laughing or toting a few extra pounds around his belly.

The host of The Kapil Sharma Show regularly mocks his TV wife for her looks and weight on national TV–his actions are rewarded with raucous audience laughter.

The woman who’s the butt of his jokes is complicit. She’s laughing too.

CNN dubbed Sharma “Indian of the Year.”

We also have the ever-looming censorship issue in brown nations.  The few stand-up comedians that exist have been reprimanded, humiliated, even jailed for their comedy.

Famous Indian comedian Kiku Sharda was arrested for spoofing a respected guru. 

Indian comedy team AIB (All India Bakchod) have been threatened with jail on multiple occasions for poking fun at Indian politicians. The charges were “unconstitutional humor.”

You can be an artist in India, but if you offend the wrong person in the audience, god be with you (unless you made a joke about gods, then you don’t even have that).

Like many immigrants to the United States, I straddle two universes at the same time.  I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, who developed an act that capitalized on three of my core truths: I’m a brown woman (Indian), a wife and a mom of three. 

I try to do more than simply make people laugh – I also aim to change this narrative that Indian women are tragic, sad, sidekicks and punching bags. Indian women can be fresh and happy!

I see brown women laugh everyday.

At my shows. In bars. In restaurants.

Not the demure kind of “hand covering face” laughs–I’m talking about head thrown back, guffawing kind of laughs.

Brown women love to laugh, they just rarely see anyone telling stories that represent their reality.

Which leads me back to what’s happened on TikTok…

The social media platform is huge in India with 500 million subscribers in the country. When I started posting videos, I knew my American audience well…but had no clue how an international, online audience would respond.

What would India say about a woman daring to tell jokes about her experiences?

I posted videos about married life, religion, husband, kids, and my mother-in-law… even the pandemic!

And they hit a nerve with women who aren’t uninhibited, but want to be.

People who want to talk freely about things I talk about, but can’t. 

My new fans call me “refreshing,” “hilariously relatable,” and “honest.”

The truth is–India is hungry for voices like mine. 

And that’s why I got more than a million views in three days.

I’m thrilled to be reaching so many people with my perspective, but that’s not to say it hasn’t come with its share of negativity.

That has also been eye-opening and revealed how deep some of these cultural attitudes run.

A commenter chastised me for being “namak haram” (“disloyal”).

Some wondered, “Can women be funny?” 

But I’m thrilled in some small part to be changing the narrative around brown women.

We’re not helpless and alone. We’re not sad and subservient.

I am an empowered Indian woman and I’m far from the only one.

My newfound TikTok fans are calling out the sexists, traditionalists, and the ignorant for me in the comments.

It’s been amazing to see, and I’m humbled by it.

We need comedy that challenges tired stereotypes, authority, and social dictates on family life.

We need to laugh.

Men and women.

Openly.

Freely.  

An online content provider like TikTok helps me bypass the moral police, cross borders, and share a perspective people want to hear right into their phones.

As an Indian American, a comedian, and a woman, I couldn’t be more excited.

Although I heard that TikTok is going to be banned in India soon. So sign up for my newsletter and follow the journey while it lasts.

 

Newsletter: My Covid Comedy Adventure

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Namaste!
How’s everybody’s Zoom meditation class coming along – I’m really excited about mine!

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As you may have seen from my social channels, I was surprised and thrilled to find a new comedy outlet in Zoom shows (private and public). I have been working harder than ever, creating new content and spreading the word.
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It really has been a far more rewarding journey than I ever could have imagined. I went from pretty much total devastation that my shows were cancelled to a new sense of connection and community with my online audiences all across the world, including Stanford University, Hong Kong, St. Maarten, and Bombay herself (in association with the popular blog Humans of Bombay which has nearly a million followers).
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I wrote a little more about my “Covid Comedy Adventure” on my blog here .
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The response to my online shows has been overwhelming and I wanted to share some of my favorite reviews with you.
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Don’t be shy! Now is the time to reach out. I’m doing birthday parties, wedding, virtual Sangeets, happy hours, corporate meetings, client engagement events, and even a remembrance/funeral. I’ve done small, intimate affairs for 6 people and webinars for over 200.
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Press

The New York Times

Many comedians are making the transition to online shows, a trend featured in The New York Times –and I’m thrilled to be leading the charge with over 20 paid shows worldwide in the first three weeks alone.

Rukus Avenue Radio

I was delighted to speak with Seema Govil on her FabLife360 show for North America’s number one South Asian radio station, Rukus Avenue Radio. We discussed motherhood, comedy, and returning to the workplace.
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You can listen on Spotify here
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or search for “Fablife360” on iTunes, Google Podcast, and all other platforms. My interview is episode 27.
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Austin Film Festival Announces

25 Screenwriters to Watch In 2020

The Austin Film Festival featured me as one of their 25 screenwriters to watch in 2020. I guess that means I should write more! You can see the other writers and read my interview here .

Upcoming shows

Miss me? You can find me performing at these online shows, or book your own!

India Heritage Center

Mother’s Day Fundraiser!

Sunday May 10 @ 5:30 PM
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Come see me perform along with the world’s only Indian Jewish stand up comedian, Samson Koletkar.
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Watch this comedy show live in the comfort of your very on living room along with the entire family for only $20.
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100% of all proceeds go to Covid Relief.
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New York Underground Comedy Festival

On Demand May 8-May 22
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The comedy festival is back for its 18th year, but this time online!
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Comics from around the world share their talents for a celebration of laughter, hope, and community during this global crisis.
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NYUCF delivers two weeks of non-stop videos, industry workshops, and livestream events. They’re here to raise your spirits, raise money for essential causes, lower your stress levels, and probably your standards.
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Children’s Hope India Charity Gala

A Virtual Celebration of Hope

Saturday May 16 @ 11:30 AM EST / 9 PM IST
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I am thrilled to MC this important annual gala to raise money for Children’s Hope India.
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Children’s Hope India (CHI) helps children and families progress from poverty to prosperity by partnering with local organizations that improve access to education, medical care, shelter, social services, and job skills training.
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This event is free, but please donate what you can.
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Instagram Live

I’ve been reaching out to experts in different fields to see how the landscape is changing around us. If you have Instagram, you can watch these interviews LIVE. If you don’t have Instagram, what are you waiting for? How are you going to see all my funny bits? www.instagram.com/zarnagarg

IG Live with Sara Harberson, America’s College Counselor

Wednesday May 13 @ 6 PM EST
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What on earth will we do without the SAT??
Join us on Wednesday and ask questions live! Make sure you have an Instagram account, then go to my Instagram page www.instagram.com/zarnagarg and join the live interview.
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Learn more about Sara at www.saraharberson.com .
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IG Live with Suraj Patel, New York candidate for Congress

Time and Date TBD
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Suraj’s story really is the American Dream: his parents ran a bodega before sending him to Stanford, Cambridge, and NYU. And now he’s coming for a Congress seat held for 25 years by Representative Maloney! Find out why his campaign is so different for DREAMers, campaign donors, and young parents!
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Learn more about Suraj at https://www.surajpatel.nyc/
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Special Mother’s Day Offer!

Dr. Adam will get your kid to brush their teeth!!!

This week I had a popular Instagram Live interview with Dr. Adam, a partner at Pediatric Dentists NYC. We immediately created this Mother’s Day Special for all the moms out there tearing their hair out trying to keep their kids’ mouths healthy. Don’t worry, Dr. Adam is here. He is offering a private Zoom call with you and your kids where he can explain why brushing your teeth is so important, and demonstrate the best way to do it.
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Email him at dradam@pdnyc.com for more information.
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Snapshots of my Lockdown Life

Zoya and Veer shelter in place together.

I recently had a moment when I was really craving some bhel but it’s so complicated to buy the ingredients even when there’s not a pandemic. When I found out Desi Galli delivered bhel kits with prepared meals or just groceries, I immediately leapt into action.

As you can see, it’s been a very quiet few days.
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I’ve got to go. My “special water” has just arrived for my Zoom meditation class.
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Namaste everyone!

Blog post: My Covid Comedy Adventure

Blog post: My Covid Comedy Adventure 3018 1471 zarnagarg

I’m a stand-up comedian. A performer who needs an audience that I can look in the eye.

Covid-19 has blown open the world for me. Let me explain.

Until March, I was walking a pretty established path, working the NYC comedy clubs, producing my own shows, applying for festivals–tried and tested ways of succeeding as a stand-up comedian. On top of my comedy work, I was also starting a career as a screenwriter. My first script had just been optioned by Sanjay Sharma (of Marginal Mediaworks) and Milan Chakraborty (of Attic Light Films). I couldn’t believe I had found two amazing Indian movie producers in Hollywood who believed in my story and supported me.

But when Covid hit, I watched all my live shows get cancelled one by one. My heart sank deeper and deeper with each email and phone call. In turn, I had to call my team to cancel their bookings: camera people, sound technicians, makeup artists, photographers and more. My only saving grace was that I was healthy, even though I was so anxious that I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Today, the future of comedy clubs packed with people remains in suspense. And with it, the future of traditional stand up comedy.

All my audience members were locked in their homes–but needed to laugh now more than ever. I was flooded with messages about how badly people needed to laugh and I read each one with anger and frustration. As I worked in my tiny, restricted space in Manhattan which I share with 4 other people, my mind started flying in every direction you could think of.

I started to imagine…

What if I booked a Zoom room, invited 20 first responders and did a show just for them?

I had seen an Indian musician in Australia doing very cool stuff–could I possibly collaborate with her?

What if I offered a group of senior citizens in India a chance to gather around their Zoom screens while I coordinated a comedy show peppered with Bollywood trivia?

I started staying up late nights, learning the ins and outs of different online communications options. Once I found one that I liked (Zoom, no surprise), I played with the idea of creating a small, personal show with my friends, just to see how it went.

Normally I prepare for a show by writing out my set again and again, practicing it on family members; then hair, make up, outfit; then I walk out on stage and connect with my audience–face to face. Each step more and more nerve-wracking, and yet the nerves themselves propel the performance. Could I do it all again online?

A different kind of nerves took over, along with a new determination.

In a little group of 10 people, we had the best time. We laughed. We cheered each other on. My audience was very forgiving and really just wanted to laugh–the early technical glitches became part of the act, time delays encouraged people to make funny frozen faces, and sometimes people got so silly, that their goofiness became my new punchline! We experienced an evening of friendship more exhilarating and hilarious than I could ever have expected, especially as we could feel the grim reality surrounding us.

I felt like a fire had been lit under me. Live online comedy was a whole new world to explore–not a replacement but a complement to the world of live comedy I had happily roamed before.

I soon found myself booking online shows across the country, then across the world. Once I removed time zone considerations from my own mind, I imagined shows happening everywhere! Elite private events I hadn’t dreamed of–prestigious colleges in California!–started booking me. I was able to contribute my online services to first responders and patients in hospitals. Can you imagine my gratitude for Zoom? I found a closeness and connection I didn’t know was possible in my online shows booked by old and new fans in India.

And as far as my movie screenplay, ‘Rearranged,’ since all the movie productions have now been shut down, my screenplay is getting a closer look at major studios. Studio executives have time to read again! Team Rearranged is moving forward with putting all the pieces together so we can create some happy, Indian-inspired movie magic for our audience soon.

Even before the Covid outbreak, live online entertainment was a looming future reality all performers were going to have to grapple with. Now we all must take this step online immediately for our careers to survive. Yes, it’s intimidating. But it has a whole new range of rewards that can be just as fulfilling–and sometimes more so–than a performance in person. There are many lessons to be learned during this crisis and I’m keeping an open heart and mind so I can receive them all.

Blog post: Online Learning

Blog post: Online Learning 2048 1365 zarnagarg

Once my interest was piqued, I went deep into the online world to look at who was writing movies, how they got started, where else could I learn screenwriting.

I’m a mom of three. There are so many restrictions on my time and energy that I am forced to look for efficient options. Also, I’ve just finished paying off my student loans from years of college and law school – the last thing I was willing to do was take on more education expenses.

But the world is different now. There are so many resources available online for a very low price. One of the first things I found and fell in love with was the MasterClass series. For $99 I could access all their lectures for a year! That worked for me because I am particularly slow and need to watch and re-watch something over and over again if I’m trying to learn from it.

Also, www.writeyourscreenplay.com offered the classes I loved online. Once I started looking, the options seemed endless.

I tore through all the movie and comedy related searches. There was something fun and interesting about each option and my excitement grew. Famous screenwriters, storytellers talked about doing what they did for their love for movies. Huh. That’s a thing?

I couldn’t believe that you could become a screenwriter just because you love doing it, there is no license required, no advanced degree, no technical qualification? So odd. Coming from a world of only knowing a few jobs, law, medicine, accounting, I figured that to do any job you need to check a million boxes – tests, scores, essays, letters of recommendations and more, here I was looking at a job that was available for someone who just wanted to do it because they liked to do it. That’s a thing?

I was so elated and felt so empowered. I decided I could do this and I was going to use every means available to maximum capacity.

Blog post: And someone telling you to get started is not going to get you started

Blog post: And someone telling you to get started is not going to get you started 1365 2048 zarnagarg

I was a confused mess, nervous and anxious when I knew I wanted to write my story as a movie screenplay, but had ZERO idea how to go about it. What even is step one to writing a movie?

Google brought me to the website www.writeyourownscreenplay.com.

Can it be any easier than this? I fiddled around for a few minutes and saw that they had classes in the evening in NYC, and called them to see if I could just stop by to see what they do. They invited me to sit in on one free class.

Of course right before leaving for class, I almost bailed – it was raining, it looked like a horrendous commute, down and across Manhattan and a few blocks of walking too. A headache promptly arrived and I felt ‘faint’.

But this time, I was determined not to succumb to these faux issues. I did make it easy for myself and splurged on a Via ride to reduce the commuting stress. I promised myself a slice of pizza after (was going to eat it anyway – would’ve probably been because I was sad that I bailed on myself yet again) – as a reward.

It’s nuts. I’m 45 years old. But the tricks that worked on my two year olds once upon a time, work on me that day too.

I made my way to the class and walked in with so much trepidation, only to be greeted by the most friendly hellos and a warm group of young ‘uns who said, “Come on in!”

I sat in on my first class in the back seat, hiding in the dark, just wanting to watch and I was RIVETED. The teacher, Jack Kreuger, cracked open the screenplay of the movie American Beauty and opened the class with ‘why this title,’ and a vibrant discussion ensued.

I was so shocked. I had no idea that people sat and discussed all this in the way that I had been discussing with myself in my head. I was hooked. And people were serious in their analysis – the questions were deep and comprehensive.

I got home from that lesson and went crazy searching how to learn more about screenwriting. People do this? How slow am I? I’ve been watching movies most of my life, of course someone is writing them! How did I not know that this is a real job? I felt so stupid, so utterly dumb at not having known that this is what screenwriting must entail.

But this time, my feeling ‘less than’ was not going to stop me. I decided to say to myself what I say to my kids all the time – ‘one foot before the other’ and ‘one step at a time’.

If I don’t tell my own story, no one else will.

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