Now, that’s funny! How business comedy is finding a place in the world of entrepreneurship

If you love a good joke with a message thrown in, don’t miss Anmol Garg’s standup comedy routines that are a big hit in the entrepreneurship arena. Here’s what he has to say about business comedy…

Anmol Garg is a software engineer who is founder of Sales5X - a sales training and consulting company. He specialises in business comedy and is known for his humour and wit in the industry.

In an interview with YS Weekender, he speaks about the importance of infusing a bit of ‘fun’ into entrepreneurship and why business comedy is a field that is gaining popularity in industries…

What is business comedy? What makes it so interesting?

In India, business is always considered ‘serious’. There seems to be very little scope for humour. I want to turn this around. Business comedy is a genre of comedy which explores the funny side of doing business! Given the ‘characters’ we have in the Indian business ecosystem, it surely makes for an interesting niche!  

Anmol Garg

Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the business comedy space?

I am a software engineer and I run a company called Sales5X, which is into sales training and consulting. Interestingly enough, I am also a standup comedian with my content largely being around entrepreneurship/sales/marketing. I believe every entrepreneur is also a standup comedian because both don’t know what they are doing! Before starting Sales5X, I had three startups, all of which didn’t work out! I feel the best thing you can do with three failed startups is to convert them into a standup!

One day, an entrepreneur friend of mine asked me to do a standup on startups at his 5th year company celebrations. His employees loved it. I thought it was a fluke since everyone was drunk. But my next performance was at the Digital Marketing Club (DMC) where everyone was sober. The response at DMC was also overwhelming. After that, there was no looking back!

What works for me is that I have lived through whatever I talk, so there is authenticity in my content which people can relate to.

What makes your comedy different?

It’s largely the niche that I have chosen - entrepreneurship/sales/marketing. In one of my videos, I have classified startup investors into nine types and how you can never find a ‘good freelancer’. I talk about digital marketing - SEO, ads, organic, affiliate marketing etc. My next standup is going to be on why digital marketers need a separate Tinder! It borders more on satire/sarcasm than just raw comedy. So, if you’re not an entrepreneur, it is most likely that you will not relate to my content!

Honestly, I don’t look at it as just standup comedy. There’s a message in every standup - I am trying to say things which people are shying away from saying. For instance, I recently did a standup on how reservation system exists in our Indian startup ecosystem (majority of the funding quota is reserved for IIT’ians!), how everyone is TEDx speaker these days and why Indian clients don’t pay! With standup, the best promotion strategy is ‘great content’. If people like it, they will share it. ‘Shares’ is the biggest currency in digital marketing!

How do you create content?

Ok, that’s a tough one. Every night, from 11pm-1am, I write content. There are times when I would have written just one line in two hours! It’s a lot of introspection and the ability to observe things from a very different perspective. However, my go-to marketing strategy is lean. I test new content quickly by forcing my friends to listen to it (it’s important to have jobless friends). After a few tweaks, I am ready to perform live! To be honest, I have never been to an open mic!

Can you tell us about some of your challenges when you took the comedy route in entrepreneurship as your niche?

Creating content with entrepreneurship/corporates as the niche is a challenge! It requires a lot of soul searching. There are times when I have spent three hours just to write one line! And later, you realise that the line isn’t working with a live audience! It’s the same feeling an entrepreneur goes through when the investor says ‘I can’t invest because you aren’t using blockchain’.

Also, since these are conventionally ‘dry’ topics, adding masala to them requires creativity. Subconsciously, my mind is always searching for content!

Another challenge is to find the right audience. Not everyone will connect with my content. So, I need to position myself accordingly! 

Can you tell us about some of your events?

Anmol uses comedy to bring home a message

Because my content is largely startup-centric, I get invited to a lot of events related to startups/funding/marketing/HR. At these events, there’s a massive information overload. Standup cuts through all that. I recently got invited by IIT Madras to perform at their campus! My channel is called ‘Anmol Garg’ on YouTube.

How has comedy evolved through the years?

If you look at the comedy scene in India, so many comics are actually driving home social messages through comedy. We have comedians commenting on politics, religion, business, sports, social issues etc. The content today has matured - we’re moving away from trivial husband-wife jokes! The best part of comedy is that you can say the most serious thing in the funniest way and people are more open to accept that view point. Having said that, we still need to learn how to not get offended!  

How is comedy related to your company Sales5X?

Well, humour is very important in sales. Most of the sales conversations today are dead serious; it’s almost as if both parties are involved in a drug deal. Humour is the fastest way to build rapport, empathise with the prospects and close them! If you can make them laugh, you can make them pay!

What would you say is your best joke?

“There are 2 types of clients in India - those who don’t have money & those who don’t have money.”

What are your views about standup comedy in India? What mistakes are many people making?

If you look at the comedy scene in India, so many comics are actually driving home social messages through comedy. We have comedians commenting on politics, religion, business, sports, social issues etc. However, we still need to learn how to not get offended!  

The only mistake people make is that they are shying away from trying standup! I think there’s a comedian inside each one of us. So, give it a shot. Don’t think too much about what people are going to think about you. No one is thinking about you most of the time!

What do you do when you suddenly find yourself in front of an unresponsive audience? Is that a problem with many people in this space?

There’s never an unresponsive audience - there’s always content which didn’t connect with them. So, if your audience is not responsive, make a course correction. Find their pulse by testing your first few jokes and steering the content accordingly.

Contextual humor is a game changer. If you can you make them laugh unscripted, they’ll cheer for you. Remember, you are just one laugh away from building a rapport with them. If you can’t do that, fake a restroom emergency and leave the city.

Who are some of your all-time favourite standup comics and why?

My manager was my favourite standup comedian. Jokes apart, I vote for George Carlin as my all-time favourite! He was a class apart. His comedy was groundbreaking. I am a big fan of Kevin Hart because his content is about his life/struggles. He’s got an impeccable comic timing! Back home, my favourite is Anubhav Singh Bassi. I was at one of his shows recently - the man performed for two hours straight with never a dull moment in between!

What are some of the messages that are best conveyed via comedy?

I believe comedy is the best channel to convey anything serious, be it personal or professional! We, at Sales5X, incorporate a lot of humor in our sales workshops. I strongly believe that if you want to convey a message to an intern or a CEO, package it with humour. It will hit straight to the point minus the awkwardness. I call it humour therapy! As they say, humour is serious business.

Why do so many comics use obscenities/profanities to be funny? Do you think this is a good idea?

It’s easier to make people laugh by using cuss words. Slang is part of our culture so people connect better! The clean comedy scene is yet to evolve in India but we’ll get there!  I think the audience will eventually decide what they want to hear!

What are the themes that are most popular among those who love business comedy?

Currently, there’s a lot of content around corporate jobs - salaries/appraisals/job pressure/HRs/management. However, when it comes to business, it’s a blue ocean.

Currently my content is based on digital marketing, entrepreneurs, investors, Indian clients. I want to go deeper and talk about copywriters, designers, agencies, micro-entrepreneurs. No one’s talking about them! So, this is a great startup opportunity which won’t get series A funding!

What advice would you give those who want to get into the standup/comedy space?

1) Content is still king at the end of the day. It’s your content which will sell! So, focus less on production and more on creating kickass content! 

2) Distribution is queen - Today, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get ‘discovered’ on social media. You need to create a distribution strategy which increases the chances of you getting noticed. LinkedIn has worked very well for me since that’s my right target.

3) Patience - With comedy, everyone wants to go viral with their first video. But virality is more art than science. You never know what will go viral. So, wait for it. Till then, keep refreshing your YouTube video to get more views.

What are your plans for the future?

The plan is to just create good content and go with the flow! Social media will do the rest.