#KetchupTalks: Anmol Garg’s simplified approach to stand up comedy!

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Piyush Singh
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Anmol Garg

From crafting hilarious material to connecting with audiences, join us as we unravel the mysteries of comedy with Anmol Garg’s expert guidance.

Social media has made it easier than ever to connect and explore with one’s creativity. Stand-up comedy, especially, is blowing up. Many platforms have made it super easy to share jokes, test out new material, and connect with fans. And the best part? It's not just the big names that are getting attention. Social media has levelled the playing field, giving everyone a shot at making it big. So whether you're into roasts or hilarious storytelling, there's something out there for everyone to enjoy and create. 

While social media has made comedy more accessible, mastering the art of stand-up comedy still requires skill and strategy. We had a chat with Anmol Garg who, like many comedians, emphasizes the importance of finding a unique voice and perspective. He finds crafting relatable yet original material, honing timing and delivery, and connecting with the audience to be crucial aspects of stand-up comedy. Anmol had more to share on what his approach to stand-up comedy is and ways aspiring comedians can apply it to their own lives.

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Let's see what he shared: 

What steps did you take to prepare your first stand-up routine, and how did you choose your material? 

I didn’t choose my material, the material chose me! I was part of a digital marketing club which had weekly meetings and I was popular for cracking all marketing-related jokes! The founder of the club said why don’t you ‘perform’ for all of us for 5 minutes in the next meeting. And I did it! To my surprise, people liked my gig and told me ‘You should do this more often’. And that’s how my tryst with standup started! Back then, I had zero idea of how to ‘write’ jokes or how to even ‘perform’. When I look back at that video, I feel so happy! The laughs weren’t big, the jokes were crude and the performance wasn’t even tight, but there was a certain ‘innocence’ in the act! Someone trying to do something for the sheer joy of it! 

Can you share your process for refining and testing jokes before a live audience?

The process is simple - hit as many open mics as possible. In my books, a joke needs to have at least 35-40 runs at open mics before it can be introduced into your set.  Why does it have to be tested so much? Because, every joke has a journey, a metamorphosis of sorts where it evolves from a good joke to a hilarious one. Every joke starts as something funny to you and then in this process, you make sure it’s funny for everyone! You play with the words, add an analogy, an extra punchline, an act out, a pregnant pause for emphasis or whatever it takes for the joke to land better! This is close to a month’s work - all for one line! 

How important is understanding your target audience, and how did you tailor your material accordingly?

Extremely crucial. I started by doing marketing and startup-related jokes. Back then, I thought a ‘joke is a joke’. When I performed the same jokes to an audience which was more mainstream, these jokes didn’t get the same response because they weren’t ‘relatable’. Humans are hardwired to bond over relatability. If you meet someone and you both realize you were born in the same city/state, there is instant likeability and rapport! Similarly, when you make jokes about situations which the audience has gone through themselves, they are more likely to laugh and react! Before doing any show, I understand the audience demographic and psychographics. While I can’t change the jokes, I add local references which appeal to them and make me look as if I am one among them. If not for that, all the ‘good jokes’ will bomb! 

Did you have a specific strategy for overcoming stage fright or nervousness before performances?

Praying to God is my only strategy. (laughs) When you are on stage, your past performances/reputation doesn’t count. Even your best joke can bomb! That’s the beauty of standup!  And guess what, you’ll always be nervous! And nervousness is good! It helps you push that adrenaline. What’s very important is to channel that nervousness into ‘creative energy’. If that nervousness is holding you back, it will affect your performance. After having done 200+ corporate shows over the last 4 years, I have realized that the root cause of nervousness is always the pressure you put on yourself ‘I have to make them laugh’ and the counter question ‘What if they don’t laugh?’ So before stepping on stage, I just tell myself ‘Have fun bro and do it for yourself. You have nothing to worry about because anyways you have taken the payment in advance.'

In terms of writing, what advice do you have for aspiring comedians on creating punchlines and maintaining comedic timing?

In the world of comedy, the journey from novice to master is a gradual evolution, guided by the quality of your punchlines. Starting with very bad punchlines, each step teaches invaluable lessons: from bad to good, good to very good, and finally, from very good to the pinnacle of excellence with very very good punchlines. It's a simple yet profound formula, illuminating the path to comedic brilliance." In short, writing jokes is like building your biceps. The more you work on it, the better it becomes! The same works with comic timing! The more you perform, the better you get at landing jokes! 

Can you share your experience with open mics and how they contributed to your growth as a comedian?

I do one mic a day and the experience ranges from ‘horrible’ to ‘hilarious’. Horrible because you are trying new jokes and there’s a good chance it will bomb. Hilarious because there’s a chance you’ve hit upon a gem! Open mics for a comedian is like flying time for a pilot. The more you clock, the better you become! Also, open mics help you understand different types of audiences, how to deal with them, how to bring alive a dead room, how to improvise etc! 

How do you handle hecklers or unexpected disruptions during your performances?

The best way to handle hecklers is to give it back to them! Cmon, you’re the comedian. The crowd expects you to do that, nothing less. However, one important point to note before you heckle the hecklers, you should have won the audience over by now. They need to be with you. So when you are going after the heckler, the audience gives you that validation and breaks the confidence of the heckler! 

What role does observational humour play in stand-up, and how can comedians develop a keen sense of observation?

Comedy is all about picking on unique observations. Every situation has two ways to look at it. While the rest of the world sees it in one way, comedy often lies in the other way! The more you observe, the better the jokes! You sit in a room and write jokes. But the inspiration for these jokes comes from travel, reading, talking to other people and observing the nuances! The only way to develop a keen sense of observation is by being ‘conscious’ all the time. Conscious of everything that’s happening around you! Humour is all around us. It’s ‘happening’ every time everywhere, especially in a country like ours which has such great diversity! If you are more conscious about everything happening around you, the jokes will write themselves! 

How do you handle tough crowds or moments when your jokes don't land as expected? 

Standup is a game of probability. You go in with your best jokes. You also know 3-4 jokes out of 10 might not work. As long as the majority of the jokes are firing, you are still doing good! However, there are times when you are completely off. Only 2/10 jokes are working. That’s when you have to do a course correction. Stop doing your material and move to crowd work. Start talking to the audience and be spontaneous with your punchlines! If you can win them over, 2/10 will now become 6/10. You’re back. 

What is the one advice you would give to all the aspiring comedians out there? 

Try. Try. Try. If you fail, try more! Standup is like wine. You only age better with age. So don’t overthink and keep performing. There will be times when you will bomb 5 times in a row but that 6th performance will make up for it! Making people laugh is the most gratifying profession on Earth! The world needs more comedians than AI experts. So be one! 

What do you think is the most appealing aspect of Open Mic events? Tell us in the comments below!

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