stand up comedy advice how do i get more stage time

How Do I Get More Stage Time?

Updated July 2019

In this post I’m going to explain how aspiring stand up comedians, whether in the USA or India or Singapore or anywhere can get more stage time, aside from “network.” I live in India so I may give examples here but the advice is practical anywhere. I’ll first talk about the career track of a stand-up comedian the first five years and then explain the most effective way to get on better and better stages.

TLDR: If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself.

Getting On Stage as a Comic is HARD

I’m in the US for a few months and the harsh beauty of stand up is that no matter how many credits you have on TV, how many millions of views on YouTube or how many Twitter people like you…when you’re doing this as a profession there is something you have to quickly learn and accept:


Hunting for stage time is going to be a normal part of your career. It’s like business development…no matter how cool your job is, you will have to follow up on leads, send emails, and yes, possibly…cold call.

Just like an office worker checks his emails in the morning or marketers need to offer you their products via InMail – so to do you need to be actively taking control of this craft you’ve committed yourself too.

It’s not easy, you will get A LOT of negative responses (to be fair, they’re many good people who are just busy) but eventually, you will start filling up your calendar and your own routine will be sorted.

Most comics (including myself) sit around for years thinking some magic guru will pluck them from the open mic scene, mentor them and push them up the ladder. It might happen for a few, but the reality is if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.

You’re creative with your comedy, so now get creative with your comedy career.

Stand Up Comedy Career Progression (example)

“Stick to your time” in comedy jargon also means learning to manage it.

Year 1 in Comedy: Open Mics & Overcoming Stage Fright, Hecklers, Learning to Write

Love yourself.

Hate yourself.

Question everything.

Bomb for many. Kill for a few.

Think you know everything after watching Carlin, Burr, CK, Stanhope, Hicks, Mitch, etc.. (Hint: They don’t give a fu*k about you either, but I’m sure are still amazing human beings)

Get accepted by fellow comics. Judge other ones, thinking they’re hack or sellout even though they’ve been in your exact same shoes.

Make friends. Make enemies. Many quit here.

You will put out an 8-minute clip of your standup thinking it’s awesome when in reality it’s terrible and shot on your shitty phone. Your friends laughed to be supportive and your ego will swell. You will message me and other comics to watch it. If we’re nice enough to go through it (cause that chick we’re stalking isn’t responding and we have the time), you will then overstep and ask us to share it.

Then we will block you.

I’m not being an asshole, I’ve just made this mistake and it’s the equivalent of emailing your friend’s friend who is a VP at Google with your resume when the HR department exists for a reason. Trust the process, learn the rules and then bend them. I admire the grind, and I’ve been both too aggressive and too passive.

All I can say is be patient but not complacent.

Years 2-4 in Comedy: Featured Shows + All of Year 1 Again:

Based on contacts you’ve made and crowds you’ve impressed, start getting booked at bars, birthday parties, comedy clubs, company events, etc.. Bomb at these shows and realize while open mics are required, making comics laugh and making a general Friday night office/college audience laugh aren’t the same thing.

They don’t care about your super clever pedophile joke Brad.

Continue the same hustle at open mics, maybe even hustling harder. I’m shocked in California that some of the most successful comics still go to the shittiest open mics – but that’s the same reason for their success. You should be actively announcing your existence as a comic to all your Facebook friends by now.

Now you will need them to attend shows, share better videos, give you support, etc.. And if you’re worried about your job noticing your comedy hobby or your friends judging you – then please quit now. If you don’t commit to it, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Some of the best real gigs I’ve gotten also come because my entire social network knows I do this as that one guy on their newsfeed and will think of me when events happen. Use the tools at your disposal, not run away from them.

Know some guy who owns a restaurant? Do a show.

Have a team outing at your office? Do a show.

Wedding friends asking you to say something? Do a show at the reception bro! Or simply volunteer to emcee and squeeze in a few inside jokes, which is also great practice for writing quickly for events (ahem, award shows, TV shows, news, etc…)

Year 4-7: Headline Shows, Many Featured Shows, weekly open mics:

Same as before but now try to actively push on 30-40 minute spots, try to book your own dates at bars/venues, etc..

More heart break, a few mores successes.

Travel, spend money, and look for other avenues to have your voice reach people. Continue to get rejected but don’t even think of it like that – it’s just another day at the office, like traffic on the way to work.

Before you give up on these depressing timelines, just know that I’m in year 9 of actively doing this (and year four of doing it without a day job) and I’m barely in this bracket in India, and probably in the second bracket in the US.

So don’t worry if your timelines don’t match up. I’ve seen guys and girls doing it for a year already booking big clubs, and I’ve seen similar folks doing it 10 years and still at an open mic.

It’s commendable to think that if you just work hard and you will climb. Mama raised me the same way.

But real life isn’t so black and white.

So now that you kind of understand the process, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the day to day.

How the hell do I actually get more shows, now that I want to do this every day?

Sundeep Rao
Sundeep Rao is blind and finds gigs. And some comics are so lazy they ask him to find them shows. So come on man. Get off your ass.

Well to be blunt…while you’re learning comedy, don’t forget to learn the business of comedy.

And after the jokes, what exactly is the business? It’s about getting strangers (aka non-comics aka audience members) to come to a venue, watch comedy and ideally spend money (e.g. ticket sales or food and drinks).  

If you look at this like a startup or a company, it eventually becomes fairly simple.

How To Perform More as a Comedian


Jokes are like your morning poops.

They never come when you plan for them but more at a time you don’t expect.

As a result, you end up having a LOT of free time. You’re waiting to perform, you’re out for coffee with friends, you’re day dreaming in your cubicle, whatever.

So what is a comedy show?

It’s a sound system (mic, speaker, mixer, stand), a venue (bar/club/coffee shop/backyard) and an audience.

ALSO: Skills Comedians Need in 2019

Sound is a commodity, most venues have it or it can be rented cheaply. I tell every single new comic I meet in India – whether a year in or ten years in – find a venue, start a show.

You want the secret sauce to this career? THIS IS IT.

It’s the most obvious tip that I so blatantly tell you now because just like “Junk food is bad for you” most don’t want to deal with the work involved and just ignore the most obvious solution.  


Go on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Zomato, Facebook, Event Brite whatever….email restaurants and bars, speak to your friends who own or work at one – and start a fU*king show.

I spent my first year in California going to some of the worst open mics started by drug dealers and slobs because you know what…they had the balls to speak to venues and get it done and I just wanted to find a platform that already existed, no matter how shit.

Once you do this, you start getting good at online promotions, understanding the business and before you know it 20-100 people are coming to your event.

You get the stage time, you find out comics will come easily and you pretty much get into the system.

Most comics sit around and whine that they’re not getting shows or everybody is against them – but this self-destructive nature is just you scapegoating reasons for your shortcomings.

You’re waiting 4 hours to perform for 4 people – there is a much better way to utilize your time. You could spend 2 hours promoting your own pub show and have 10 people next week. It’s not hard, it’s just work.

Sanjay Manaktala who quotes himself.

The best comedy shows aren’t put together by people who are smarter than you.

They just know how to execute.

Yes You Need Online Presence:

Look at amazing comics like Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, Andrew Schulz, and the folks in India doing amazing things on YouTube/Snapchat/Facebook etc.

Things like videos and podcasts are an amazing way to utilize your downtime to reach out way more people, who then come to your shows. Even if I put out a video that bombs at 1000 views or a podcast only 500 people listen to, that’s still way more than whoever sees me at an average show.

Andrew Schulz Hustle
Bro each of these boxes is like 10 hours of effort.

Over time, all these things tend to add up.

If comedy were a company, under the hierarchy you would have Stand Up Comedy (your main product), but then YouTube (your website and also your product), podcasts (your R&D and also your product) and Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram (your marketing team and also another creative outlet of thoughts/ideas and distribution channels).

I know the analogy is not perfect, but you get the idea.

Even with Facebook and YouTube reach down, stand up Comedians can market for free to at least 1000 people (friend list) daily, yet they put ALL their efforts in the open mic that has diminishing returns. Maybe, just maybe…move the dial just 10 percent?

You need to be actively flexing your comedy muscles throughout the day in order to churn out jokes consistently.

A lot of comics say “I dunno bro, I just get inspired and then want to churn it out at the mic” but forget they’re 20 other hours to the day.

When you’re hired for TV or ad films, you think they’re gonna wait around for you to get inspired or they’re gonna ask for 10 quick jokes about Trump or Modi or whoever.

I’m not saying go be a hack online chasing followers by copying stolen memes and Facebook pirating other videos – but work on all aspects of your product.

I hate Twitter (and snapchat) but I’m trying to understand why they work, and to some degree I get it. Tightening a thought down to 140 characters and saying something people resonate with is a fantastic skill to have which improves the way your brain thinks about new ideas or current events. And if you get 1000 RT’s on a Trump in Korea newsbite, guess who’s citing your tweet on which is then booking you at a better show next week? Sanjay Manaktala Cricket
Happens all the time bro. This wasn’t even that great a tweet but thanks fam.

People like snapchat because it’s personal, and some people do better on a Snap view count than the $1K video they spent money on.  

Someone like Bill Burr doesn’t need to put out his podcast weekly as I’m sure he’s busy or tired from all the crazy shows he does – but he also knows millions of people him discovered him through this platform and now it’s vital to what it does, aka packing his shows. (There is actually a video somewhere in which Bill talks about recording his podcast on a Voicemail because that was the only way to do it at the time!!!!)

Comics who have paid their time at the open mics/grind but also know how to play this social game have so many more tools in their arsenals, and that helps them book bigger shows and draw bigger crowds.

Promoters and clubs are still trying to run a business (and believe it or not, many just love comedy and want to break even) and care about seats, not that you’re funnier than the guy on stage. He’s working in 20 other things behind the scene, while you’re not.

So get to it.  

I once heard (I forgot where) that a comedian without Twitter is like a rapper without a mix-tape – meaning you need to advertise like everybody else bro.

Networking (SIGH)

Real-life is not a meritocracy, and you know it.

I’ve met investment bankers making $300,000 a year that I knew were the DUMBEST dudes in college, and I’ve met some of the smartest people living off of peanuts (and vice versa).

And in comedy, people booking the shows aren’t going to always book you because you’re the funniest. They just have a room to run and need to get people in the seats and leaving happy.

Guys will think hot girls are getting stage time for the most obvious reason, others will think this person is on stage because they’re rich or always bring people – but to be honest, who gives a shit?

The problem with this business is it’s so personal, and comics always want you to loosen up for their jokes but can’t really loosen up themselves.

You will meet and work with so many people in this career that you can’t afford to make cliques with fellow comics or stop meeting/shunning new people.

So many comics whine and crib, while others are just nice to everyone and do their shit.

Which one do you want to be?


Being honest, genuine and of course funny is still the most important thing you need to do in comedy, but there’s one last point most people forget…comedy isn’t about the one hour you shine on stage, it’s about the 23 hours you grind off it.

Even if you have the best app, or the best product, or the best restaurant…who in this digital age of expensive news feed real estate is going to take the time to care? So many restaurants don’t want to invest in Yelp, so many businesses don’t care about having a Facebook…but those less talented ones that do are the ones who are getting the stage time…and then getting better than those same businesses.

I urge you…please…focus on what you do off the stage and you’ll get plenty of more chances on it.

microbreweries in india

How to Start a Brewery in India

These days everybody who gets bored with the rat race thinks at 30 they should start a bar.

Many try.

Few succeed.

I’m fascinated by the current craft beer and microbrewery craze in India.

Bira, Big Brewsky, and all of those others folks brewing stuff that we pretend to understand the meaning of.

“Oh wow, this one has more hops, and this one is a more smoky and nutty flavor? Ok awesome!”


Regardless of the brewpub culture and beer snobs, there is one place since I moved to Bangalore that very quickly became synonymous with the city of Bengaluru.


Or as the co-owner, Sibi Venkataraju corrects me in my podcast…Toit “Brewpub.”

A great talk about drinking and alcohol with a pub owner. Loved it.

How Do You Start a Microbrewery In India?

You get used to meeting government officials and navigating through permits and laws.

I moved to Bangalore in 2010 and I remember the hearing buzz about a new restaurant that opened up.

Flash forward a couple of visits, I was introduced to Sibi since I was also doing a lot of stand up comedy in the city.

I distinctly remember him telling me he left a corporate job in Singapore at some boutique IT firm to open up this behemoth venue.

My first thought was…why?

Why Quit your Job To Start a Restaurant?

Why would you leave a cushy place like Singapore, to come to India, fight with regulators and corrupt folks to open up a liquor venue…in a specialty that isn’t even defined at the time the way a normal pub or restaurant or bar might be?

I mean, opening up a bar or restaurant scares me in my core.

Million-dollar bars and restaurant wipe out people’s life savings when the government decides almost overnight to change this rule or that. Are you nuts bro?

I didn’t say that to him of course.

Thankfully my podcast has been growing (or brewing?) and and after a few months of hounding him (To be fair, he was busy opening up Toit in Pune), Sibi finally stopped by my studio aka my house to talk about how one can open a microbrewery in Bangalore and also doing life lessons on doing business in India.

These days everyone is trying to open up a craft beer place.

Investors are eager to dump money in…and just like stand up comedy we’re seeing in India, it’s going to quickly all start feeling the same while also letting a few stars who are unique shine through.

That being said, I loved what Sibi had to say.

No need to watch for listen, I’ve included them here but paraphrased some big takeaways if you don’t have the time. (I know you do though).

Lessons from India’s Microbrewery Industry

On being the best at what you’re known for

  • If you do most things better than most people, you’ll do fine. Toit got a headstart in the market but kept their USP as great beer, no judgments, and a unique branding/style.

On Social Media

  • Sibi is not really into social media gimmicks, which I sort of disagree with. But we had an engaging discussion on when you need it (e.g. Come in now and get 50% off by using our hashtag!) and when you just focus on good food and beer. Places like Social in Koramangala and Khar do it well, but Toit hasn’t really needed to. But should you even if the business is fine? (e.g. or have a cute sign that people want to post on their Instagram or make your food look hip enough get filtered)

You’re only NEW once. Will you make the most of it?

  • People like new, but by its own definition, the word has an expiry date. How will you stand out with a bang? How will you REALLY make use of your first-mover advantage and not just be complacent? (Toit shy’s away from crazy live event nights or Karaoke)

ALSO SEE: Who In Your Life Enables you To Be Average?

On that creative itch nagging you while you’re in your cubicle

  • If you have a creative itch, it’s not going to go away. Unlike what your mom says…scratch it often and scratch it early.

On having one clearly defined goal

  • Their goal was always to not just be one of the best breweries in Bangalore or to be a successful restaurant, but to be known for “sending it since 2010” and be one of those classic institutions you relate the city’s name with. Ask any Bandra kid visiting Bangalore and you’ll hear them go “BROOOO TOIT BROOOO.”
How I envision most Bandra or Indiranagar 21 year olds.

On having Humility

  • Humility to recognize your good fortune was the possibly right place and the right time. (e.g. Would Toit or Windmills or Bira be as successful had they started today, with a more crowded market and a more educated consumer? Who knows).

Bangalore’s Bar Scene

Sibi and I also talked about a few other very important topics that are near and dear to my heart. Specifically:

  • Do we need to learn to control our alcohol? And the real reasons why we drink?
  • Guys who roll 10 guys into a place and expect a miracle to happen for them.
  • Why some bars and pubs survive in Bangalore and why others don’t.
  • Joking around about the Bangalore nightlife culture.

TOIT Tales from the Birdy Num Num Podcast

The whole chat is on this channel in increments, the one hour video should be out by August 2019.


Read Next: How To Quit Alcohol for Six Months

India’s beer industry is changing, yet just like the comedy market, youTube market and pretty much any market…if you don’t stay true to your guns you’ll disappear in a crowded space.

You can learn a lot about yourself by consuming alcohol, but you can also learn a lot about the human condition by selling it.

Specifically, in business, in life, in relationships and anything else…The only thing harder than getting to the top is staying there.


Aswathi Balakrishnan How to be a fashion blogger

How to Be A Fashion Blogger in India

In this post, I’m going to explain some real advice on how you can actually build followers on Instagram and social media by working in fashion blogs. Special thanks to Aswathi Balakrishnan for the inputs on the Birdy Num Num podcast.

how to fashion blog in iNdia

Be warned, being a top fashion blogger in India or anywhere, especially on Instagram, is competitive and difficult. The hunt for more followers can be challenging…but not impossible.

If I can do it, anyone can.

Aswathi Balakrishnan, Social Media Influencer and Leading Blogger in India
Aswathi Balakrishnan How to be a fashion blogger
Fashion blogging and Instagram influencer marketing are doable by anyone. But it’s real work bro.

How Do You Become a Fashion Blogger?

I started to wonder, in an increasingly crowded space, how do you maintain your creativity and identity, where unlike in comedy or acting or singing, somebody else could wear the same outfit or modify your copy (captions) and take a similar point of view?

So I reached out into my network to see who would want to talk about it.

And luckily Aswathi is one of the top influencers in Bangalore, is awesome and recognizes the more you have nothing to hide or disclose the more you succeed.

The full clips and snippets are below, but basically what I took away from the chat was that being a model or blogger on Instagram is a lot of planning, dedication, client work, and brand building.

Introducing Aswathi Balakrishnan

Aswathi is also one of the top south Indian fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, and most knowledgable social media marketers in the country and also kills it in the Instagram and digital marketing game.

To the newcomer who simply thought it’s about pretty pictures and easy money (I apologize wholeheartedly), it is much more than that.

In fact, dare I say…you can learn a lot from a style or makeup blogger to apply (pun, get it) to your own social media marketing strategies.

What is a Fashion Blog?

Sanjay: So what’s a fashion blog? Is it Instagram? Or writing? I’m confused.

Aswathi: A fashion blog is loosely defined as a blog, or Instagram post, or youTube channel with the goal of promoting lifestyle, fashion and more. As the personal brand of the individual expands, you’ll see more and more content around fashion, travel, makeup, beauty, wellness, technology, etc…

Sanjay: I see…

Birdy Num Num podcast

Before, some context on the social media and fashion blogging craze, hot of the press from last week:

Zara’s Indian partner just announced a cheaper fashion chain of Instagram styles it plans to bring to stores.

  • You will literally see something on your feed on Monday.
  • Buy it on Tuesday
  • As is the case with fast fashion, wash it twice and then never wear it again.

Oh Lord, help us.


We live in a world that is changing daily.

People with cell phone videos are quickly becoming more credible than outdated news reporters, kids are funnier than industry protected celebrities, and in the world of fashion…the eyeballs are moving to creativity, individual styles, and social media.

In fact, you don’t need to see it to believe it, you’re already living it.

Chances are you probably saw way more subtle advertising on your Instagram feed this morning than Hermes or H&M catalogs you read.

Influencing is now, in 2019, actually becoming…well…influencing.

Instagram’s Influencer Marketing in India

Is the Instagram “GRID” the future of shopping?

As a stand-up comedian, my first observation from the world was simply looking at girls trying to be models on Instagram.

I’ve always been fascinated by girls who get 5000 likes on a selfie.

And a little jealousy, fine.

But growing up I dismissed it as, pardon my candor…just hot girls getting likes because dudes in Indore have free time.

That’s me talking about the Wanderlust ladies in 2017.

Also, as a content creator, especially one above 30 I was probably more annoyed at how I spend 60K INR (1K USD) to make a video with camera’s and editing and food and labor and cabs and crew and TIME…and these girls put up a pouty selfie on a 4-second boomerang and get 1M views.

This fashion blogging is some bullsh*t…Or so I thought. Jio is a blessing and a curse.

Then years back I had cast Aswathi through my other friend Varun Agarwal in one of my sketch comedy maid videos with Sumukhi Suresh and I, and my eyes had opened up.

Through my non-designer sunglasses of course. So here we are.

Watch for Aswathi and me in the last maid comedy video I created.

What is Fashion Blogging?

This industry is some serious work.

There’s a right way to do it (Aswathi) and a wrong way to do it. (I leave no names).

But the same industry can be ripe for abuse.

Problems of Fashion Blogging (India or anywhere):

  • abuse by copycats,
  • ulterior motives and…
  • just like we’re seeing with stand up comedy…a game set up for easy cash and then commodity.

Top fashion influencers in India like Santoshi Shetty and Komal Pandey share their style tips, charge money for influencing and help brands build buzz on their sales and product launches.

In a simplified definition, on top of the great definition above, Fashion Blogging is also

  • posting content about fashion to build awareness and engagement through fashion blog mediums (as mentioned above, IG, WordPress, twitter, etc..)
  • inspire and influence increasingly fashionable consumers
  • ultimately drive sales
  • attend industry events, brand activations, etc…
  • Massive digital marketing.

What isn’t Fashion Blogging?

  • Not having a strategy
  • Not having a goal in mind (e.g. thinking to yourself that you want to be the top Instagram blogger for Ray-Ban)
  • Not planning posts (not using apps like Planoly or whatever is popular to plan your next 30 posts).
  • Randomly putting out an image of you and your cat. Called “off brand” in the business.

A lot of girls (and guys) get 10K IG followers, quit their job and then realize later when the audience has moved onto the next person.

“Oh wow, you have to promote your local pizzeria, think long and hard about your style choices, create a WordPress blog also.” (e.g. What do these Fashion bloggers do if IG makes you pay for reach tomorrow?) and also find a way to monetize your audience.

How Much do Fashion Bloggers earn in India?

Top bloggers like Santoshi Shetty and Komal Pandey can charge anywhere between 10,000 INR for an IG story to more than 5 lakh for a full-on post.

The range all depends on:

  • the product,
  • how many organic followers the person has
  • the budget (duh)
  • if any barter is involved (e.g. keep a free phone worth 50,000 INR)
  • the audience (e.g. is it a million dollar Infosys product or just a biryani nearby)
  • the number of posts aka deliverables.

What are Deliverables in Fashion Blogging?

  • Number of Instagram posts
  • Number of Tweets
  • Number of Retweets (from brand’s twitter)
  • Number of Instagram Stories
  • Number of youTube Videos
  • Number of Facebook Shares (from Brand’s page)
  • Number of Native Facebook Posts (on your page to your audience)

Fashion Blogging isn’t Easy

This is a serious plan, with strategy, metrics, techniques and of course, styles.

You need to do market research, understand trends, see how best to engage with audiences and what the market is looking for.

Just like anybody in comedy can tell a couple of dirty jokes, anybody on Instagram can put up a pic.

And just like with comedy, context and purpose can be everything.

Quality is a Different Quantity

A person with 10K followers who gets 1K likes per post is way more valuable than someone with 100K followers with 100 likes per post.

(And yes Sharon, both of those pages have organic followers. But that’s how much engagement varies.)

What Does an Influencer Do Daily?

Social Media influencing has come a long way worldwide. But I’ve always wondered what does it really mean to be a fashion blogger or “influencer”?

And how is social media influencing different or unique in India, with so much more Instagram likes, comments, and also…strange social media behavior?

Like I get that they have to keep up with the latest fashion trends in India, they’re some of the most viewed profiles of Indian girls on Instagram, and the term is synonymous with “Indian Instagram models” (well any country actually) or modeling.

And yes creepy dudes like to slide into your DM’s everywhere.

Aswathi basically summed it up that she plans her week out, she goes on shoots, she answers emails from brands, she plans out her GRID on her feed (the front page of your brand), and for those brands that she’s really keen to work with…it’s ok to be proactive. She also makes it a point to not read those strange messages.

But ultimately your work speaks for itself.

In the Instagram fashion blogging world…your resume IS your work.

Brands take 10 seconds to quickly scan your feed and then decide from there.

Is Jio reducing the value of a LIKE?

I also have this theory I’m working on to explore in my podcast and stand up comedy shows that Jio and cheap internet is creating an artificial bubble in the likes/comments/advertising game.

Example: Some girl at your gym has 1M Instagram followers for honestly nothing more than looking very nice. She’s not an actor, she’s not a fitness coach, she’s not a comedian or a writer…she just…is.

If a million people follow her and 90% of those are from some small village or Bangladesh or wherever…does it really make sense for that person to get 5L to post a pic holding up a $100 shampoo saying “#NowOnAmazon? Is anyone in Bangladesh going to buy that shampoo ever?

Is a potential bubble going to burst across the world because guys in a net cafe in Dhaka are liking every single Instagram pic with cleavage they see?

Luckily Aswathi is fully aware of the situation, but like a filmmaker who can’t do anything but to ignore the massive problem of piracy, you just gotta keep moving the ball forward and not get involved in things that don’t affect your business.

Redefining the term NONE OF YOUR “BUSINESS!”

Ok sorry, had to.

But in a nutshell…You know your brand, you know your strategy and in deep in your heart of hearts, you know where you’re adding value and where you’re not.


These days everybody wants to be YouTube or Instagram celebrity, but most don’t realize that as with anything in life, nothing is as easy as it seems.

You will see that guy or girl from your college who explodes overnight or gets a movie or viral video, but for the majority of us, we need a much more thoughtful approach.

You’d rather build a strong loyal audience than aim for masses.

If you don’t believe me, look at how long any social media person has been posting and you can most likely trace their first posts and see their grind/struggle until something clicked.

Alicia Souza is not a fashion blogger, but she’s a great example of tracing someone’s journey through their work. Ditto with Varun Agarwal.

Go slow to go fast as my friend Rajiv Satyal says.

TL;DR: Quality over Quantity leads to Quantity you Want (Followers)

For anybody who wants to know how to succeed in this game and build real followers and engagement, I urge you to listen to the clips above or simply follow Aswathi on Instagram!

The FULL AUDIO ONLY 1 Hour chat with Aswathi on all audio podcast platforms is here on the Birdy Num podcast.

how to build confidence not be creepy

How To Ask Someone Out Without Being Creepy

Updated June 3rd, 2019

I’m so scared of looking creepy I won’t even ask you out.

Huh, what?

Dating is Awkward

I was at a bar in Goa recently doing what middle-class millennials do when they’re trying to cling on to their youth.

Having some drinks, wearing my cool Rainbow sandals that I got from California and chilling with some friends.  

And since I’m a fairly normal dude with an ok life on paper…by friends I mean 8 guys and 2 of their wives.  And by chilling, I mean pretending to enjoy the techno/psytrance/electronica or whatever it’s called these days while some douchey Russian bro tripping next to me reminds me of my bad life choices.

You get the idea.

As the evening is in full swing, I notice a group of four girls checking me out from the corner of my eye.

Now I’m no Brad Pitt and nothing to swoon about (although I did check to see if Brad was perhaps behind me), but I am fairly aware of my surroundings and have an ok level of confidence you require by a certain age.

I’m not the prize of the show but I’m not hideous, and when a group of attractive females are eye humping you, you’re mind figures out a game plan.

I mean you need some confidence to dance around Bangalore acting like IT is the shiz.

I started thinking maybe there’s a small chance I know one of them, or perhaps they know me, or hey, maybe, just maybe, this is what Goa is really all about. (Ahhhhhh yeah…….it’s going down).

So I did what any of us would have done in that situation.


True story.

Now I would love to start my lecture to you about how bars are a waste of time, but that’s not where I’m going yet.

Oh, how I wish it was.

You see while I noticed the ladies and took a sip of my drink while awkwardly making eye contact (which by the way, please never do while sipping), my friends did also.

So the peer pressure was on, and since we exchanged a few smiles and I was feeling in my zone, I went for it.


Dating is not the movies

Lowered the drink near pocket level to avoid spillage (cue Eminem music), waited for a gap in the crowd and began the swag walk over.  

Step by step, playing out each quick option in my head.

“Hey, hows it going? You girls like Goa?”

You girls like Goa? WTF?

Easy enough I thought, but very generic.

But screw it, eye contact made and smiles exchanged, this would be easy enough to chat for a bit, impress the friends staring from their safe zone and then say bye and walk back, number in hand with the confidence of Oceans 11.

So I walk up and say “Hey Ladies, how are you?” and wait for the glory to begin.

They take a look at me, giggle, and turn around.

Confidence Level: Zero.

Dealing with Rejection is Normal.

I’ve been rejected before, and I’ve done the same to others for probably the same reasons. (e.g. I don’t find you attractive but I got to make something else up). Rejection I can handle, and it’s completely normal to be on both sides.

But the reason I write about this one now is that it sort of triggered off so many mixed emotions in my head.

I really have no recollection of what those girls looked like, but I clearly remember everything else.

Walking back embarrassed, laughing about it as my friends commended me on the effort, and then giggling to myself in the plane like a psycho as I thought of this blog.

But the main thought, the main confusion and main embarrassment in the moment was “What exactly did I miss?”  

Did I take too long to approach them, and somehow lose their interest by the time I cozied on over?

Was I too generic in how I said Hello? I mean clearly these girls are savants of passionate romantic authors like Milan Kundera (Unbearable Lightness anyone?) and introductions required much more than a simple “hi.”

Or am I really having an epiphany about bar culture thinking I was about to meet the love of my life at 3 AM in a crowded disco in the middle of Goa during Biker Week?

The answer to all of those questions is yes. And no. But more importantly, who gives a shit?

Spare me the horror (cue line from the movie Fashion)

If you’re confused, well you’re supposed to be.

Because that’s what growing up in pub/club culture is really all about.

Confusion.  Misaligned expectations.  And whole bunch of WTF moments.

None of us are really there for the music or good conversation, although we all enjoy being around people and knowing we picked the right place for the evening because “that’s where everyone else is.”  So we each stumble through these nights acting/behaving in a certain fashion that creates a series of frustrating experiences like the one outlined above. The girls probably don’t care about dancing but do enjoy the selfies and having a night out, and the guys could give one shit about the DJ but are hoping to at least massage their egos as the night progresses.

Either way, this presents a huge set of problems for you and me.

Of the hundreds of nights out I’ve had with friends, I’ve probably spent 80/100 at a bar/restaurant/club. And out of the hundreds of weddings I’ve been to, I think 1/100 of those couples actually met as strangers in the night at a local pub.

The same is true for friendships, in that I don’t think I have a single close friend I initially met over a drink.

As a result, for a single bachelor or bachelorette, things get interesting with time.

When you’re 22 this world is exciting and full of promise.

You walk around full of confidence in whiskey form shoving your groin into anything that moves, thinking the girl will turn around and say “Oh my, what a gentleman you are.

Let’s go back to your hostel, I don’t even mind if it’s non-AC.”

When you’re 25, the hostel becomes a hotel (or your own apartment), and the cycle continues.

As you cross 30, full of disposable income but still trying to fill your social calendar, it becomes a bit easier to spot the gaps.

You realize many roads lead to the same place and you might be taking the one in need of some major repairs.

Guys and girls are both looking to meet people, date, travel, have shared experiences and live up their youth. You can do all these things but straying from the herd once in a while might be the way to do it.

We complain about movies and skip the bad ones.

We complain about government and involve ourselves as required.

With the modern dating/bar-hopping scene, try to make your own decisions as well.  

Pubs are a great place to spend time with friends, but not an ideal place to make new ones.


We should complain about those too.

If I sound like some jaded loner who is just burned out with the status quo, that’s ok. I’d rather it be me than you. But as someone who has done great some months and terrible others on the social front, one thing I’ve realized is the system generally forces you to be something you’re not.

I grew up hearing the phrase “Nice guys finish last” even though that’s all I ever wanted to be.  

Nice guys edit fast.

I like helping my friends and it brings me joy to see them happy.  

If a girl texts me and my phone is nearby, God forbid I reply right away.  (Wait two days? Dude, I got this slick haircut today and she needs to SEE IT NOW).  

I also was a platinum member with the hotel brand the JW Friend Zone. But in my own personal experiences, only when I started to ignore the opposite sex did I find them no longer ignoring me.

I couldn’t entirely be myself cause the friend zone got boring, but I couldn’t come on too strong because that wasn’t who I was and there’s a very thin line between cool and creepy.  

And frankly, most of us have no idea when we cross it.  

I would love to ask the cute girl at Starbucks if she would like to get a coffee (Whoa…if you make a coffee date at a coffee shop did it just happen?) the way I hear it’s supposed to be done.

I’d love to swoon you off your feet on the dance floor or over tequila shots the way MTV showed me.  

But honestly, all of that seems like a paradox these days.  Men and women want a partner who’s planned yet spontaneous, sweet but has an edge, and competitive yet relaxed.



When you play by the book you’re unoriginal, and when you try all the cool shit you realize the book is fiction.

Dave Chappelle once famously said that “Chivalry is dead and women Killed it.”

While the crowd immediately recognizes the joke and bursts out in applause, there is an obvious recognition of truth that cuts both ways for men AND women.

We live in a time where both genders complain about being single even though (technically) it’s never been easier to meet someone.  

Technology killed our social interactions, we have dwindling attention spans, yada yada.  

But when you’re spending your days learning to be yourself and then spending your evenings trying to be someone else, at which point do you step back for a laugh to realize how absurd it’s all become?  

There was a time you could walk up to someone, smile, and tell them something polite.  In fact, as far as I remember, that was what you were supposed to do. When that changed, I have no idea.

But if you can’t even do that anymore, what are you supposed to do?

Comments? Pop them below.

How to be a stand up comedian in India

How to Do Stand Up Comedy

In this post, I’m going to explain how to have a stand-up comedy career in America or Australia or India (although the advice applies anywhere) and things you need to know AFTER you start getting on stage and have written a few jokes. If you haven’t even begun or are wondering how to do stand up comedy for the first time, I suggest you attend an open mic and then come back here. It’s a long post, but considering it’s the most viewed post on this site I guess we’re onto something. Thanks, friends.

Never tried comedy?: See How to Write a Joke for Stand Up

I’ve been doing comedy across the world for years. having started in Orange County and Los Angeles, California.

Two years ago I wrote about the mistakes I see newer comedy market comedians (Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia) make all the time.

Sanjay Manaktala BBC
On the internet you cross borders, literally.

While a lot of that stuff seemed obvious in 2016 to a comic in LA or NYC, it was received well here and I got tons of questions from comics all over the world.  Hell, some of those same comics who commented on that post are now doing great things.

Regardless, I was cleaning up my website and realized it’s been a while since I talked about standup comedy in ANY COUNTRY, what I’m seeing, what I think is happening and what my predictions will be on the trends and where I think it’s going.

how to do stand up comedy in india for the first time
Spoiler Alert: The audience is more important than your dumb Tinder story. Make them happy with original content and you’ll be happy.

If you’re interested please read on and I’m always more than happy to hear your feedback in the comments and/or social media.

I will discuss a few things that are India specific as I currently live here, but rest assured all of this will be helpful in kickstarting your comedy journey wherever you live.

I regularly do spots in NYC//SF/LA/Singapore/Hong Kong/Canada/Amsterdam and can tell you that comics are pretty much the same in any scene. Yes, New York sets are tighter, UK folks like dark humor, yada yada…but the business of comedy and the hustle are pretty much the same.

You have to be a sick individual to put yourself through this career.

Ok, I kid. This is comedy right?

I think engineering or medicine will be less painful, but ok, up to you.

We’re all trying to figure out how to write the perfect stand up comedy routine and more importantly (after you do a few mics you’ll know)…how to get people to watch it.

Regardless, no way are comedians more alike than, for most newcomers, instead of just going to an open mic and eating a fat one, they probably look for tips online on how to be a stand-up comedian in India or the UK or whatever.

So on that note, since you’re here…time some bitter truths.


1. You need to do Open Mics, they will get worse, and that’s OK.

As Indians, we often have a build first, think later mentality.

We see a formula for a movie or sketch or microbrewery or restaurant or app and we copy it and assume it will work. We bring it here and do it faster and cheaper.

With open mics, I’ve noticed (even my own advice) that the Book My Show listings have gotten out of hand. Everybody is listing an event…but, to be honest, that’s ok.

Comics need stage time and a normal byproduct of that is that audiences will get confused. “This show is Rs.150, but this one is Rs. 499 and the same comic is on both. Wait, what? What’s a trial show?!?”

Ahhh, finally we’ve arrived. This is a good problem to have.

As the years’ march on and comedy continues to grow, I hope people realize as in Europe and the US that just having a show isn’t good enough.

You need to make videos almost daily these days. The sitcom on a major studio days are over, time to play digital (when you’re ready).

Art takes effort and it’s dirty, unpolished and embarrassing. Comedians are the only ones who have to practice in public.

To stand out from the noise as a comedian and still be able to “practice your instruments”, you need to build something special so audiences can always be guaranteed a good time because that’s what they care about.

How to Organize a Good Open Mic so You’ll actually write a good stand up comedy routine?

Why do some comedians rise faster than others? It’s quite simple, they get on stage more. In fact, some comics I know get on stage more in a month than other comics get on in a year.

Who’s gonna do better?

So How do you start an open mic?

  • Invest in a brand, like “the South Indian Comedy Club.” that you can do in various cities or pubs.
  • Make a property like Tequila Tuesday Comedy Nights at Toit BrewPub (fictional example)
  • Differentiate your show, give free stuff, encourage audience participation, make a comedian have a beer before he goes up, read live tweets, whatever.
  • Focus on more audience, not more comedians. The comics will come…oh they’ll come.
  • Take good photos or videos of the crowd, ensure you’re maintaining a good FB page or IG.
  • Build buzz, pass flyers, make a FB event, learn how to market yet not spam.
  • Invite friends, walk on the pavement and pass out flyers an hour before the gig, put in the groundwork.
  • There is no stand-up comedy template, and existing joke structures like rule-of-3 and such are helpful in the beginning…but the closest thing you’ll get to a stand-up comedy template is the points above.
  • If you run a good room, you will GET GOOD FAST because you have 20 minutes of stage time a week that YOU OWN and *drumroll* a REAL AUDIENCE.

For the love of God, play upbeat music for the 30 minutes your audience is settling into the venue. Anyone who goes up to silence and doesn’t know how to set the tone for the room deserves to bomb.

If you build it they will still come but make sure you BUILD IT TO LAST.

Nobody gives a shit that you got a coffee shop to give you a corner room.

dating advice india nice guys finish last

What are you doing to make sure an audience comes?

Why are you buying a coffee/beer to an empty venue and a wasted evening instead of putting that 300 INR in FB ads to promote it?

Why are seven comics standing by the door smoking cigarettes when they should be inside filling up seats, so the people who do peek inside to see if they should join don’t get intimidated by an empty venue and 7 strangers?

I mean if you don’t value your time, why would an audience member?

SA Aravind and me discussing stand up comedy and writing and of course ego is the frenemy.

2. the Low Hanging Viral Comedy Fruit is finally getting scarce.

I think most of us who started in the last eight years got a little lucky in that we got views on jokes which were probably not the most inventive, it’s just nobody had ever heard that stuff on stage before.

Indian mothers (I’m guilty) are like this, Flying is like that, Punjabis and Gujus are this way, Engineers are virgin, etc….. Now that the views have come and gone, you’re going to see that just putting a stand-up clip where you kill in a crowd isn’t enough. It has to offer a more personal point of view, more unique, AND crush as hard as the generosity of all the applause breaks of years passed. AND let’s be honest…do you really REALLY care that Delhi is so different from Mumbai?

I’m not saying don’t talk about your Mom, I’m just saying tell us a story, make it specific, and really think about if anybody else could tell the same story.

Also, one thing I’ve learned watching those who have really done well digitally the last few years, you HAVE TO BE consistent. (I wish I followed my own advice).

A million views on one video in a month can actually be worse than 250K views on 4 videos, 4 weeks in a row.

Try to write about things you haven’t seen anybody discuss on any YouTube videos before, and if you’re getting laughs, you’re on the right track.

3. Newer Comedians Need to Remember to live their lives

I know comics complain.

Man don’t we all.

In a country where it only matters that you did better than your neighbor…we compare…a LOT.

In fact, watch any cricket match at a bar and listen to the conversations around you. Many Indian businessmen are people who will never follow their dreams so they need to compare those who are following theres to feel better.

Sachin/Virat, Federer/Nadal and just one year in your comedy journey someone will say “He is trying to be a Russell Peter.”

Singular. Peter.

You know every comedian you see on Netflix has heard that last line?

It can get ugly.

I compare myself to myself. And I miss having less gray hair.

If I could shake myself in 2010 I’d say just focus on what you’re doing, not checking Facebook to see who is doing what.

I always tell people,

“if comics wrote even 5% of the time they complained, they’d have nothing to complain about because that 5% would get them a new hour every year.”

Newer comics ask me how I write, or what the principles of writing and performing stand up comedy are.

Principles? Huh?

I get it, you’re looking for any bit of ted talk wisdom to give you the secret sauce, but like bro…don’t steal jokes and try to write for 10 minutes a day about anything.

Even if it’s just 5 bullet points in your phone. Because that’s more than most.

But after you figure basic joke structure from watching 10 comedians and analyzing it 100 times with ur other open micers…all I can tell you is….


Instead of reading every tweet, or every insider blog or industry whispers….maybe, just maybe…spend that time hanging out with friends outside of comedy, go to the gym, take a walk, chill with your girlfriend or boyfriend…and DO STUFF.

Your audience does exactly that and they’re the one you need to relate to remember?

If you don’t go to the gym like they do, go on dates like they do, watch the shows they do, work like they do, unwind like they do…what exactly will you have to say to them?

4. Stand Up Comedy is WAY MORE than JUST being on stage, especially in 2019

One thing even I’ve changed my viewpoint on, and maybe I’m channeling my inner Gary Vee, is that the industry has changed across the world.

Going “Viral” in an age of constant scrolling doesn’t mean anything anymore. Hell, even this blog post might get a few head nods before the readers move on to something else.

Where’s that link to HOW TO DO DSLR PHOTOGRAPHY IN 2019 when you need it?

As comedians especially in India I still see so many people spending 5 hours around attending an open mic (traffic, hanging out, performing, eating, going home) and that whole time was simply in service of 10 minutes on stage.


Were you learning video editing, PhotoShop, planning a podcast (and I mean actually scripting one), planning your social media posts for the week, writing a book maybe?

I’m not saying you won’t get famous just off of stand up, but I’m saying for most of us, you really need to stretch your creative muscles far beyond what you’re currently doing.

And you know I’m right.

Everything you do should be in service of getting on stage, don’t get me wrong.

developer meme
You’ll need to practice making memes like this. They will get better with time tho.

The right clip or sketch or content gets you to the front of the line, but I wish comedians didn’t look down on social media people that are hustling in their own right.

If you can figure out social media, having a stand-up comedy background…the world is your oyster.

A YouTuber can’t do stand up, but a stand up who kills at YouTube has a very lucrative career.

Now to depress you even more:

Skills a Stand Up Comedian also needs in 2019

  • Video Editing
  • Motion Graphics
  • Podcasting
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Screenwriting
  • Blogging (Hi!)
  • Basic Web Design
  • Public Speaking
  • Story Telling
  • Copyrighting
  • Advertising
  • SEO
  • Digital Marketing
  • DSLR Film Making
  • YouTube Film Making (yes they’re different)
  • VLogging
  • Improvisation
  • Stage Production
  • Event Management
  • Crowd Control
  • Oh…and you also have to be great at writing jokes.

Amazon: the Podcast Recorder you Need to Also Record Live Sets

It’s midway through 2019 and trust me things have changed.

And in 2020 they might change again.

A lot of you have Instagrams and Facebook’s but don’t even have a website or a simple “Email me for Bookings” link.


5. Gatekeepers don’t really exist. Your content is the gate. ANYBODY can get 1M views online.

Any open mic in this country has comics discussing who got what show, what special, what deal, what video, etc…

Let me tell you something.

Even some of the comedians who have Amazon or Netflix specials might be broke (not just in India).

And many comics who don’t have those specials are doing just fine.

I have no clue who this kid is or if that’s even a real audience or mp3 laughter. But good for him, and this shows you the market is WIDE open.

It’s nice to be in a group or in an agency, but ultimately, your value is not dictated by any organization.

All you have to do is have some clever bits succeed (that’s the hard part) and then build a following online (that’s the harder part) and then consistently monetize that following (the hardest part).  

Renting an auditorium or recording more sketches will come super easy once you’ve done that. 

Sure it’s nice to get on a show or be in front of a crowd but every single comedian has performed for 5000 one night and 5 the next. 

You’re in it for the long haul right?

NEVER let yourself think “If this comedian just gave me this opportunity” I’d be fine.

Once you get 5M views on your own video without that comedian’s help, he’ll be asking to be on your show.

6. Even the Best Stand Up Comedians Need to Take More Risks and Fail

Some of my good friends and hilarious/viral comedians are absolutely horrible at being funny on Instagram.

They can tell the jokes on stage, but beyond that, they really don’t do much. And trust me, they’re not too busy to learn the other skills. They just are banking on stand up, and that’s fine.

But at the same time, our industry in this country is putting its eggs in one basket.

Comics across the world are minting money on writing for ads, doing podcasts, handling corporate training, running their own rooms (even after getting famous).

Why aren’t we?

You were 35 when you started doing stand up, now at 45 you can’t talk into a mic on your laptop to discuss a few things?

Advice: You can work at Infosys and still become a famous comedian. Plus you’ll have a well-rounded life.

In fact, one great thing I see now is comics who have been protecting their position of “experience” now realizing newcomers are outshining them in a matter of a year or two.

As stage time gets more scarce I hope I see my fellow older comics (many of whom are now much more successful than me) continue to mentor, to blog, to write, to fail publicly and do things other than protecting an image they don’t realize they once weren’t so protective of. I love watching old Bill Burr clips, of him, even after he made it driving around and just rambling and seeing it peak at 20K views. And you know what, he didn’t give a fU*k.

7. Ego is the Enemy

One of the worst parts about the comedy boom, or any boom, is a lot of people attribute having luck with having talent. I’m sure it was true for the Gold Rush or the Dot Com Boom, and I’m sure it’s true for our Indian comedy boom.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m friends with all the comics we love and know, but I’ve had my own personal friends/colleagues act pricey with me for no reason. I even had a comic who I spent hours editing a video for, when he was fairly new, then tell me years later he doesn’t want to do my podcast cause “he’s not doing podcast these days.”

But that’s fine man.

I learned many years ago that you shouldn’t expect anything from anyone and everybody is going through their own struggles and way of doing things. 

So if you’re running a room and a lot of comics burn up your stage but never get YOU on another stage, that’s ok.

Just keep doing you.

If you helped somebody get famous, congratulations on guiding that person to whatever their destiny was meant to be. You’re lucky you’re in a country where even a shitty open mic gets 10 people, so just please count your blessings and keep moving forward. 

And if another 20 kids email you asking for advice…don’t be a dick, stop stalking that girl on Instagram and try to reply once in a while to people who can do nothing for you. Don’t go out of your way, but don’t be a jerk for no reason.

8. A Note on Indian Stand Up Comedy Earnings

Look…I get asked this question all the time and since four of you emailed me in the last 8 days asking, I’m jotting it down here.

Let me get one thing clear for those of you wondering how much Indian stand up comedians get paid.

Nothing for the first two to three years.

You hear me?

Sure, some comedians make 10K per show, a few make 10 lak per show, and a lucky few make much more.

August 2019: How Much Do Stand Up Comedians in India Earn or Make?

But as with anything in life, if it were that easy, everybody would be doing it. In reality, if you expect money out of this you will burn out and quit much earlier.

Pro Tip: Don’t expect to get paid for your first three years, and if you keep a clear head with that, you’ll probably start making 3-5K per show after a few.

CONCLUSION aka my big Closer

ALSO: How Do I Get More Stage Time?

ALSO: Ten Mistakes Indian Stand Up Comics Made

ALSO: Who or What Enables your Mediocrity?

So yeah, that’s about it for now.

I run this room in Bangalore. The room is for the crowd, not for you. Tell them it’s starting in 15 minutes, take their feedback, as for video testimonials, and share their photos on social media.

I’m happy to see the market increasing, but I’m sure I speak for most comics when I say…all of us…beginner to veteran…could do a lot more than we’re currently doing. And if you’re new to comedy, you can get years ahead in a matter of months if you just PUT IN THE TIME, and EFFORT.

  • WRITE.

Comedians make a living on calling out people who could do better.

Unfortunately I wish we did that to the mirror to.

So get to it.

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.

indian mama's boy

Indian Men Are Mama’s Boys and How To Stop It

Can A Mother’s Love Cause Harm?

If you’re struggling in your marriage with a tough mother-in-law this article might help you too ladies.

The modern Indian man is an interesting specimen.  

A good portion of us fit very nicely into a neatly packaged box.  

We grew up humble, studied and worked our way to a stable lifestyle, had a girlfriend or two, and now checklist our way through life’s remaining milestones.  

Listen if you don’t want to read.

We each also have families that are far from perfect, but typically have far tighter bonds thanks to those same imperfections.  One family might have the alcoholic uncle, another the shady businessman relative while another the drug-abusing nephew.  

But regardless of each family’s “oh that thing they’re known for in gossip corners”, Indian culture, for the most part, is built on very strong family ties that stand the test of time to raise some pretty awesome people.  

And one of the staples of Indian family dynamics is, as you might have already guessed…the Indian Mother.

I remember growing up in California and having friends (aka white people) come to sleepover. Their moms would drop them off at 6 PM, we would eat Cheetos, play video games, and then their moms would pick them up at 10 AM the next day while the smell of Aloo Puri would be happily escorting them out of our house.  

Enjoy your pizza, Jason.

To them, it was a fairly routine hangout.  To me, I was shocked.  

  • How come their moms hadn’t called 50 times during the night?
  • Where were their snacks from home they might need in case our food wasn’t good or a tornado struck?  
  • Why did I call Jason’s mom “Carol” instead of “Auntie?!?”

As a kid, this constant looking after and affection was something I first resented (“Stop embarrassing me mom!”), then grew accustomed to (“Where’s my socks mom!”) and now in my 30s, is something I’m sort of juggling with.  

Desi Moms are the best and I have grown to respect and admire my own exponentially each year.  She loves my brother and I to death.  She treats her sons with a firm hand but only because she cares about us more than we can imagine.  

But how does one find their place in the universe after being treated like the center for so long? What do these “grown men” do when they enter the world and nobody cares?

That’s sort of where I am in life right now, and I’m curious if you are too.

ALSO: TOIT Owner on our relationship with Alcohol and Ourselves.

Why do our moms yell at our fathers for drinking too much, but think our girlfriends/wives are just stressing their precious boys if they think the same?  

How much love is too much, and how much is not enough?

It’s an interesting dilemma, and I wish I knew the answer.  They’re so many times when my mom stays with me (and I know I sound like a spoiled piece of shit) that I get upset she’s enabling me to take it easy because this is the age I need to get my ass in gear.  

Indian Mothers Hypocricy

Breakfast? Sure, but I should have made it myself.  

Oh, you’ll take care of the dishes? Thanks, mom, I’m gonna go relax and do important stuff like check Facebook.  

Or Tinder.  You’re the best.  

ALSO SEE: Who Enables Your Mediocrity?

While this is awesome (can’t lie), it indirectly enables a habit in each of us that may present problems later.  I unknowingly yell at my mom all the time about lost things around the house or “Yes, for the 50th time, I’ll eat outside and don’t make anything!” and she has never once pointed out this shouting.  (After which I’ll stumble home drunk, having forgotten to eat, and luckily she hears my cupboard banging and whips up something quick to eat).  

It’s nothing malicious and more out of our loving-shouting- communication habit, but good luck speaking in that same tone with your future partner.

How to Detach a Husband from His Mother?

You don’t. You simply show the husband that being a good son and being a good husband are two different things and it’s his job to balance both.

A girlfriend or wife who looks at you on your phone while the dishes are still sitting on the table isn’t gonna tolerate things the same way your mom did.  She might have also just sat in traffic, struggled at the office with her own politics and wants to veg out in food coma just like you.

But alas, that’s not always what beloved mama might think. In fact, the modern Indian mother in law is also, well…not so modern.

In fact I’ve seen couples where the guy stumbles home drunk and the mom looks at her daughter-in-law and says “How could you let him drink so much?”

Da Fuq?
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.40.26 PM
I made this meme in 2016 but I feel it’s still apt here in 2048.

Learn to See Mom’s Bias

There are obviously 600 other things we could talk about, for the sake of simplicity, as you mature through life just try to keep this in the back of your head.  

I’m no psychiatrist but I’m assuming whatever Freud alluded to had merit for him to be so famous that I randomly cite him now.  None of us want to date our mom’s doppelgänger, but I think we can all fairly assume moms subconsciously program a certain expectation of how a woman “should be” that plays a part in our next phase of life.  

Will it repeat with our girlfriends/wives for the next generation and the future sons, or is the new modern family dynamic going to change that? Time will tell but recognize this as you get older.  

Your moms love you and you love them.  They love being there for us (it’s probably a need that goes both ways) and I’m so happy I was raised in a culture that instills family values I’m only now coming to fully appreciate.  But again, keep things in perspective as you go.  

Life is tough, and while you’re a rockstar at home you’ll eventually need to learn how to be a rockstar outside of it where Mom is not enabling you to be king of the castle.

hypocrite woke indian son
Mom material always works in India.

Mom Spoils the Son, then He Goes to Work and Realizes He’s Nothing

I remember at an office meeting years ago, a few clients were visiting from Canada and we got a last minute email that the client’s CEO was going to be joining.  

All of a sudden, ties were required.  No big deal.

One of the 40+ managers runs into my cubicle (I think I was 26 at the time) and he is visibly shaking.  Like Palms sweaty, knees deep, mom’s spaghetti. (Hey! Eminem Mom Pun!)   I look at him, sort of laugh (cause he looked like Milton from Office Space) and asked him what’s wrong?  

Sumukhi Suresh Mother Bias
Mothers can go from loving to sinister real quick.

He said he had no idea how to tie a tie, because (and I quote)…

”Mummy always did it.”

40 Year old IT Senior Manager

Tied his ties.

At 40.

So me, being the smart/suave US educated independent man I was, naturally did what any NRI who thinks he’s better would do.  I grabbed the tie with my American swagger, smiled at little bunty/puthar crying in the corner about his incomplete Windsor and saved the day by doing what I had been trained to do since college:

I googled it.

Hungry? What wait…grab a Punjabi mother.


There is nothing wrong with a family that cares for you, and caring for them back.  

The unwritten agreement in most Desi communities is the parents take care of you into adulthood, and you take care of them the rest of the way.  And that’s completely fine.  

But a lot of times we sort of overlook the major part of life that you and I are now headed.  I know many people aren’t fortunate enough to have parents that love them as much as some of us, and I will cherish my mom till my last breath.  

WhatsApp forward LOL. (Comment if you know source).

But I just wanted to discuss this because it’s something I see people dealing with.  (Also ladies, those of you who call mom or dad on every little adult problem, even at 40…we’ll get to you another day.)

As always, if you have something constructive to say please do so below.

Hugs to you and your mamas.  

And to my mom who raised us alone since I was 13, if you figured out your MacBook and are reading this, I love you.

And I’m hungry. But I’ll help myself.  

If you want to know more, we went straight into it at the thirty second mark a few years back.
Varun Agarwal Motivation Anu Aunty

Varun Agarwal (Book, Instagram and Engineering)

Varun Agarwal is quite a celebrity in Bangalore, the young entrepreneurial startup world (e.g. guys who watch TVF Pitchers and Silicon Valley) and also in the digital and film space.

He is most known for his company the Alma Mater store, later the e-learning company app Grades Don’t Matter and of course his best selling book “How I Braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a million dollar company.”

His journey has been an exciting one with a film now in the works by Nitesh Tiwari, the director who also did Dangal.

Although he’s doing a lot, we do make time to hang out and recently he stopped by the Birdy Num Num podcast to discuss:

  • creativity,
  • mistakes young Indian entrepreneurs continue to make
  • and the whole follow your passion debate.

I also thought I’d jot down my five favorite videos of his, including many we’ve done together.

Mainly because I see a lot of motivational and entrepreneurial fluff by people who don’t understand creativity and communication. But also we can chart both his and my progress over the years by the content we produce. And just like in life, sometimes you go backwards.

But that’s ok, even though the fake motivators don’t tell you that.

Yes you can start an app, yes you can follow your dreams…but most of those people are only successful at books on the exact same topic…e.g. Listen to me tell you how to be successful because I’m only successful at telling people how to be successful…not that I’ve built a successful restaurant or clothing business.

Lessons to Learn from Entrepreneur Varun Agarwal

We met in 2014 when he approached me to help write one of India’s first truly viral videos, the Anu Aunty Engineering Anthem. We’ve had the pleasure of being buddies ever since.

Varun Agarwal on Engineering and Anu Aunty

In 2014 sometime around September Varun approached me to work on writing a song for the jaded engineers of our beloved India. Since I had done plenty of similar work on the IT Guy series, and we both lived in Koramangala, the startup center of Bangalore, I figured why not.

Most videos get stuck on the planning shelf for a while, we jumped right in and of course cast a then little known Sumukhi Suresh.

It was also my first time shooting on a fancy camera with director Sam Mohan (who know has helped make Emiway famous by shooting much of his work).

The video quickly picked up 1M views (a lot back in those days) and made us mini-celebrities in India for a while.

It also taught me very quickly that in this game, short term success means nothing (which we discuss in my podcast below).

This was shot in one and a half days. Imagine.

Having a Startup

Despite that, Varun continued to parlay his experience into speaking and see how that could help grow his brand.

Most talks on the Indian TedX circuit can be a bit fluffy, but as you can see by his casual jeans and straightforward attitude, this is anything but.

Real advice for real results. And almost 4M views as of July 2019.

WOW. Another lesson for creators, update your thumbnails.

Ted Talks and INK Talks have become a sort of motivational porn these days also, where in India we see one format in the west and then beat it to death.

So after viewing a bunch of clips, I was inspired to take the stand-up comedy sketch angle and make the following which Varun was a good sport about…

Varun Agarwal on Millennials

Hey bro, I have a startup that writes about other startups that are starting up.


Eaves drop on any conversation in a StarBucks in Koramangala in Bangalore (because Cafe Coffee Day is whack bro) and you’ll hear people with million dollar ideas but 10 rupee execution.

So we took a dig at that whole world of what motivates the motivator.

This was an idea I had after watching a documentary about hipsters, and I shot/edited/released it in a matter of a few days. And sometimes, for the future creators..that’s all it takes rather that months of planning and writing on one single thing.

Which brings me to our journey together in 2019, after 5 years of being friends and colleagues.

The funny thing about our world is even if things look super successful on the outside, they’re anything but.

I can’t speak for Varun but I know if I was still working at Accenture now, I’d probably be making more than doing this whole creative thing on my own.

Whether it be youTube sketch writing, stand up comedy, film making or blogging, things come and they go.

But as I discuss with Varun finally on my podcast over water bottles (and not beers for once)….you need to really be into something for the long haul, so when you hate it, you still secretly need it.

Check out the full audio podcast and the youTube snippet below.

4. Varun Agarwal | Podcast

In case it’s not embedded on your phone, here’s the podcast with Varun.

5. Varun Agarwal | the one Mistake an Entrepreneur Makes

Please do have a listen to the 3-minute snippet and let me know your thoughts below.

Do you think most startup people talk the talk or walk the walk?

Are they addicted to the result or the actual journey? And for the video creators, what can you learn from your work?


Varun Agarwal has become the poster boy for Indians who want to do something else other than what society programs us to do. It’s fine to do engineering and medicine if you really want to, but many people don’t follow their dreams and then wake up at 40 to unhappiness and fancy cars.

What’s your ideal mix of a successful, fulfilling and happy life for the ambitious Indian man or woman?

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.

How To Enjoy Your Wedding

Please Enjoy Your Own Wedding

As a groom and a stand-up comedian what a whirlwind weekend having a big fat wedding can be. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while but didn’t know what to say. They’re plenty of tips and tricks style articles on the internet about Indian weddings and Western Weddings but I wanted to take a fresh approach on what makes it truly a good experience as a bride a groom in any wedding where you’ll probably have more than 100 guests all there for you.

How Do You Enjoy Your Own wedding?

So how do you enjoy your wedding? I’ll explain it all below and tactically what I mean, but in a nutshell, you need to expect that things WILL go wrong or late and you need to be present. That’s really it.

And one major tip I’ll end this post on.

How to do stand up comedy in India
You ready?

What Nobody Tells About Wedding Planning

Billion-dollar industries exist on wedding preparation, but very few talk about wedding execution. It sounds so silly that we work out, research and train but then rarely focus on playing the game. Mainly because with weddings there is usually only one game per life but I mean hey, it still counts to have fun playing.

There’s a joke I remember during our Indian wedding planning experience I kept cracking.

My wife never laughed but I still like it.

“Oh you thought this wedding was about US? no no no, it’s for everybody else.”

Intelligent Uncle.

But I love that.

And to enjoy a wedding, you need to focus on everybody else, but also internally…you need to EXPERIENCE your wedding.

As Daniel Kahneman in the NYT Bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow says…you have two selves.

The experiencing self and the remembering self.

A movie that’s 99.9% amazing with a crap ending lets the remembering self ruin the experiencing self because all you’ll remember is that the ending sucked. The memory is all you got and you don’t care that you were on the edge of your seat and laughing/focused for two hours. You just care that you’ll remember the entire experience based on the ending…it sucked.

Using that to recall my own wedding…although we had our own minor hiccups with girls running late and a few food items off from what we ordered (every wedding does)…I remember that luckily I planned to slot in some free time for myself, my wife and my friends and that made ALL the difference.

Being Present Doesn’t Mean Namaste Although It Does Mean More Than Hello

All the planning, all the expenses (where’s that cry emoji when you need it), all the family fun, love, drama (Indian no wedding is complete without it) came and by in a flash.

But in those moments, I made it a point to:

  • chat with friends I hadn’t seen,
  • family I was getting to know,
  • dance to music we were paying a bomb for,
  • sneak a bite at someone’s table,
  • take a drag, umm swig of that drink…
  • and just find time to just sit in the corner and take it all in.

I had a few heart to hearts, cried a good chunk and just realized how lucky I was to be able to experience this experience.

People might see you sitting alone or eating your feed for 40 seconds by yourself…but you SHOULD do that. You’re paying thousands of dollars for flowers so yes…hell yes…stop and smell the roses.

Does that make sense?

We totally forgot to eat all that amazing food we ordered, and you probably will to by the way.

It’s 2019, both my wife and my family are “woke” and modern, but now that a few months have passed I realize more and more, that more than the fireworks, the alcohol and the food….I was just having a good time in the MOMENT.

So my advice to you is:


How to Be Present at Your Wedding

For the love of God…do whatever you have to do to prepare how to be PRESENT.

  • Meditate. (meaning, learn to sit without your phone and just look at the wall for 10 minutes a day).
  • Work out.
  • Learn to let things go. Decorator adding 5% or a last minute RSVP/cancellation came in? Cool, you’ll figure it out.
  • Practice dancing and getting on stage at some local open mic or toastmasters for your speeches.
  • Ignore that the hotel just charged you $600 for towels you ruined in the Mehendi.

It all doesn’t matter in the long run.

During the Hindu or Christian wedding ceremony (or whichever you do)…actually, close your eyes and enjoy the priest’s chants and fire from the ceremony in front of you.

Breathe it in bro-bro.

You will constantly be pulled in various directions. Photographers and makeup people will take up all your newlywed’s time when you’re not at the events you’re paying for.

You will be so overwhelmed you will actually look like this by the 80th “pose for” photo.

But you’re not there for your make-up artists Instagram page OR missing an hour of your reception because you need to take glamour shots outside by the moonlight (do that later).

What good is showing up and looking gorgeous in photos if all you remember when you see those photos are how the band stopped an hour after you entered, and you barely said more than “Hi/Hello” to anybody?


Most couples at weddings, especially those above 100 people seem so busy with EVERYONE that in reality, they’ve spent quality time with no one.

Your friends (even your best friends) think you want to be with family, your family thinks you want to be with friends or your partner, and then aside from selfies and dancing superficially, real connections and bonds aren’t really exercised aside from the shot at that bar.

So what I tell all my friends to do now, and I’m glad we did at our wedding to actually make ourselves enjoy it.

Talk to each guest for 180 seconds.

3 Minutes.

After a minute and the selfie, it has to get real. They’ll say something like “Ok I’m sure everybody is asking for your attention I’ll let you get back to it” but in reality where do you have to go? THIS is the reason we’re all here right?

But 3 minutes is a long time at the moment, and your college roommate who once upon a time you were best friends with will cherish that moment for a while.

Now do those 3 minutes with 50 other groups of people and you’re good.


Everybody talks about the food, the customs, the pictures, the decoration. Once you have that all figured out, please come back here and read this again.

For wedding planning….why not PLAN…to ENJOY IT.


Selfie Self Conscious

If You Care What People Think…Think Again

As I mature into my thirties, they’re two things that I’ll always regret.

1. Not starting stand up comedy earlier

Mainly because I was embarrassed of eating shit in front of my friends. 

I thought I would bomb and they would tell me to quit, even though we know now that NOBODY does well at the start and you have to keep pushing at it.  

Eventually I did try it about 10 times without telling a soul and failed nine out of those ten times. 

By then, I was a bit older with fewer college friends around and a smaller support system of jobless buddies you have when you’re younger. 

I was 26, nervous, voice shaking and in envy of a 21-year-old that commanded the stage who started when he was 18.  He had the balls to take risks earlier and get a three-year head start whereas I was still trying to figure out how I would hide my open mic attendance on Facebook so my friends wouldn’t come. 

Don’t get me wrong – I had a job and financial responsibilities so I didn’t have the luxury to jump into art or a startup type field right away – but looking back I know I could have done both. 

You’ll always have time to do the important things.

I was honestly just scared of being judged, embarrassed and failing at something.

The thought of awkwardly making conversation with my friends after I tanked on stage was actually scarier than going on stage itself.

2. Being nervous to ask girls out by simply saying “Hey, do you want to go out?”

I always knew something was off here, I mean…this is 51% of the population.  Why does literally “every other person on planet earth” feel more intimidating than an interview with Elon Musk?  

Why do we have to grab their attention through social media likes and glances at parties instead of just saying “Hi.”  

It was surprising, even after joining the comedy world, where I was doing shows for 20, 200 or 2000 people –  I was still nervous to ask a girl out for coffee, often times my insecurities about rejection being my own worst enemy.  

So when I finally decided to risk putting myself out there I was shocked that girls actually said yes.  And then I kept trying that – and realized wow, this was all in my head.  


Damn you Hollywood and Bollywood and pop culture for confusing the fu*k out of me.  

Everybody is scared to admit that they’re looking for something that everybody is looking for. 

Online dating was something you’d get made fun of for when you were younger (as opposed to seeking the approval of a stranger whom you met at a noisy bar by chance) and now it’s the norm.  I’m happy where I am and not saying I wished a had a girlfriend earlier, but I could have saved a lot of time and mindless braincells trying to ask a girl out directly instead of trying to approach her while drunk at some bar.  (Shut up, you know you’ve done it once).

Engineering Talk
This was a fun TedX Talk

Do you see the similarities here?

So much of life is dictated by what others will think of us.

In fact, we spend more time wondering what people will think rather than trying to accomplish things that will get them thinking about us in the first place.  

And that’s a massive problem. 

It’s analysis paralysis.  Pandoras box.  

Why do you HONESTLY care what other people think?

Moore’s law in engineering says (roughly) that the cost of computing will go down as performance goes up (e.g. your iPhone will get smaller/cheaper while speed increases).  Well similarly in life, your number of friends will get smaller and your regrets/failures will increase as you think about that circle of people you were so worried about pleasing, many of whom are now just random blips on your newsfeed.  

You don’t want to try that startup, ask that person out, switch that career, attempt that certification, pursue that hobby or ask for that raise…because you don’t want people to react by your bold new moves.  And if you don’t try and take risks and make attempts to accomplish whatever it is you’re looking for – well…they’ll probably never react at all.

There is a quote I tried googling for (please comment if you know the real one and I’ll update it) that went along the lines of:

When I was in my twenties, I cared about what the world thought of me.

When I was in my thirties, I didn’t care about what the world thought of me.

When I was in my forties, I realized the world never thought about me at all.

Unknown even to Google.

I often get teased by my friends about the stuff I do online, especially the missteps.

“Dude, what the hell was that last YouTube video about?? It was so lame.” OR “Dude, your snapchats are all of your dogs or donuts. I don’t care.”  

And you know what, sure, I’m happy to take criticism and I appreciate those comments.  It’s a bit sneaky but in entrepreneurship, that’s what friends are for sometimes…A free focus group so you can improve on things.  Thanks guys for letting me use you 🙂  

Feedback is important, and if you launch a product or service and everybody hates it, sure…you should probably care what people are thinking and saying.  

That sort of thinking, I’m on board with.

Selfie Self Conscious
Trust me – this was embarrassing.

However, on the flip side (you knew I was going to try to prove my own point) they’re a bunch of people who will make comments like these because they’re projecting their own insecurities.  

They crop/filter/hide every single Facebook or Instagram photo. 

They monitor every status, every comment, every perception of themselves both online and offline.  

When you’re in the moment and take a good snap, all they care about is how they looked and then you end up being an Executive Director having to take 5 different takes of the same group photo, until their shot is right.  

And honestly…why? 


Also See: Why You Hate Engineering

You’ve seen the uncle at the beach with his paunch hanging out that’s the life of the party, and you’ve seen the self conscious guy/gals hiding in the corner acting like they’re enjoying reading their books while checking their 100 likes on Instagram, while not enjoying the moment.  

Which one, at the end of the day, would you really enjoy being?

Ideally – maybe try and be both?

It’s ok to care what people think.  

But don’t get scared at what people might think.  

See the difference?  Real life is #noFilter.

To be clear, I’m not saying live your life with an “I don’t give a shit” attitude. You should take advice and criticism openly – because it only makes you better.  

But hindsight is 20/20, and the same people who might tell you that’s a bad idea or you’re not good enough are the same ones who will pat you on the back when you do succeed.  

Welcome to life, this is how it actually works.  

Your friends are not evil, but them not wanting you to risk failure is a failure in itself.  

do nice guys really finish last

Nice Guys Finish Last. But What’s the Hurry?

Updated March 1st, 2019

Many years ago I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend at the time, hearing her yell at me about something I don’t even remember.  I was just looking at the wall pretending to pay attention when she immediately got wind of my daydreaming and said “yada yada your mother…yada yada yada….Sanjay WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!?”

“Ummm, you were talking about my mom and err…..Look, I’m a nice guy.  A good person.  I can’t fight over this.’

“Excuse me? Fight over what?”

“Well, to be honest…nothing.”

Funny, but dangerous.

Are You a Nice Guy?

As self-serving as that statement may sound (and trust me, I know it sounds horrible), I’m proud to admit that I’m a nice guy.  

I don’t mean nice in a I’m better than you sort of way.  

I mean I’m nice like…I’m relaxed.  Low maintenance.  Easy going.   And more often than not, even in those moments when you’re supposed to be selfish, like asking for a raise or getting the upper hand in business, success or romance with women (or men), I honestly don’t give a fu*k.

Does the World Care About Nice People?

We live in a world that appreciates people who are selfish.  Trust me, I know.  So do you. You’ve seen it and you’ve lived it.  

Even the origin of the phrase “Nice Guys Finish Last” was meant to promote a victory in sports rivalries, which surprise surprise was based in New York. *cough wolf of Wallstreet cough*

When you answer that girl’s SMS/Whatsapp/Snapchat the second you see it, she thinks you’re desperate.  When you hold off or actually get busy and don’t give a shit, you’re rewarded by becoming the predator from the prey.  

The reward system of life encourages us to be selfish in many places, contrary to popular opinion.  Every business uses terms like being cutthroat, being cocky, being aggressive and PLAY TO WIN.

All of us know this.  

All of us take part in it.  

Each of us is competitive with the other in these little social ecosystems we’ve all built for ourselves.  

I’m guilty of it, and I’m only now recognizing it.  

I used to think if this person did well in comedy or got a better show or a better video, it meant I wouldn’t.  If my buddy pulled the most amazing girl at work, I was pretty much out of luck.  We get so caught up in our little worlds and think that life is a zero-sum game (e.g. If I got the BMW, that means you won’t).  It’s easy to think that way, but I’m here to tell you that when you step out of your bubble and look from the outside in, it’s far from reality.  When you write “Happy Birthday” on someone’s Facebook and they don’t reciprocate back, you know who cares about that little battle you just think you lost?


So rather than trying to climb over everyone to hit the top of your mountain (and stress yourself out along the way)…maybe, just maybe…it’s time to embrace life as a nice guy.  

Not necessarily because being nice is what your teacher told you.  But because being selfish is honestly too much work.

Nice Guys Finish Last Whats the Hurry
Some guys just can’t look mean.

If you’re the guy (or girl) who is always putting your friends or loved ones before yourself and didn’t expect them to return the favor, your life might actually become easier when you help others without expectation.  

You won’t sit around waiting for karma (who is never on time by the way), you won’t keep a mental record of every good deed you did and to be honest, you’ll probably be a lot happier with your place in life given the new equation.  

Being nice with expectations isn’t really being nice at all.

It’s a false notion of patting yourself on the back because you’re secretly waiting to be rewarded down the line, and you’re going to stress yourself out when it doesn’t happen.  

Nice guys finish last.  

Assholes finish first.  

But it’s easier to be yourself than trying to pretend to be the badass you think you need to be.

I’ll happily answer your text because 90% of the time, my phone is next to me.  Setting an alarm to reply back to you in two hours or two days, is honestly just not worth it.

How’s that for some relationships psychology?


Read Next: Why You’re Still Single

Read Next: Who Enables You To Be Mediocre?

If you read this whole thing and need to hear it again with an American accent.

Nice guys do finish last, but maybe that’s the point. I’d rather reach the top of the mountain with my friends (even if they go there first) rather than go at it alone, wondering where the hell everybody is.  

Secondly, nice guys do finish last…but they do eventually finish.   

And I guess in some areas in life (dirty joke intended), finishing last might not be a bad thing.

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.


sanjay manaktala comedy advice

Failure as a Comedian

Sanjay Manaktala is a stand-up comedian who was instrumental in starting the comedy scene in India when the UK Comedy store also entered the country in 2010. Since then he’s helped hundreds of comedians figure it out, and is also the host of the iTunes and Spotify charted Birdy Num Num podcast, because life begins after Engineering. In this post, he talks about the weekly struggle of comics who have to deal with doing badly on stage.

Updated: Jan 2019

As I write this post it’s 11PM on a Wednesday night.  

I’ve just returned home still wearing the suit I put on a few hours earlier when I was filled with hope and optimism.  Only now I’m about to toss it in the laundry bin and dub it my “bad luck suit.”  

This was probably my 200th corporate show, for a group of software managers, and man oh man….did I eat shit.

Bombing as a comedian is one of the worst parts of the job.

Corporate Shows can make or break you.

Stand Up Comedy Is Hard

Comedians are an interesting bunch in that we don’t really have any discernible talent.  

A musician can strum the guitar with immense precision, a singer or athlete have even more obvious gifts but with comedy (and part of the reason I got into it myself) the talent is less tangible.  After all, you’re just a guy on stage talking into a microphone.  

What could be so difficult?

So you give it a shot.  

You visit a local open mic, listen to the schmucks ahead of you and slowly start to feel those nerves tingle as your name gets closer to going up.  

Flash forward a few hours and eventually….

You bomb.

And you bomb some more.

And then you realize, as someone who has done this for close to six years now….you’re going to bomb a lot.

Comedy is by all accounts (based on the lexicon it uses) a very passionate profession.  Although it’s been said many times before, the proof is in the terms themselves.  When you do well you either “kill” or “destroy.”  Or as my friend Comedian Praveen Kumar once said when I asked him how his show was, “Machaaa, I killed but didn’t destroy.”

Inversely when you do badly you “died” or “bombed.”  

For the purposes of this post let’s just stick to “bombing” so this site gets flagged for all the wrong reasons.  And since I’m in a depressing place re-evaluating my career after my almost routine once-every-three-months shit-eating show tonight, let’s talk about it.

I’ve probably bombed on stage more than I’ve not bombed. 

I remember hearing a friends story about how he did so well his first few times on stage.  He hadn’t realized the reason was that a big chunk of his friends was supporting him from the audience, and the first night he performed without them he died hard.  

The promoter walked up to him, placed a hand on his shoulder and said “Congrats bro.  Now you’re a comedian.”


Bombing is as much a part of being a comedian as going to the gym is for an athlete.  

It’s completely normal, expected and happens to everyone, from the first time performer to Chris Rock testing out new bits.  The problem with comedy is that you need an audience to practice.  In fact, the game itself is the practice.  

A musician can practice a song a 1000 times before making it flawless, and the same is true for various other art forms.  

But with comedy, your mistakes happen live and in real-time.  

What might be funny amongst a group of friends or as a really popular tweet, will not be verified or shut down until you do it live for a group of strangers.  

No matter what shortcuts you try the sooner you accept bombing as a routine hazard of the job the sooner you take steps to minimize the pain and maximize the benefits of not doing well.

STORY: In Bangalore, we’ve had a room Praveen and I started four years ago at Urban Solace (a small friendly coffee shop) in which we’d perform for two people.  


Now the room is run weekly with a steady audience and you know what?

A majority of comics who have graduated through that room went on to do wonderful things and continue to do so.  

Early in our planning we could have thought, “Nobody comes here, this is a waste of time.”  But instead, night after night, week over week, we figured out it wasn’t the audience not wanting to support us, but it was the comedians not knowing how to hold the audience’s attention.  

And eventually, week after week, year after year, things turned around.  Come by any Wednesday, and see a comedy scene in full bloom, with years of history now behind it.

Perry Menzies runs a great room.

Good shows make you good.  Bad shows make you better.  Shitty shows make you great. 

A pilot doesn’t spend most of his training flying the plane on autopilot, and a well-seasoned comedian has likely spent way more of his or her time dealing with crap than reveling in fan appreciation about how funny their blowjob story was.  

Whether it’s building the thick skin needed to deal with hecklers, bartenders using blenders, crowd noise or trying to convince 50 drunks who prefer to watch sports that their first tinder date story is much more interesting, a comedian must be ready to deal with anything.  

Back to the pilot analogy, I’m going to assume that 80% of a pilot’s training isn’t on autopilot but on what to do when things go wrong and comedy is exactly the same.  

When you watch a comedian like a Bill Burr or Louis CK talk about women or traveling, they didn’t just magically get selected as the random white dude to talk about these things for a collective conscious.  

They’ve dealt with all of the above and then some, night after night and have masterfully figured out a way to deliver a message through a swarm of drunk and apprehensive message blockers that have earned them the stage and audience they command.

Bombing for a comic is like Training Day. Man that pun was the bomb. Ok sorry.
Bombing for a comic is like Training Day. Man that pun was the bomb. Ok sorry.

When you bomb as a comedian, you overcome quite a few things.  

  • Stage fright.  
  • Ego.
  • Course correction.  
  • You leave the stage feeling like a pile of dirt, but after a few hours or days, you quickly realize it’s not the end of the world and regroup.

 It builds the mental fortitude necessary to survive in this business of constant rejection and swings and misses.  All of the above is realized much much faster of course if you can learn from it properly and….

Disarm the Bomb and Get on With It

It’s comforting to know that bombing is commonplace, and everyone bombs.  

It makes going through this comedy journey a lot easier, no matter what stage you’re currently in.  But understanding why you bombed, uff….that’s easier said than done.  

Was I too nervous? Too fast? Too slow? Was it the audience? Were the jokes too dirty or not dirty enough?  

These are all questions you’ll ask yourself with fellow comedians at 1AM in some dingy restaurant eating unhealthy food as you wallow in self-pity.  

But they’re extremely helpful in making you a better comedian.  As you answer these questions one by one, you learn to spot the causes of these issues at all future shows and eventually, you bomb less.  Let’s take a look at each:

1) Were you too nervous? Or too fast/slow?

I still get nervous, even after over 1000+ times on stage.  

Maybe I’m performing in a new country and not sure if they’ll get my references, or the show is being filmed, or the jokes are just too new and I’m not confident enough in their delivery.  

Or that girl I like is in the audience and it’s going to chip away at my timing and pacing since I’ll be checking her reactions to see if I’m winning her over, which I’m so clearly not.  Either way, it’s another part of the job.  

One of the easiest ways to spot this during your act is to notice if you’re stuttering or mumbling your words.  

The more you do this, the audience subconsciously loses faith in your setups and your timing suffers.  Another way to spot this (and learn from it) after the fact is by recording your set.  A comic once told me that they film each performance and watch/listen to it immediately in traffic on the drive home.  

When you do this, especially after an open mic, you’re actually performing twice that night (the logic being since you were most likely going to perform the exact same routine the next open mic night, you’ve done this by listening to yourself and now you’re going to adjust on the next show).   Plus we have so much time before and after a show as comedians, not watching your set is almost inexcusable since you’re sitting there waiting to go up anyways. (Same is true for not memorizing your set and going up with a piece of paper, but more on that another time).

2) Was it the Audience’s Fault?


I live in India, a place that sometimes can feel like 30 countries mashed together each with different languages, foods, customs and a whole slew of unique comic references depending on which state you’re in.  

Punjabi’s may like a certain type of jokes, South Indians might prefer another type, and then the foreigners in the crowd are just happy they’ve found a place that is crowded and not on lonely planet.  

And despite all of that, I’m here to remind you again, IT’S NEVER THE AUDIENCE.

2M views on this video and I still get 10% of hate from people who just didn’t like it. That’s just more for me to learn, not to complain about.

I’ve done shows with my super American accent, in Hyderabad, for 400 Canon salesmen who didn’t speak a word of English.  

If you don’t believe me, the video is here.  

And man oh man, was that a bad show.  

But despite everything,  it’s never really their fault.

 They’re just a group of people who happened to be together at a given intersection of time and space (Star Trek reference woo woo) and you happen to be the comic.  

It might not be the perfect audience, but early in your career, you will see very hostile or quiet rooms get turned around in almost magical fashion by a comic who is up for the challenge and knows what he or she is doing.

Maybe all your jokes are about sex and dating and the audience is filled with Aunties & Uncles.

Or maybe you do a whole set on corporate life and marriage and you’re catering to a bunch of 16-year-old college-bound kids who know nothing aside from Game of Thrones and video games.  

Either way, your job is to make a group of strangers laugh and until you command a huge theater of fans who are identical to you, you first need to learn how to make them all laugh.  

Take any show you can get and be ready for any crowd.  Try to perform for people who aren’t like you and watch the other comedians who are performing and take stock of what works.  

Not blaming the audience is the first step towards correctly reading the audience.  

And being able to read the audience (e.g. Do they want dirty jokes? Are they tired of dirty jokes?  Maybe they don’t care about jokes but love the crowd work, etc..) is one of the most important skills in your comedy arsenal.

3) Maybe you just sucked bro.

It’s important to make friends as you push through the ranks.  

Also: New to Comedy: Make Friends To Survive

They help you enjoy the highs and march through the lows.  

And as comedians, we have a lot of fun doing it.  Before tonight it had been a few months since my last good bombing when I performed in Surat with comedy friend Vipul Goyal.  

The crowd wasn’t ideal for me and I didn’t scan them enough to realize that.  I don’t speak Hindi but I could have done stuff that was a bit more in line with their lives rather than stretch the references to see if they got it.

After a less than stellar performance, I walked backstage and Vipul asked me (with an evil smirk hiding behind his curiosity) “How was the show?”  I told him it was alright, and that at least I had fun.  

To which he replied “Nice, but the audience should have fun too no?”

Stupid bastard.

Either way, it’s helpful to remember that in comedy you’re always learning as you go.  

You will have different types of bombs as you progress through your journey: 

  • The new material bomb,
  • the nervous on a new stage bomb,
  • the on-purpose open mic bomb, whatever it might be.  

But more often than not, it will be because the joke isn’t funny.  

Remember this, and keep reworking your act.  

When a joke works 9/10 times you can be sure the joke is fine and it’s just a matter of finding the right crowd.  But if you’ve done it twice and it bombs on a real show…it could just as easily still be the joke and you simply lucked out those first two times.

Some Final Thoughts

The best comedians have really good bomb stories, and that’s part of the reason they’re revered as the best comedians.  When it happens to you, just remember it as another part of the job.  

Embrace it with a smile on your face and thank your lucky stars it’s happening now than when Seinfeld is in the audience, and you’ll be ok.  

Some other pointers I didn’t get a chance to talk about:

  1. Don’t focus on the one guy not laughing to the extent it takes away from those who are laughing with you.  Disappointing 10 percent is better than disappointing 90 percent.
  2. Cut it short and deal with it.  Watching a comic unravel on stage is not pleasant for anyone.  If you’re bombing, finish your set early.  Give the emcee adequate signs (e.g. Put the mic stand near the center of the stage) and wrap it up, ending hopefully on whatever laugh you can muster.
  3. Get back up on stage as soon as possible.  Whenever I bomb, I quickly try to find an open mic later in the night I can go “wash off the bomb.”  It helps my mind get back to a positive place and resets the comedy heart to deal with the career again.

Enjoy your comedy journey and happy bombing.

How To Get Onsite Opportunity

Want to Quit Engineering or Hate Tech? Wait.

I grew up in what I’m going to assume are similar circumstances to yourself.  

I enjoyed playing games, hanging out with friends and checking off each milestone in life as it came.  

I wasn’t begging for food, but I wasn’t 16 with an Audi on my first major birthday either thanks to a rich family who “did business.” 

In fact, now I despise those people.  

At 20 my goals were simple

  • I wanted to do well in high school so I could get into the right college.
  • Then I wanted to do well in college so I could get into the right job (not career).
  • Eventually, parlay that into the right graduate school.
  • Be successful and have fun with romantic interests and international travel and onsite opportunities.
  • Rinse and repeat, and then hopefully settle into cruise control by the age of 25.

The problem with that approach was that only once I was stable and settled, riding along the highway called life that I got the faintest idea of where I wanted my life to go. 

The happier you do the boring tech work, the quicker don’t have to.

I didn’t know what to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to do something. 

I mean once you have the time to enjoy the drive rather than finish the race…you tend to look around.

Unfortunately, a lot of people get off the highway at 25 or 30 years old… right when the ocean was about to come into view.

I Hate the Tech Industry


Why would you hate software engineering or hate coding or development?

Does a race car driver hate physics and mechanical engineering or an astronaut hate medical school, Ph.D. papers and studying astrophysics?

A lot of wall street bankers hate spreadsheets and pointless powerpoints, but we all need to swipe our visa’s and transfer money between accounts.

You might hate your current role in tech, the same way the foreman and team who haul cement probably hate construction but the architect loves it.

In which case, for a lot of people who hate their tech job or hate computers and code…you ironically speaking of finance…hate wanting to pay your dues.

You also aren’t patient enough to see where those dues take you. Why do most software engineers hate their jobs? Because they call them jobs in the first place.

Do you want a job or a career bro? Because a job is something you do but a career is something you make.

Even if you’re in a dead-end job with a horrible boss who is taking advantage of the current labor market…you’re being blessed to innovate and learn how to side hustle to find your way out of it.

We have to learn the ABC’s and multiplication tables so we’re equipped to make creative things later with those same boring skills…and all that boring BS you deal with in tech is eventually something you need to crawl in the mud through.

Somebody has to test that software anyways right?

For example let’s say tomorrow you embraced tech, wrote a killer app or blog or game and then had 100,000 users in a week.

Chance are you’re gonna need some staff to:

  • reset passwords,
  • fix bugs
  • help with your accounting/refunds/whatever.

And isn’t that 22-year-old kid you hire is going to hate you the way you hate your boss?

But you’ve been through staying late at night trying to understand what happened to someone’s transaction and how it all got messed up, so you’ll do the extra leg work and make sure processes are in place because business is so predictable and you’re covered for every situation even though you built that app in your bedroom without event commenting code properly.


I’m a Comedian but I loved Corporate Life

This is not some article about follow the arts or how corporate life is so boring and stupid.

On the contrary, as I’ve said various times online, I’m a huge fan of going into the corporate machine and recognizing the pros and cons of that lifestyle.  


Rather, since I get a few messages every week from jaded engineers and people who are curious why I am (or appear) to be so happy and joyful about my software industry experiences, I thought I’d jot them down here.

So if I grabbed your attention with the headline let’s get right into some explanation and tips on why you’re a twenty or thirty-something with a decent salary, great professional and social prospects and still…miserable.

My Job is Not What I Thought I’d Be Doing

Most tech jobs will have a cool-sounding job description like:

“Ability to work on cutting edge enterprise technologies.  Innovation and Leadership required to interface with senior management professionals across a set of global clients.”  

This makes you think you’re gonna be hacking away some revolutionary big data code while on a private jet surrounded by the attractive person of your choice like Hugh Jackman in Swordfish.

Hey I liked that movie.

In reality, you’ll spend your first year getting to know Microsoft Office and googling around to figure out the little software stuff they trust some kid out of college to do.  

When I was 16 at birthday parties and the aunties would say “Oh look at Suman’s son Tarun, he is an engineer at Sony.”

I would imagine Tarun working with some NFL quarterback on motion capture for the next Madden game when he was probably writing the index pages on the PDF manual.  

In Spanish.  

This is completely fine, normal and expected. Since you’ve chosen the safety net of a stable job/company (as did I), nobody is going to hand you the keys to the kingdom on day one.  

It’s normal to hate your job, realize it’s not what you wanted, and even asking yourself at 25 “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?”

While you fight those weekly demons please remember one thing.

In order to put them at bay for good, get to know your area, master it, and then grow from there.  

Whatever clunky piece of software or testing or developing you have to do it…push through it with a smile on your face the way you had to eat your vegetables.

Others will come to take your place and it’s up to you grow beyond it rather than get complacent, miserable and simply resent it.  

You might be:

  • the guy raising tickets to users have access to a system,  
  • testing software and filing bugs,
  • or you might actually be out of your comfort zone coding away from the get-go.  

Either way, it is completely normal.

These days with sites like Udemy or other India equivalents that can teach you Big Data for the price of a beer you have nothing to complain about.

You can honestly up-skill yourself instead of that biryani for lunch, walk into a company or project at your office, showcase how much you know and slowly the right opportunities will present themselves. When I was working in IT we had to wait for some manager’s manager to give us permission to take some training and even then we may have just wasted a week.

Now, you control your destiny even within your own company. If your internal resume has all these skills you self-taught, I mean…if project is open, why wouldn’t you get it?


Everybody Else Seems to Have a Better Job

One of the major reasons I worked in consulting over any other profession earlier in my career was because I cared way more about traveling, hotels, airline points and talking about those things than the actual work I was doing.  

In fact, the second you leave school the rat race truly begins.  

We all have that one friend at Facebook who will start sharing photos from all the cool things he or she is experiencing, the other creative friend who might get a role in some TV show or movie, and so on.  

And we look at these things, on our phones, during our lunch breaks and continue to build a heavy case in our minds of how what we’re doing is so much worse.  

The good news is that eventually, this will stop.  The bad news is it’s not gonna happen any time soon.  

The only solution I’m afraid of is to look inwards again and ask yourself…

What the Hell do I Really Want? And Why?

I’ve had so many people in various companies, both while working in India and the US tell me things like “Sir I want to be a Business Analyst” or “Sir I want to go Onshore.”

These are generally kids in their early twenties who don’t really have an interest in what they’re doing, but they’re more interested in job titles, travel experience, and financial incentives which will eventually steer them towards the things they really want to do.  

Most young people don’t want to “do” anything. They just want to “do” whatever gets them to live overseas or earn money staying in hotels. And how can you blame them, who wouldn’t?

I’ve been in the same boat, and how to get that onshore role is a whole other article, but only once you’re honest with yourself about what you want will you start making moves (e.g. Turning down projects/jobs which might not get you there) that will help in getting those things.  

And secondly, when I ask these kids “Why do you want to go Onshore?” or “Do you know what a business analysts does?” the answers are typically some fluffy thing about “building solutions and requirements” but not: “chasing down stakeholders to get them to give details about how the new tool should work, scheduling meetings, driving home decisions, etc..”

The majority of freshers I see at most companies come into the machine, get placed into a project and then get lost into the ether from there.  Some leave after a few years to find something else.  

Some get married.  Others stick it out.  

But NOBODY in a large company is going to come down and give you what you want if you don’t know yourself.  

And ESPECIALLY if you don’t make it known.

You Code but Don’t Develop

Lastly…most engineers lose track of something in their boring day of sifting through Eclipse or whatever IDE they use.

Do you just cut carrots or are you making a salad for the president?

Coding, Engineering, Math…all of that stuff is meant to build products that people buy and use.

  • Nobody would give a sh*t about big data if it didn’t let them find a YouTube video in half a second.
  • Nobody would care about SEO if it didn’t help them get their advice
  • Why would I care about compression unless I could download 2GB movie in 5 minutes?

If you’re in a tech job you hate, it’s probably because your working for a tech product you hate. But even a nice company like Facebook or Snapchat or whichever hot startup there is tomorrow is going to need someone to sift through lines of code and reset passwords.

In Deployment Conclusion

People who work in technology are special.  We tend to be of the mindset that we could do any job, but not anybody could do our job.

It’s kind of like “I got a computer science degree buddy.  Marketing, Sales, HR? That’s child’s play.”  

But not respecting the pros of those fields tend to hinder our own progress.

  • We don’t speak up or learn to communicate properly.
  • We don’t look internally to figure out what drives us aside from being good at the jobs/software/tools that depend on us.  
  • We think just because we can code in Python the world owes us something.
  • A good chunk of us are unhappy and always hunting for that “next thing.”  
  • And the majority of us (myself included) do absolutely nothing about it.

Ask yourself, if you spend even 5% of the time you spend complaining about your situation on actually trying to fix it (e.g. learning a new skill, speaking to your manager, working part-time elsewhere in a new field), would you really have anything to complain about?

This is an excerpt from Sanjay Manaktala’s book “My BETA DOES COMPUTER THINGS | Your Guide to Love Success and Rock and Roll in India’s IT Industry.” You can also listen to Sanjay on his leading podcast about creativity called the Birdy Num Num podcast, inspiring the creative minority.