Welcome to the Gaana Music Festival blog! As we count down to the largest Indian music festival in North America, you can expect exclusive content here – from interviews to behind the scenes, from observations to insider tips.
Anshu Mor’s meteoric rise in the stand-up comedy scene in India is remarkable. Just a few years ago, he was heading Microsoft India’s Xbox business, and quit to pursue comedy at the age of 44. Hundreds of shows and millions of views later, Anshu’s story keeps reminding us that it’s never too late to follow one’s passion. As he comes to the US to perform at Gaana Music Festival, we caught up with him for a chat.
GMF: Hello Anshu! You’ve mentioned before that you had a happy corporate career, but it was the love of the stage and mic that led you to becoming a full-time comedian. What had you done on stage that gave you confidence to do this?
AM: Since I was in 6th grade, I have been on stage doing debates, plays & performing in music bands etc. The same carried on even when I was in corporate life where I would take every opportunity I could get, to host shows or do acts at office events.
In 2015, while I was still with Microsoft, I got the opportunity to perform with Kommune at their storytelling events. That’s when I realized how much I was in love with the stage, the mic and audiences. That is when I decided, his was something I would want to do for the rest of my life – full time and in 2016 I finally quit my job to become a standup comedian.
GMF: Stand-up comedy is “hot” in India these days, testified by the sheer amount of people clamouring to be a part of open mics. Is it riskier switching to comedy early on in your career or later on?
AM: Actually, both have their pros and cons. Starting as late as I did (mid 40s), the advantage that I felt was that I had more stories to tell. The experience of having gone through so many stages in life meant that there was just so much more to joke about. Also, by your 40s, one is fairly clear about who they are as a person and it becomes easy to bring that personality on stage. There is obviously the financial risk of jumping professions at a late stage in life, but if you do it right (and that’s a big if), there is a lot of money in comedy in India.
If you are young, you tend to have far lesser commitments and obviously time on your side. That gives the advantage to build your craft over a longer period of time.
GMF: Is it more challenging having to write “clean” comedy? Are there any downsides? What do you do with jokes that probably won’t pass this filter but you know are good?
AM: I don’t find it difficult really. Simple rule is that if you take the cuss words out of a joke, can it stand on its own? If not, then the joke is not good enough. I have to admit that clean comedy also needs to be defined accurately – my definition is based on usage of cuss words and not on the kind of topic you are addressing. One can take a so called ‘adult’ topic and yet present it in a very classy manner and be funny. I would be very comfortable doing that.
The only filter I apply is that no one in the audience should cringe at my material. I am okay if they get uncomfortable with a topic as long as I can release the tension leading to a laugh.
So, at the time of testing material, if I see that it’s not landing accurately, then I do spend a lot of time reworking that joke.
GMF: Tell us a little bit about your company, Talking Mime, and what the plans for it are.
AM: Talking Mime is an entertainment and storytelling company. I set it up immediately after I left Microsoft. We provide entertainment content centered around humor as a genre. Currently we are engaged in standup comedy, podcasts (video and audio) & an upcoming web-series. We also work with corporate clients to provide workshops on Art of Business Storytelling and brand consulting in how to use humor as a tool to land their messaging.
GMF: And finally – let’s move away from your comedy – tell us three corporate achievements you’re proud of!
AM: Ah that’s a difficult one, given that I spent 18 years in corporate life but if I were to give it a shot, here are the top 3:
- I stayed happy and really enjoyed through all my 18 years at work.
- I never lost my sense of humor, even in the most complex situations at work
- And that, I left it just in time 🙂
Catch Anshu Mor perform with a stellar music & comedy line-up at Gaana Music Festival: June 8th (New Jersey) and June 9th (California).