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3 things Business People can learn from Standup Comedy-Sachit Bhatia

Standup comedy is a brutal art form says comedian Sachit Bhatia.

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Sachit has rich and varied industry experience of 20 years in helping brands market themselves to businesses as well as consumers. In his new role post mid-life crises Sachit started ‘Serious Business’ to help businesses leverage the power of humor. Sachit creates witty content for brands, conducts employee engagement workshops with businesses on happiness and humor, and does standup comedy. He can be reached at sachit@seriousbusiness.in

Here is short article where he shares how stand-up comedy helps business people.

I am a graduate in Economics Hons and Double Masters. A Masters in Garment Manufacturing Technology followed by an MBA. And after all these degrees, last year I decided to do Standup Comedy. Trying best to disappoint my mother with my career choices... one joke at a time. 

So I have almost completed 1 year from my first Open Mic... the point where everyone whoever wishes to become a standup comic starts... and the point where one gets to know that all those jokes which were sounding so funny in the head are actually the opposite of funny. The reality checkpoint.

After going up on stage day after day for many months, saying jokes that didn't work, improving them, then realizing again they don't work, improving them again, and then getting to know the way I say them sucks, improving that... I can safely say that I have at least figured how Open Mics work... and that standup comedy is a brutal art form.

Weird but true - the fear of public speaking is more than death. Now imagine having to add funny to public speaking and making a room full of strangers laugh. If there was any Nobel Prize for courage standup comics would win it every year hands down.

My first open mic in August last year was an experience I would not forget in a hurry. I had written good content (as per me), had practiced it many times over, and it only seemed a formality to go up on stage and KILL (kill = good performance in standup comedy parlance). But as I sat with sweaty palms waiting for my turn in a dimly lit Canvas Laugh Club at Gurgaon I was questioning my life choices and could not help but think why I needed to register for this open mic and go through this torture. The lines I had written, learned, and practiced seem to just leave my brain at a very wrong time. The airconditioning was working fine but I could feel the sweat on my forehead. Knees were wobbly and hands were trembling. Felt exactly like approaching a girl way out of my league in high school.

Anyways, before I could plan an escape route the host announced my name and I was pushed to the stage by someone I am still searching for.

And there I was, in the spotlight, 30 odd people looking at me and waiting for me to say something. That day I got to know precisely how a man feels when he enters ladies coach of Delhi Metro by mistake. Criminal.

It's been a great journey so far. I have done plenty of open mics, a few spots (thanks to fellow comics and producers who let me do a 5-minute set in their 60-minute show... makes me feel like Arbaaz Khan... in a Salman Khan movie), a few birthday parties of friends, a college reunion, and even a Punjabi marriage ceremony where people were more interested in Butter Chicken than my jokes.

There have been lessons on the way. Lessons which are very relevant to the business world. And magnanimous that I am, I am going to share the top 3 lessons I learned as a budding standup comic (calling myself a standup comic right now will be unfair to those who are 'killing' it every day and making millions laugh... so 'budding'). Here we go:

Lesson # 1 - Overcome FEAR.

Nothing is achieved by those who fear, whether it's in standup comedy or in business. Every joke, every business idea seem wonderful in our own heads. It's not unless you have the courage to take it in front of people that you know how smart or ordinary the idea is. We keep on thinking a lot of ideas, play out all scenarios, look at every angle... but still not feel brave enough to go public with it. And once we do the slightest of push back makes us doubt our whole idea. In the choice between 'fight-or-flight', we choose the flight and abandon everything.

Standup comics are NOT used to FLIGHT. When they go up on that stage they complete their joke, howsoever bad it might sound that day. They overcome the fear to go up, and they overcome the fear of rejection. The joke didn't work one day, with a particular audience. It will the next day, with a different audience. Maybe with some improvements. May be by completely trashing and writing a new joke.

Just like any business idea. You get the drift.

Lesson # 2 - It's OKAY to FAIL.

Or as they say BOMB.

In standup comedy, there’s not even a single person who has always delivered absolute gems. In the start, you fail often. With a lot of experience, you still fail… just a little less.

Standup comics are so used to a joke falling flat that they are surprised if that doesn't happen for a few days. They understand failure is as important... it tells them what doesn't work. They want to fail early and hard so that they succeed as spectacularly when they get into the limelight.

All of us are so wound up in ourselves that failure is not an option. Businesses need to know and realize that the faster you learn what does not work, the faster you learn what does. It's not only okay to fail but it should be celebrated so that you know for sure what not to do.

If still in doubt ask a standup comic who did a joke one day on why women should not be allowed to drive... in front of a crowd full of feminists.

No prize for guessing he didn't only BOMB... but almost escaped getting BOMBED.

Lesson # 3 - The GOD is in the DETAILS.

A word more. A pause not taken. An untimely expression. Just any of these or many other things and the joke will fall flat. It takes years to craft a joke to perfection. Just having the right amount of words to convey the message and that too keeping it funny requires a lot of hard work and a lot of detailing. Everything needs to be looked at, revised endlessly, practiced a thousand times before it is ready to be shown to the outside world. No wonder as per a research it takes a standup comic 22 hours of work to create 1 minute of content!

Business is no different. You have worked towards creating a product, you think it's the greatest thing mankind has ever seen, and the enthusiasm and confidence prevent you from going deeper. You enter the market with a half-baked product and you BOMB louder and harder than a standup comic who didn't take care of details and now is standing in front of 100 people with the spotlight firmly on him and his failed comedy career.

It would be hard to tell at that time who's BOMBED more. No God will come to rescue. God was always there, in the DETAIL. You chose not to look.


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