23 May 2016

Leaders of Makosi – Amod

Makosi’s monthly blog is highlighting Amod Vaze who has been with us for almost a year. He is currently on assignment at Deutsche Bank working as a Business Analyst. In this blog post, Amod gives us insight into his experience as a stand-up comedian, the lessons learned, and how improv classes can help with your personal and professional life.

Amod Vaze: Lessons Learned from My Life as a Stand-up Comic

There’s something humbling about standing all alone on a stage with a bright light shining on you in a near (but not completely) empty room.  Or standing on a street corner in Times Square handing out flyers to tourists that are oblivious to the fact that the flyers that you’re handing out are for something far less nefarious than the last five flyers they’ve been handed walking through Times Square.  Or writing for hours and hours to come up with a few minutes of material that might be funny.  Or arriving at a show only to be told your stage time is contingent upon how many audience members show up specifically saying they are there to see you because they happen to be your friends or you handed them a flyer in Times Square with your name on the back.  This is the world of stand-up comedy that the audience never sees.  It is a labor of love.  I spent six years doing this with the remote hope that I could become famous and wealthy doing something I loved doing (SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t.)

That’s not to say I didn’t have some success.  I have clips on YouTube that have views from people that I actually don’t know.  I reconnected with my best friend from junior high school, who lives in Phoenix now and caught my act in a comedy showcase on a now defunct satellite channel.  And five months after my debut performance, I won 3rd prize in an employee talent show at the firm at which I worked, where I was the only non-musical act out of a total of 24 performers.

I also can’t say I didn’t learn anything from the experience.  Far from it, the most humbling experiences are also the ones that teach us the most about ourselves and this world we inhabit.  So here are a handful of important life lessons that I learned from my years as a stand-up comic:

Take an improv class.  This isn’t just my opinion; Forbes had a great article on it a couple years ago.  I would go one step further than the Forbes article did.  It’s not just great business training; it’s great life training.  It teaches you to be silly and uninhibited around people, which leads you to take more risks knowing you can handle falling flat on your face because the word ‘humiliation’ isn’t in your vocabulary.  I have a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA and I still believe the most valuable education I ever got was from the $110 8-week improv class I took when I first started out doing comedy.  Before I knew it, I had a better relationship with my young daughter’s imaginary friends than she did.

The earlier in life you take a risk, the better off your chances are of succeeding.  I first thought of becoming a comic when I was 19.  I didn’t actually attempt to do it until I was 31.  I should have tried it when I was 19 when I had my parents to fall back on, time to get my degree if it didn’t work out (although getting my Bachelor’s and MBA degrees has worked out for me so far), and the flexibility to move anywhere in the country or the world that I needed to be at a nearly moment’s notice.  In hindsight, only my parents were grateful I waited to move out of the house first.

Hard work and luck go hand-in-hand; you can control one of these (but many people focus on the wrong one).  Very early in my career I had the pleasure of performing in a number of shows with another up-and-coming unknown comic that started at the same time that I did but was a few years younger than me (see my last point on taking risks earlier in life).  I didn’t get to know him very well because he was long gone by the end of the show, which is when the comedians hang out, get to know each other, and lament the fact that the infinitesimally slight chance that a talent scout from Saturday Night Live was not in the audience for the show.  When I asked around about why this incredibly funny guy leaves almost immediately after his time on stage, I found out the reason he left so early was because he was performing in two other shows later that same night and didn’t want to be late getting to the next club for his next performance.  Long story short, he is the star of his own series on Netflix now and I’m here writing this cautionary tale for all of you to read.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.  Everyone makes mistakes.  The best way to get people on your side is to own up to it.  It’s hard for people to be angry with you if they’re already laughing at you.

Life and people are funny; enjoy it and embrace it.  I’m going to share a little secret many people don’t know: Comedians aren’t funnier than everyone else; we just don’t have stage fright.  How many times have you watched a comedian and thought, “I was thinking the same thing!”?  That’s because you were.  He/she was just crazy enough to stand in front of strangers and say it out loud.

So if you’re still reading, thank you.  I hope that means I’ve captured your attention, given you some food for thought, and that you’ve learned something not just about me but also about yourself. And don’t forget to sign up for that improv class!


For improv classes in NYC, here are some suggestions:

Disclaimer – Makosi doesn’t vouch for any of these studios and encourages you to research them to see which one suits you best.