How Amit Tandon Turned Comedy Into Serious Business
Amit Tandon shares that when he embarked on his entrepreneurial journey it was not bereft of bumps, yet the hurdles coming in his way couldn't deter his determination to attain success. He eventually found that stand-up comedy is his forte and he never looked back since.
While studying at IIT Delhi, Tandon was bugged by the start-up fever. Refusing job offers from Mahindra & Mahindra and British Telecom, Tandon looked at being an entrepreneur. With three partners, he created a million dollar business. When finance ran out and the market crashed, the company was shut down, but in the process, he learned much more. For some time, he took up a job but could not sustain at it. Talking about his next venture, recruitment firm Empyrean Partners, Tandon says, “I was already married with a kid and another one was on the way. It was an impossible time to start a venture, as my wife was not working since the last two-three years and I was the sole earning member,” he adds.
When the business clicked and started flourishing, the creative nerd in him started questioning, what next? On a recommendation, he read Tim Ferriss’ ‘Four Hour Work Week’. Reading the book got him thinking, if he had time in hand there is one thing he would like to try out– stand-up comedy. In college, he regularly wrote plays and often doubled up as a writer and a director. Eventually, he started doing the open mic. He enjoyed doing the first one so much that he tried it again. Talking about his initial days, Tandon says, “The first year was pretty tough, I took it up more as a hobby, like an outlet, as it was fun. I would go on for five minutes and the audience would laugh once or twice. Though it was not that great for a comedian but was very addictive,” he adds. Moreover, the entire environment was enticing. “I had made some interesting friends in the circle. Earlier, all my friends held corporate designations. But, suddenly in comedy, I made friends with all the cool people - like someone is an RJ, someone who is a senior creative director or is working in an advertising firm, or a friend who is just 22-year-old,” he laughingly shares. At the end of the second year, he got a paid show. The era of comedy clubs was starting to open up in India. And, the show gave him great exposure. From open mic to comedy clubs, he fell in love all over again and it marked his journey as a professional stand-up comedian. By this time, Tandon had also conceptualized The Mind Café, where the guests could chill over a board of chess, monopoly or scrabble, but the idea didn’t work out well. So, he started hosting comedy nights there. But, the real revenue was coming from corporate shows. “I used to do three-four corporate shows every month. I created my website and started positioning myself in the corporate comedy spot.” The biggest issue with corporate comedy is they’ll tell you no sex jokes, no political jokes or racial jokes, he mentions.
“Then in 2015, I realized that suddenly people around me were gaining better traction and mostly because they were releasing videos online,” shares Tandon. His first video came up in 2016. “Before I realized, people started downloading the videos and they went viral. The biggest advantage that I had was my videos were really clean and so those could be shared in family groups,” quips Tandon. Last year, Tandon performed in 200 public shows, out of which about 100 were international shows. Those took him around the US, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia, etc. With comedy munch Grand Masters of Comedy, Tandon has already got into production. As a writer, he is exploring different avenues. Currently, his time is divided between shows and writing digital series. With the Indian comedy scene growing on the lines of America, it’s only more laughs on the way. And, Tandon is growing as a brand with half-a-million followers on the facebook. For him, he has already changed his genre, and it will keep on changing as a creative mind can’t be compartmentalized, he opines. “Earlier, it was jokes and punch, now it’s more of a storytelling format,” he concludes. But as for him, it’s his kids, who can actually make him laugh.