In conversation with: Anshu Mor, who left his corporate life and became one of the fastest growing comedians in India


Anshu Mor is the Indian Stand-up Comedian who last year left his glorious corporate life with just an idea of starting an entertainment content company! Today he has converted that idea into reality!

Within one year only, Anshu is widely recognised as one of the fastest growing comedians in India. With over 100+ shows and two 1 hour solo specials in the first year itself, his growing fan base across the country are loving his clean observational comedy and storytelling style. Here, he talks about his journey from a corporate guy to ruling the stage as a comedian:

Tell us something about yourself:

Ah! Difficult first question☺. I guess I’m just a simple guy with a simple upbringing who has been raised to live life honestly. Definitely ambitious & a risk taker but also an eternal optimist. I wear my heart on my sleeve so you get what you see! Love making people laugh.

Tell us about your earlier 18 years of professional life:

My first 5 years of professional life were consciously about trying different roles and industries – I started off with ABB Instrumentations in the export division, moved over to tech role at Tata Telecom then jumped into a start-up where I worked for over a year and a half, almost became a millionaire but then went bust ☺!

Moved to Bangalore with MCI WorldCom (now Verizon) where I did pre-sales and sales for 4 years. Then joined Microsoft where I spent 11 years in various roles across Enterprise Sales (Business Dev, Sales, and Strategic Alliances). After 6 years in enterprise sales, I wanted to try out consumer business so jumped over to head the Xbox business at MS, which was the position I held till the time I left in January 2016. Overall the experience was always fantastic. I used to love corporate life, always had great bosses, fantastic roles and worked for some of the best companies.

When did you think of quitting your job and why?

The seeds were sown in early 2015, when I started flirting with the idea of doing something on my own. Wasn’t exactly sure what though? However, by July 2015 I was fairly certain that whatever I do would be in the entertainment space. By January 2016 when I actually left, I was clear that I would start up a company in the content space and would myself be on stage as a stand-up comedian.

Stage and mic have always been my passion. I am the happiest when I am on stage entertaining audiences. The creative side of me was something I kept on the backburner during corporate life mostly but then at one point, I realised that it would be such a shame if I don’t give this a serious try. I didn’t want to be 60 and regret that I could have dared to do something around my passion in a world which is now so conducive to experimenting with your career!

The scenario on the fresh first day right after bidding farewell to the job was something like: ‘Starbucks + the idea of own Entertainment Company + Laptop + Smell of Coffee’.  Let’s talk about it more.

My first day at Starbucks was perhaps the first time I realised the magnitude of what I had done. Not in a negative sense though. I was charged up. It was weird in the sense because I had consciously decided to become a nobody from somebody (in corporate life) and had started a journey to again become somebody in an entirely new industry.

I remember the first coffee I ordered that day I realised what the actual price of the coffee was because before that frankly, I didn’t care much! ☺.

That initial month was interesting - understandably all the friendly calls from colleagues and partners started decreasing as the days passed by. Only some close friends and family stuck around asking me how it was going. Those endless hours at Starbucks taught me so much about myself and people in general!

I have always taken pride in building something up from scratch so that kept me going, finding out how the new industry works, who are the players, how to go about the business.

The first thing I did though wrote a web series. It took me 2 months to write a 6 episode series. I personally think it is a great script ☺. My company would someday in the near future, produce and release that series.

When did you decide to become a Stand-up Comedian, especially when it was not a conventional career option? Was it tough?

By the time I left Microsoft, I was clear I would become a stand-up comedian. I had no idea how though? It was in May last year that I first met (my now very good friend) Amit Tandon who was kind enough to sit with me and explain how the process works and how to go about preparing content etc. By end of May, I was on stage doing my first test spot at a comedy club.

Every new field is tough to get into, so was stand-up comedy. India is full of class acts in the Stand-up comedy field. I had to start from the very bottom – learning to write comedy first, learning to structure material and perform, just getting 5 or 10 minutes in someone else’s show, learning about audiences type etc. It was a very exciting phase!

How did you see the risk of quitting the job and taking something totally new up? Was it challenging or scary?

I deliberately didn’t think much about the risk side of it all. I knew if I asked too many questions to myself on this move, I would get more confused and possibly not even jump. So I decided to jump first and see how it goes after that. I felt that was the only way I would be able to give it my all. And I am so glad I did it like that!

Tell us about the family support you got:

My family has been the most beautiful part of this entire journey. There wasn’t a single question asked when I decided to make the move. My wife, son, parents, brother and his family, In-laws, Brother in law and his family, all of them just came around and backed me to the hilt. Wife and Son saw the maximum changes obviously and they were always so excited and encouraging about it, participating in every single move, celebrating every small win. I don’t think I would have been able to do what I did in the past year had it not been for all of them. My parents offered to write jokes for me which were the sweetest offer ever ☺! All of them took it upon themselves to market me, they told their friends about my shows etc. It was just magical. Had a few close friends who stuck around in this phase, talking to me, mentoring me, standing by me through the tough days.

It’s always your support system, people close to you who make you who you are, especially in tough phases. I don’t think I would ever be able to thank my family and friends enough for what they did during this period and continue to do in this journey.

Do you remember your first act? How was it?

Yes, May 27th, 2016 was the first time I got an opportunity to perform a 10 min slot in someone else’s show at Canvas Laugh Club. I remember Atul Khatri, one of the finest comedians in India, went up on stage and did his set and after that was my slot. Backstage I could hear him kill the room, they were in splits and I got even more nervous. But something magical happened the moment I went up. I remember every face in the audience from that day, my family was there, close friends were there and the room was packed and I couldn’t have asked for a better start. They welcomed me with open arms, laughed, clapped, and cheered. When I got off the stage I knew that stage was where I belong!

How was the initial response you received from the audience?

I have been fortunate that the audiences have been very kind to me from the start! I could never imagine the love and appreciation that has come my way. My comedy is always clean and that I think has been a factor for me to build an audience for myself across age groups.

The concept of having fans was so alien to me. Even to this day, when strangers stop me on the road or public places to ask for a selfie, I actually feel that they are joking ☺ A lot of young people have written to me saying they are inspired by my story and that’s such an awesome feeling that you can make a positive difference in a stranger’s life just by your own actions.

How do you get inspired to write the acts?

I get inspired by my own life stories, people around me, and observations about people & behaviours in general. Most of my material so far has been about that – friends, family, my move, etc. I have realised my style of comedy is more around storytelling. I don’t do short jokes with just a premise and a punch. I like to narrate funny stories.

Tell us something about the most beautiful experience of Storytelling you have had:

While I was at Microsoft, I started doing storytelling with a company called Kommune. It’s a company co-founded by my very good friends Roshan Abbas & Gaurav Kapoor and with this company, they provide a place, platform and an audience to people who want to showcase their creative side, be it storytelling or poetry or any other performing arts. Roshan gave me an opportunity to do a story at Epicentre in Gurgaon for one of Kommune’s professional storyteller event. I thought it was a sweet story about my wedding but turned out that the audience also found it really funny and got a great response from them. I still get a lot of people who walk up to me and say that’s the best story they have seen online ☺

Which is your most favourite performance or act you have performed till now?

My favourite act has got be my first solo show that I did in Gurgaon earlier this year in March. It was obviously special because it was my first solo special but what made it even more special was that it was a sold out show. That’s high only an artist can understand when you see a room full of people & you realise they have paid money and made the effort to come just to see you perform. It was one of those nights where everything came together perfectly! Or as they say in this industry – I killed it ☺. I remember after the show my son tweeted that he never felt more proud of me than that night watching me perform. Nothing in this world could have been a bigger compliment than that for me.

Who is your favourite Stand-up Comedian in India?

Oh lots of them! I really admire and respect so many of them. But I would have to say Amit Tandon is on top of the list. I totally love the comedy of Abijit Ganguly and Neeti Palta. I love the depth in the content and performance style of Daniel Fernandes. I also love the storytelling style of Kannan Gill and Biswa.​

In India, how do you see the awareness or idea of Stand-up Comedy in today’s time?

I think it has dramatically increased in the past year plus. Most of the established stand-up comedians have been in the circuit for 5-6 years, they built this industry really. From obscure pubs where they would perform to an audience who had no idea what the art was about to now comedy clubs and corporate shows – it’s a story that someone must do. I can tell you these comedians have gone through such a huge struggle to establish this art form in the way it is today. People like me just walked in when the industry was set and have benefitted so much from their hard work. I still believe that we have miles to go as an industry. We are all evolving - Our own standards of comedy, audiences’ acceptance of comedy as just comedy and even places to perform, they are all moving in the right direction. Guys like Vir Das and Amit Tandon are putting Indian Comedy on the global map in a big way and now with Netflix and Amazon opening up their channels for Indian Comedy Specials, this will only grow bigger.

What are your future plans?

First and foremost would be to be amongst the top comedians from India. I also have my company Talking Mime which is focussed on delivering original and branded online content in the humour space so building that up is the other priority.

Your message to the world:

"Be honest - To yourself, to your work and to the people around you."

"Push your own boundaries; you would be surprised what you can achieve."

"And lastly, focus on your own ‘greens’ and don’t bother about the grass on the other side of the fence ☺"


 

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