South Asian

051: Zarna Garg — The Business of Comedy

051: Zarna Garg — The Business of Comedy 1024 512 Chase Jennings

During these uncertain times when fear and anxiety are just as pervasive as Coronavirus itself, it’s okay to give yourself permission to find joy in the little things and share a laugh with friends and family. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.

And in my humble opinion, we have a metaphorical doctor helping us – Zarna Garg. Yes there’s a double-meaning here because she’s South Asian. She’s a lawyer turned comedienne, mom of three, and I’m blessed to call her a dear friend.

Zarna and I met earlier this year and became fast friends. I was fortunate to work with her on her branding and website – zarnagarg.com. You’ll see a lot of shocking pink across the pages because A) it’s damn near shocking for a South Asian mom to make her mark in comedy and B) pink is overtly feminine and bold and stands out in an industry of men. Elle Woods approved. Yes that was a girly lawyer joke, which pretty much sums up my case in point.

Zarna Garg is an award-winning screenwriter and stand-up comedian, and headlines a monthly show at Caroline’s on Broadway called “My American Dream.” Zarna has produced and performed in multiple sold-out comedy shows in top comedy clubs across NYC including the groundbreaking HinJews shows. She has expanded into online comedy shows across multiple time zones, a move which was recently covered in the New York Times and Rukus Avenue Radio.

Her debut romantic comedy screenplay ‘Rearranged’ won the Best Comedy Screenplay Award (placing #1 out of 11,000 scripts) at the Austin Film Festival, and was also a 2019 Academy Nicholl Fellowships Semi-Finalist. The script has been optioned by Marginal Mediaworks.

She has received numerous community accolades for pioneering one-of-a-kind works as an Indian mom of three and former lawyer turned comedian whose comedy uniquely combines the immigrant and American experience. She is one of a handful of female Indian comedians worldwide, and possibly the only one who publicly takes on her mother-in-law.

She is currently providing comedy shows to first responders and their patients, as well as interviewing them on her Instagram Live to find out whether they are single.

Meet My Guest:

Press:

Mom Haul:

Rupa Parekh – Jai Jai Hooray!

Rupa Parekh – Jai Jai Hooray! 600 600 Kanika

 

I am always on the lookout for educational, cultural toys to teach my kids about our Hindu religion in a fun, captivating way. When I attended Brown Girl Magazine‘s “Mimosas with Mom” event in New York (thanks for hosting Trisha Sakhuja!), I was thrilled to meet fellow mompreneur Rupa Parkeh. Her company, Umani (named after her daughter Uma and son Niko), creates beautifully-crafted, simple learning tools that introduce our Indian culture to new audiences with modern flair. Rupa told me about her first product launch, the Jai Jai Hooray flash card set, which showcases the nine deities of Hinduism in a SAY-SEE-LEARN framework enabling anyone to be a teacher or student. I thought the concept was brilliant and bought a set for my twins.

Rupa and I stayed in touch as she relocated from New York to Houston and she included me in a focus group for her next launch, The Goddess Power Tower.

Wasn’t that inspiring? I’ll give you a second to wipe your tears and blow your nose. This commercial pulls at my heartstrings too and makes me think of all the strong women in my life, especially my nani who taught me to follow my sanatan dharma, or “the right way to live.” The Goddess Power Tower poignantly conveys how each goddess in Hindu mythology is a mother (Mata), and is synonymous with virtues we should aspire to, like Sarawasti Mata symbolizes wisdom and Durga Mata is a fearless warrior. We all face mom guilt from time to time and underestimate ourselves and our abilities, but the truth is, we are real-life goddesses and make an impact on our children in so many ways.

 

I was honored to be a part of Jai Jai Hooray’s #SheisaGoddess campaign where nine women were featured to represent the nine goddesses. Rupa chose me as her real-life Parvati, the ambassador of motherhood and fertility; You can read more about it here and check out photos here.

I am so pleased to have met Rupa and convinced her to share her story on Musings of a Mompreneur. 😉 Originally from Buffalo, she attended Northwestern for undergrad and earned her MBA from Wharton. Her husband Emre is Turkish American. Rupa has been working in tech, design, and innovation for the past 15 years and aims to help children, and adults alike, learn and play better.

What does motherhood mean to you?

Being a mother to Uma and Niko has been such an honor and blessing. They are growing up to be such clever, funny and creative kids. Our first and second thoughts nearly everyday that we wake up as parents are: “wow, I hope we make them proud” and “how long before they realize we have no idea what we’re doing?!”

When did you become a mompreneur?

I come from a family of business people. We talked about customers and clients at dinner; we geek out about ads. Everyone in my family is sort of a sucker for good marketing.

Umani and Jai Jai Hooray was inspired by the family I’m starting to grow. Both my husband and I are connected to our culture, but we’re not experts. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have children and suddenly you’re supposed to be a teacher of language, customs, and heritage. When Uma was a baby, I searched for tools, games and activities that were both engaging and well designed. I couldn’t find much. Not about India nor any other culture. We saw a gap in the market and went for it. Umani was born.

You believe that every day is Mother’s Day and designed the Goddess Power Tower to serve as a reminder.

Absolutely. Moms, by definition, can do more! It’s astonishing to think about the amount of thinking, feeling, planning, loving, dreaming and nurturing a mom can do all at once.

Celebrating mom just one day out of the year isn’t enough! We thought it would be really fun to create a toy that makes it easier for families to treasure mama. Afterall, for little ones, mom is the center of their universe–she IS a goddess. (Unfortunately, I think that wears off fast as they become tweens!)

Our favorite part of the Goddess Power Tower is the poem that builds when you stack each block. It’s an ode to mommy that should resonate with any family, regardless of their cultural background.

We loved your mom Rashmi Parkeh’s feature. How did your mom inspire you to start your business?

My mom started her small business when I was 6 months old. She is a force of nature–at 69 she has more energy than I think I will ever have. She is also our families culture keeper. Even before we had children, I always wondered, “how do I bottle up my mom and all of her tips and stories?” Umani and Jai Jai Hooray are a first step toward doing that.

Who is your inner Goddess?

Great question! What’s really cool about the Goddess Power Tower is that it brings to life that women have so many personas. On some days, I feel like a warrior (Durga) and other days I’m more calm and fluid (Ganga).

What are your hopes for Umani for the future?

Toys, books and media are simply not diverse–certainly not in the United States. We want to help families feel more culturally connected and we’re only just scratching the surface. We’ll be experimenting with digital learning and play in the coming year. Stay tuned!

What are your top tips for mothers and mompreneurs.

  1. Be patient with yourself. The chips are unfortunately still stacked against moms so we have to create our own opportunities AND set our own pace.
  2. Get better at vocalizing what you need and want in real-time. With your colleagues, boss, spouse, friends–be transparent about what you’re feeling, what you need and what could help you. Moms are optimizers not festerers!
  3. Make time for date night, girls time or solo sanctuaries. If we’re lucky, life is a marathon. Newborn and toddler years are exhausting. Don’t burn out when you’ve just begun!