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EP 257: Zarna Garg's Spectacular Relaunch from SAHM to Stand-Up Comedy and Social Media Star

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Episode Description

"She could make anyone laugh and I wanted her to be paid for it. 'Mom, have you ever thought about being a stand-up comedian?' As she began dreaming of a comedy career, the reality of her current life as a stay-at-home mom sank in. She began to cry and told me it was too late for her. I could not bear to watch her struggle between ambition and doubt," wrote Zoya Garg, Zarna's daughter. Zarna Garg, an Indian immigrant, started her career as a lawyer and then spent 16 years as a stay-at-home mom. It was her kids who ultimately challenged her to go to an open mic night. That night changed her life and led her to success as a stand up comedian, finding her unique voice that relates to so many, especially women getting back into the workforce. Listen to Zarna’s inspiring and humorous story in this previously recorded session that was initially aired as part of the iRelaunch video series.

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Zarna Garg

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Carol Fishman Cohen: Hi everyone, welcome to iRelaunch our video series. I am thrilled to interview today one of our favorite relaunchers Zarna Garg. We have been following Zarna's career closely for almost two years. She has, she began her career as a lawyer, took a 16 year career break and at the strong urging and assistance of her oldest, her daughter, Zoya, she relaunched her career as a standup comedian. Now, I had the opportunity to see Zarna perform live recently, and she was even funnier than her social media clips, which are really funny and you should watch them. There was so much additional material I couldn't stop laughing. And Zarna is followed by millions of people on TikTok and Instagram, which is an important element of her success. And with her fabulous delivery, improvisation original material, she's a rising star in the world of comedy. Zarna and her daughter Zoya were interviewed on This American Life with Ira Glass. They were recently featured on the Tamarin Hall Show. Zoya's college essay was published in New York Times, and I mentioned that because the essay was about how Zoya encouraged her mom to relaunch.

And it has a quote in there that we'll discuss that captures the relauncher mindset so many of us share early in the process. And we're also gonna get into the details of how Zarna relaunched her unusual career, how she uses social media to engage and grow her community and her process in developing content.

Zarna, welcome and thank you for doing this interview with us. If you can't tell, we are huge fans.

Zarna Garg: Thank you. Namaste. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. I mean, this is my community, so I'm so excited and thrilled to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's quite a privilege to have this conversation, but let's start at the beginning.

When I saw you perform live, you actually touched on your early career as a lawyer and why you left it. And I wanna know if you can share with our audience what you said.

Zarna Garg: Yeah, so I, I am a New York State licensed lawyer, and I did practice for a little while and, when I had my first kid, first of all, the complications of being a mom, being an immigrant, not having a family support structure, all that was real. And also the truth is I just wasn't a very good lawyer. I just, and the thing is, you don't know when you go into law school that what you will be like in the real professional world. I think my heart was clearly not in it, and, I, I just couldn't be that dispassionate, let's just say. I was always like, you did it. Don't lie to me. People would come to me and be like, we need a lawyer. I'm like, no. I'm gonna take you to the judge myself. You need to go to jail. So I learned very early on that, that maybe that I didn't have the makings of a good lawyer.

And of course I was in inspired by Judge Judy, who I think is the ultimate boss of all things. That's why I went to law school, but you really don't know when you go to school how you will be as a professional in that That, that, that's a revelation that you only find out after you're done with the whole thing.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's exactly true.

Zarna Garg: And you I, I don't know if there's a way to find out, honestly. I wish I had known, in hindsight, I wish I had known. I do put my writing to use, I do love words and I love writing. So there's something in that writing persuasive space. It just wasn't meant to be.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Interesting. We can talk about that in a little bit. First I wanna go to a quote from your daughter's college essay that just struck all of us on our team and we know our community, and it was this quote where she wrote, she could, I'm gonna read it. "She could make anyone laugh and I wanted her to be paid for it. Mom, have you ever thought about being a standup comedian? As she began dreaming of a comedy career, the reality of her current life as a stay-at-home mom sank in, she began to cry and told me it was too late for her. I could not bear to watch her struggle between ambition and doubt." And this the language here, the struggle between ambition and doubt captures perfectly the conflict that so many of us feel when we're on the brink of committing to that relaunch, and wondering if we can really do it. And I wanna know if you can tell us a little bit more about that moment and then what happened next? How did you emerge from that?

Zarna Garg: So I was a stay-at-home mom for 16 years and I, believe me when I say that I know what being home all those years does to your self-confidence. It like strips you of your sense of self-esteem, of your self, sense of self-worth. The world tells you that being a mom is the hardest job and the most important job, the world doesn't value it. We know through their actions that nobody actually means those words.

You know what I mean? So I knew that, like I knew that I really desperately wanted to be back into the world of hanging out with adults, of putting on real clothes and doing all that. But I thought that the world has had moved on so far away from me. I felt like I was living under a rock as a whole another meaning when you're a mom living with little babies for years and all you are really focused on is the diapering and the baby food and the school and the soccer class. It feels like such a disconnect from anything that any real person out into the world is doing. I know that sense of feeling and I think my kids kind of sense that I, the level of dissatisfaction was through the roof.

My own close friends, my female friends from back then tell me that I was like a caged tiger. Like I was just raging inside like constantly I can't believe this is what I'm doing. I wanna do something else. I wanna do, I wanna earn money. I was like, I wanna earn my own money. And it's, yes, I've been blessed.

I'm in a happy marriage. We have a home. We have a lovely home. It's not that it's still, I needed to know that I could do it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Absolutely.

Zarna Garg: That, that I can do it for me, not for my kids. This is not like example setting for my kids, 'cause a lot of moms, oh, I wanna be a good example. My whole life isn't about my kids and my husband.

I wanted to do it for me so I could feel proud of what I could do for myself. I had felt that I did so much for my family with, I helped my husband set up his business. I did everything I could for my kids, but I couldn't help but feel 16 years into it, but what have I done for myself?

And the truth is that no one stopped me. No one ever said to me, don't do it. My husband was always a supportive guy. My kids are good kids. It's just the way the system is designed and the way I entered motherhood, it, I really, you don't realize how isolating and lonely it's gonna be until your neck deep in it, and then there's no getting out of it..

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes. So much of what you're saying resonates with my own personal experience. I was out for 11 years, and also what we talk about at iRelaunch in terms of the diminished sense of self that you feel when you are professionally disconnected for a long period of time, for all the reasons that you were stating, the ability to earn income, many people are motivated financially. But also there are some people who are motivated, not exactly for the purchasing power of the income, but the fact that you are earning your own money. Just what you're saying, that validation and in some, with some people who are in a relationship, they feel that it evens the playing field a little bit more.

Zarna Garg: I, I can't, I don't think anybody can disagree with that, whether you need it or not, the fact that you are able to make it and you have it changes the dynamic. There's no question about it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Okay. So you're in that moment and then you emerged from it. So what happened? What, what was the first step and bring that back to that time?

Zarna Garg: I was struggling, so I originally wrote a movie screenplay. I was trying to decide what to do. I knew going back to law was not an option, aside from the fact of I wasn't the best at it. I wasn't bad at it, but I didn't think it was my best work. Aside from that, the lifestyle of being a lawyer still would not have fit my life as a mother of three kids.

I was like, I still don't know how to make it work, even though my kids were so much older. Because there just are responsibilities that I have that mean that I need to take the day off and the afternoon, you know what it is? So the kids are in school. They, these schools, they don't think twice, they'll plan a meeting at 10 o'clock in the morning. You know what I mean? On a weekday. So I knew that was not an option and I decided, I heard a quote that I'm pretty sure is Mark Cuban's quote, from one of his Shark Tank episodes that really helped me and resonated with me, and I wanna share it because it may help your audience.

So he was explaining to an entrepreneur about how people struggle with what to do. People wanna go to work, start a business, what to do. His advice was, why don't you look at what you are already doing? Instead of worrying about what you can do and what you should be doing, what you should be looking at is what do you spend your time doing now in while you're not working, because maybe your passions are buried in there, and you just don't know it. And I thought that was a very intelligent way to assess what skillset you might have that might not be so obvious. Like some stay at home moms love to cook. Like genuinely, that is where their heart is. I was never that mother. . Some moms love to knit or bake or whatever their thing is, or their writing short stories in their spare time.

I was not those people, but I was like, you know what? I love, I love watching Indian movies. That was my one guilty pleasure as a mom. Like every Friday I would wait, what's coming out this Friday? Like, why hasn't there been an Indian movie in America that's light and happy? It made me think, why do I keep gravitating to the movies that I left 30 years ago, back home, because that doesn't exist here. . And then my wheel started turning, was like, why? Why? Maybe I can write one. Why hasn't this been done? And I started digging in that space thinking , how hard can it be to write one of these things like maybe no one's done it for, and maybe I could add some value there, you know?

And I started digging and I took a couple of classes, not a whole degree or anything, just a couple of screenwriting classes in New York City, and of course YouTube and Google are my best friends. I look up everything. You can get a degree in anything on YouTube, like any, you name it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's true.

Zarna Garg: And I'm so over paying for education. I already, it took me 20 years to get out of debt for the degrees I had, so I was like, I cannot justify going for me, if somebody else can, that's great. But I just couldn't bring myself, I had a kid getting ready to go to college. I was like, we cannot afford that.

So I really did a lot of work and I wrote a screenplay and that's really just wrote it out of my heart, a story out of my heart with a basic, the bare basics understanding of what a screenplay is, and that screenplay ended up winning the top comedy award at Austin Film Festival in 2019, which I found out later is one of the most prestigious writers festival.

I, I didn't know. But I found out. So here's the reality of a stay at home mom who's not connected to anything. Even when you win the absolute top prize, no one knows what to do with you. You're not part of the network, right? You, they don't know you. You don't know them. Yep. I mean, they're polite, they wish you well, they congratulate you, and then that's it.

So I collected my award. I went to my hotel room. I ate a big meal. I ordered in and then I came home and I was like, I'm sure somebody's gonna wanna make it. I mean, it won the top prize. I beat out 11,000 scripts to win that prize.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow.

Zarna Garg: And nothing. Zero, zero interest. So I then started thinking, what can I do to put my happy voice out there?

And I then thought, maybe the world just doesn't know what to do with an Indian woman who's writing a movie by herself in her apartment. So maybe I need to be proactive about putting my voice out there. And I really thought that if the right person heard me, my movie will get seen. And my daughter meanwhile was like watching me struggle and she's like, why don't you just do comedy?

So many comedians make movies. And I was like, what? That's not a job. Standup comedy, that's a job. And, she then undertook this whole project of helping me understand how everybody in our life has always thought I'm funny, and that maybe there's something in that space to be done. And that's what her essay is about.

And she basically ganged up with my other two kids and challenged me to go to an open mic. She said, I think it starts at an open mic. And I was like, okay. So I figured, you know what? For 16 years I've been yelling at my kids, you should try something new. You should try you now. They were like, oh, are you too scared to try something new?

I would say, alright, you know what, I'm gonna go to the open mic, do my thing, and then I'm gonna come home and report back to them that I wasn't too scared to go. I did it and now we move past it and figure out what to do next. But that opened mic changed my life.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow.

Zarna Garg: I went there not knowing what an open mic was at all, and and the woman who ran it happened to be herself, a mom of three kids.

I, I often think back to that day and think that if it was not a mother of three kids who was running that open mic, would I have gone up on stage? Would I have had the courage? I'm not, because she was very warm and she was like, just go and say whatever you think is funny. And she made me feel like I could do it.

And so I was like, okay, whatever. Like I didn't even know what a joke was. And she's just talk about whatever you think is funny. You have five minutes. So I went up there and I did what I like to do. Trash my mother-in-law.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm going to ask you about that later.

Zarna Garg: And and the whole audience started laughing and I was like, oh my God, they're actually enjoying this story.

And I remember the first thing I got up there and the first thing I said was like, white people do this? Okay, this is a job. Like it never had occurred to me that this is a job, a paid position. . And so that kick started the whole journey into comedy.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. That's an incredible story. So can you tell us then, what happened on the social media side?

Or maybe, yeah. Is there another step in between?

Zarna Garg: Well, so the open mic led to another open mic led to me reaching out into my community and saying, look, if you guys come, I'm, I can get five minutes on stage. And people just came out from all over, all the women friends that I had made over all those years of staying home, they all were so supportive.

They were so happy and joyous that they came out and, but, and I actually went from open mic to having my own headlining show within a year, less than a year.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow.

Zarna Garg: But the week after my headlining show, which I sold out completely the world shut down, cause Covid. Covid. And we were in New York City, so we were the epicenter of the epicenter.

It was like, there was no talk of anything. It was like the close down, the shutdown was real. And the only interim step I'm gonna talk about is because I think women should know this. So even though my open mics were good, I did well, I learned how to write a joke, I again, ran back to Google, learned how to write jokes and all of it.

Getting stage time in New York City is a war. It's very difficult. Because every comedian from the smallest to the biggest is in New York trying to get stage time. I realized very early on that no one's gonna prioritize me. I'm a 40 something Indian mom. They're not gonna, I'm not part of their ecosystem.

Why are they gonna put me on this stage? So immediately within weeks of doing my open mic, I started producing my own shows. I was like, you know what, I'm just gonna ask a club to give me their least desirable night, like a Tuesday night or a Monday night. . And I'm gonna reach out into the community and see if like 20 people or 50 people wanna come out, and we have a show. I started at the bare bottom by myself because I knew, like sitting around and complaining about a system that won't include us is not gonna get us anywhere. You know what I mean? Yeah. And the system is not designed to include any of us. Moms have been shut out. I have made my peace with it, and I have decided that I'm gonna carve out my own lane. And I really recommend that to everybody because waiting for people to come around is, has never worked for me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So you took this step of producing your own shows and getting whatever night you could and getting people to come and then, and I guess then the world shut down.

Zarna Garg: Then the world shut down. And I was like, it's over again for a second. I'm not, I'm never recovering from this. You know, first we thought it's closed for a week, then it was a month. Then it's like months and months, like it's over. And my son, my 14 year old who was 14 at the time, you know, I have so many kids. This is the one advantage of having all the kids, is that they know what's going on in the world.

He said to me, why don't you put your comedy up on TikTok? I'm starting to see comedians on TikTok. And I didn't know anything about TikTok. I thought it was 14 year old girls like twerking.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah.

Zarna Garg: You remember? That's what we first thought TikTok was. And I was like, what am I gonna do? He's like, no, mom. And I was so resistant and he just took a couple of my tapes and cut them up himself and put them on TikTok. Oh. And, it was so filled with errors cause he also didn't know what he was doing. I didn't know what I was doing. There were all these spelling mistakes. We, he just went with it. I said, do what you want.

I, I had nothing to lose. I thought my career was over again. And those TikToks, my jokes resonated in such a big way that within two days or three days, I had a million views and thousands of followers.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow.

Zarna Garg: And because I didn't know what TikTok was, I really thought it's one of those things where, you travel to one of these countries where the currency starts at a million, right? You know, like a loaf of bread is 5 million, whatever. So I was like, this must be one of those things. Like it just starts at a, and he's my son was like, no mom, this is a real thing. Like people are really resonating with your jokes. I had thousands of comments. And then it kind of made me think, okay, maybe in the absence of live events worldwide, people are starting to connect digitally.

People are starting to connect in a way that we hadn't seen before, like real dialogue is happening on social media. And so I started posting more and learning everything that I could about when to post, how to post, how to cut it, how to edit it, all of it. But all of it I learned by myself and I made, I continue to make a million mistakes. And I just don't overthink it. Because trying to be perfect hasn't helped us.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Well, I mean, this story, it's really organic growth and you just being original and being daring and trying things and trying, taking risks, trying things you never tried before. It's incredible.

You, you had a million followers like so early on, and I know that you're so popular now on TikTok and Insta, so I'm just wondering, the business side of a standup comedy career, I'm feeling it's very complex and it's more dimensional. And do you have to have a team now to do, like, how do you manage the business side of what you're doing now that it's grown?

Zarna Garg: So I have a virtual assistant, and I've had one from the early days because I could barely keep my head above water, even when I wasn't working with the three kids. And so I knew, see, I came into this very clear that I'm an artist/businesswoman, that I have to make money. I don't have the choice. If I was a 22 year old single person with lots of time, maybe would be a different state, but I need to make money.

And I was very clear about that. So luckily in the world that we live in, you can hire virtual help or like part-time. So I've had a virtual assistant all along because I was like, every single person that comes to my shows, I'm gonna stay, keep in touch with them. I'm gonna build a mailing list because I was, I want them at my next show.

I want them to tell their friends. I could clearly see what it's gonna take to, to grow this, right? And I knew that if I grow my own audience, see if you come to a network or a TV studio or a club or anywhere, and say, I have an act and I have the audience that will buy the tickets, that's a much bigger sell, much easier sell, than I'm good. Book me and take a chance on me. Right? So I was like, how do I go into situations as prepared as I possibly can so that I become undeniable? Like they have to take me, because anything less than that, I didn't think anybody would take me, to be really honest, because the competition is so stiff.

There are, I knew that if I come in unprepared with no audience, they're gonna be like, you've been doing this for two years. Get back in the line. The people who've been doing it for 20 years deserve that shot, and I've nothing against the people who've been doing it 20 years, but the problem I have, and you have, and your audience will understand, it's as if being a mom is a crime that you committed. It's as if you were in a jail. And then my work doesn't count for anything just because I wasn't out there hustling and doing open mics. I'm not worthy of having, it's a real spot in comedy. Well, some of us couldn't have done the open mics. Some of us couldn't have put those years in.

And what about that? What about all those years that I developed comedy sitting around a kitchen table with my kids. Because you and I both know that moms are the ultimate comedians. We have to make everything funny. Yes. Listen, the worst things happen on earth and we have to teach our kids and then lighten their load.

Yeah. So I was very ready to go to war with that because I knew that everybody's gonna be like, why is she headlining? She's only been doing it for a year as if I've been sleeping and getting a massage for 20 years. My experience counts for something and I am the first one to defend it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yep. That, that's a, it's a perfect way of putting it, and a few questions are coming to mind while you're talking. Obviously, you're a high energy person. I think about the high intensity of what you're talking about doing. You're constantly creating new material. You have to be really on, I just saw you present live. You have to be so on for when you're doing that performance and also afterward and before.

And then I'm just thinking about the filming the many videos you, you post many times a day. Like you're, you must be working like many hours. And I just wanted to know how, how's your stamina and your energy level and how do you manage?

Zarna Garg: Right now I'm operating on pure adrenaline because I do love what I'm doing and I'm getting some traction and I don't wanna lose it.

The truth is that I've, I have paid for it with my health , and that's not good. All my doctors follow me on social media and God, if they see me holding a glass of wine, I get a DM right away. Put that wine down. Because it is true, I don't know how to do it all. Like I, I'm not one of those moms that they show in the Hollywood movies.

Jessica Alba, she's running, she's got a jacket, she's picking a kid, dropping a kid. She's cooking one lettuce with a glass of wine in her hand. That's not me. I've lost sleep over it. I've lost functionality and one nerve on my arm over my TikTok. I mean, it's been brutal. But, I wanna do this. And I have complete clarity that I'm here and I'm here to stay and I'm here to win.

Yeah. So now that I just filmed, I just completed a big project, my one hour comedy special filming. Now I'm taking a little bit of a slower path and focusing back on my health. Cause I do believe that we need to focus on our health. It's not a good trade and I'm trying to now trying to find a balance, but the last four years have been absolutely manic.

Yes, but there's no way around it. Like I talk to other entrepreneurs, not moms, even just other entrepreneurs, and everybody has the common experience when you're trying to get something done. That's that manic hyperkinetic energy is part of what gets things to the finish line.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Absolutely. And our audience includes people, men who take career breaks for childcare reasons, and men and women take career breaks for a whole range of reasons. And health is sometimes part of that experience, and sometimes it's part of, it's the focus of the relaunchers. I hear exactly what you're saying. All right. So I just want to ask if you can answer a question that we got from our relaunching community in India. And they are asking, 'cause we have a big real community in India and they wanna know if you think it's different for women in India versus the US or women in India and the US to relaunch their careers.

And what do you think is the number one reason holding them back. And, if you talk about your mother-in-law, I'm going to ask you more about that.

Zarna Garg: Yes. So I do think things are different in India and in America, and there are pros and cons to both. I think India has a humongous support system in, in terms of available help that we just don't in America.

Here you are just gonna die under the load of laundry and dishes. That's a very real thing in America. And anybody who says teach your kids, they don't have kids, they don't know . Usually it's a single people who offer you advice. Why can't your kids do it? But those of us who have kids know that's not how it works.

So I do think that Indian women have the benefit of the help that is just available. The con of it is the con side of being a woman in India trying to relaunch and trying to be an entrepreneur is that society is just not encouraging. Indian people in general, Indian community is so quick to declare you too old and too out dated.

So anything you do, if you are like 35, you'll be like, oh, what do you know? You've been home for 10 years. Whereas here in America, I do find that people want to hear a success story. They're rooting for your success. So if you say you wanna do something, you're much more likely to hear somebody in America saying you should do it.

This is your dream. You should, whereas in India, the society will be like, oh, make your kids do it. That's what women are told. You should teach your daughter or yours, more likely your son how to do it. You're too old now. You need to relax. You're 40 years old. They will act like you can't even move, like you're, you've been immobile. So pros and cons to both. And I would say that my suggestion, I think your question was, what was your suggestion? My suggestion to every woman everywhere, my message is the same now, we all need to recognize and understand with complete clarity that no one is gonna help us. We have to help ourselves. If it hasn't occurred to you that the world, it's like open season on women in different ways, everywhere in the world, if this hasn't hit home to you yet, you need to wake up. No one can help you but you have to say to yourself, my kid's not gonna get the perfect test score, and dinner is not gonna be perfect and whatever, but if I don't put myself first, it will never happen.

Even those of us who are loving, committed relationships or have very supportive parents and all of that, none of them can do it for you. No. My husband is the most supportive guy ever, but he, the best he could do is say, whatever you wanna do, I'll support. That's it. What else can he say? I have to come up with what is it that I wanna do and how am I gonna do it?

And now in light of all that's happening in the world today, I have an even deeper sense of no one's gonna help us. We are lucky if we have a community within ourselves, but that's it .

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. You know, there's this sense of, I, I remember when I relaunched my career, which was like over 20 years ago. But we hear this in the community, it, there's, if you're in a relationship, there's sometimes a sense about, it's my turn. It's my turn now to, to prioritize myself. I've been enabling everyone else's life around me for years now. It's my turn.

Zarna Garg: Absolutely. And we need to look at our own flaws. Listen, us women, we have our problems. The kid is not gonna be perfect at all times and we just be fine with it.

It's not just about your kids' grades and soccer and uniform and how clean the bag is. Like just get over it. You know what? I've, I've been that mom. Oh my God, what if? What if nothing. The life went on. Life went on. I went back to work. I started missing all kinds of things in school, and you know what?

Life went on perfectly fine. In fact, my kids are better off for it to be perfectly fair. They know that mom cannot be like rushing to school every five minutes to prove to a system that she's a good mother. Because a lot of what is designed, especially in the United States, the schools will even guilt you and they'll guilt the mother.

Now it's very rare for them to guilt the father. It's oh, we're having this, we're having that. It's another bake sale. It's this, but you can't be there for every bake sale. That's just a reality. And that's okay. .

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yep. You're exactly right. Alright, there are a few things I wanna ask you, as we're wrapping up. One of them, Do you have any favorite jokes of your own?

Zarna Garg: I love my joke about the use of water, because I joke about how, how water is used in America and in India. And that's one of my earliest jokes. It just came from a place of thinking about what I find exciting in America and thinking, oh, the showers are good.

And I love that joke because it says a lot without being mean and without being preachy. It's designed to be fun, but it has had such wide implications that you can't even believe. I've had entire water foundations, a big humongous charities feature that joke on their front page because people haven't thought about how they fill entire bathtubs and sit in it while there is a, there's a water crisis raging in the world.

So I love it because I think it's smart. I think it's fun and it hits all my objectives. I'm a comedian, but I'm also a citizen of the world. I'm a woman. I'm a mom. I want to send a message, but I wanna do it the way I do it with fun, you know?

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great. And can you talk about, does your mother-in-law know that you make fun of her?

Zarna Garg: She does now. I mean, she knew when I started and I think like everybody else, she thought it would be like a passing thing. You know, no one expected it to become what it became. That's what it is. And she, she watched me live in New York City a few months ago, and she couldn't believe how much fun the audience was having.

And I, and the good thing is that I actually have an excellent relationship with my mother-in-law. So I told her, I said, if you and me and our dynamic is like making people laugh through a pandemic when people are actually dying, What bigger blessing is there? So she knows, and now she gets in on it.

Now she's make fun of my sister, make fun of her, make fun of my neighbor. Now she's like all over let me give you more ideas.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow that, I love that. I've always been wondering that every since I watch so many of your TikToks and would say something about your mother-in-law. So now I know the background.

Thank you. Alright, I guess two more questions as we wrap up. One is, they're kind of the same question. Is there anything you'd go back and tell your 30 year old self that might have changed something about your current trajectory and also what's your number one piece of advice for relaunchers or people anticipating career break?

Maybe it's the same, maybe it's different.

Zarna Garg: Yeah. I would tell my 30 year old self that I wish I had taken a side hustle more seriously. That losing myself entirely, 100% in motherhood was a mistake for me. I'm not judging those who do it, but if you, if I had one foot in the door, somewhere, maybe the maybe getting out from under it would not have been the big struggle that it was. But that said like life works its way out the way it does. And the one piece of advice I would give to anybody who's relaunching is that come into whatever you choose to do with complete clarity that you are coming in for the business.

Because what I find is that when you are in a second act like what relaunching is, often people think, oh, it's a hobby, it's a backup. It's not. It's a business. Like I charge money for what I do, and I offer no apologies for it because I'm here to make money. And there's no shame around it. And there's, and and keeping that as a north star and as a guiding, moral compass in your brain really focuses you on how you deal with people.

The projects you take on the projects you decline. There could be a hundred things that are fun and interesting, but that are not gonna lead to revenue. . So you have to be disciplined enough to say, right now, I'm not having fun. It's not fun and games. I'm building something and I need to focus on building that because you need that much concentrated energy to get this rocket ship off the ground.

Once it's off, you may have a little more leeway into what you choose to do and how you allocate your time. But to get back into it, you need that extreme discipline in my experience.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm so glad that you're emphasizing the business side of entrepreneurship because sometimes it's romanticized and this is the reality.

So that's really important and thank you for including that. How do you decide how much to charge or how have you decided over time?

Zarna Garg: So you start, I think start with, we start with free. I know I did Zoom shows for free during the pandemic for first responders. I figured, it'll keep my craft alive.

I'll learn how to do the shows. If it's free, the pressure is off. But the more I did them and the more I knew I could do them, the price went up. Then it became, okay, I think I can get away with this much. This much seems reasonable. How much is one or two other people? You can't, the business school will tell you, do a whole analysis on how much everybody start.

That's unrealistic. Some of it is just your gut, but I think the smart way to do it and to honor your gut is to start at the bottom and work your way up. And the rule for me is every three shows I do at a certain price, if three shows go well, the fourth one is a higher price. Because now I have improved my own skillset. I have improved my own ability to do something, so I feel I deserve a higher price.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Love that. Alright, wrapping up, how can our audiences find out everything about Zarna Garg performances, social media? You mentioned a comedy special that's coming up. How do we find out?

Zarna Garg: Yes, so my website, has all the information very neatly laid out and my social media, I'm very active, as you know, on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, it's all everywhere. I'm at Zana Garg and you can feel free to reach me through my website, through my contact page, Insta DMs, any, I'm very approachable and I like to be there for, any, especially people who are trying to get back into the workforce. I have a particular empathy because I've been there.

So anything you wanna know, you can reach me and me or my office will get back to you. And yeah. I wish everybody well. Just there is there, there's no magic bullet. You just have to do, make a mistake. No one cares. Make a mistake, try something else , no one cares.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. I love it. Yeah. All right, Zarna, thank you so much for joining.

Zarna Garg: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Namaste.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you. And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch the podcast where we talk about return to work strategies, advice and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, and your host. I hope that all of you who are listening who are relaunching will check out our resources on iRelaunch.Com and make sure that you sign up for our Job Board and make sure you're on our mailing list. You will get our weekly Return to Work Report, which is full of opportunities specifically for people who have taken career breaks. Thanks for joining us.

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