First Time Up: Zarna Garg

I went to my first open mic without really knowing what an open mic was, let alone comedy. I’d always been told I was funny. My then 16-year-old daughter suggested standup.

Eventually people kept encouraging me so much that I had to try it to get them to shut up. A friend told me she had a comedian friend, Felicia Madison.

I asked Felicia if I should be a comedian. Felicia said, “Just come to the open mic.”

I traveled alone at night to a basement under a Mexican restaurant, feeling like a guilty teenager. What had I gotten myself into? Inside, white people were going on and off the stage, telling jokes.

At that point I did not even know what a joke was. Without any question, if the mic had not been hosted by Felicia, I probably would not have gotten up on stage.

She was very encouraging and kind and made me feel like I was in a safe space to take the chance and get up on stage.“Felicia, what am I supposed to do here? I don’t understand.”

“Just get up there and talk about whatever you think is funny. You’ll do great.”

So I got up on stage. I said, “White people do this?” Everyone laughed. It was a revelation: I was a comedian!

I talked about shoes, New York, work, kids. Afterwards, the comedians said “That was great, but we want to hear about your life. When somebody like you gets up on stage, we want to hear about you.”

That’s when I realized, “Oh, maybe there is something there” and I wrote my first 5 minutes. Out came India, my mother-in-law, and me.