Monday, November 05, 2012

The Funny Indian: From Corporate America to Comedian!

Vol. I, No. 2

“Basically, I’m just waiting for millions of people to know what I already know: that I’m awesome.”

When Rajiv was thirty years old, he flipped out, although he probably shouldn’t have. Rajiv was working as a marketer for consumer products giant Procter & Gamble and earning six figures. He had a nice car and lived in a nice house. He had everything he thought he should want. But, he’d run into an old friend.

You?” the old friend had said. “I’m so disappointed in you.”

Of course, the remark had nothing to do with Rajiv’s success. And, it hadn’t surprised him either. Ten years earlier, Rajiv had made a late-night declaration at a diner – we’ve all been there, the forgettable nocturnal remark, made over pancakes and eggs, that evolves into an unforgettable oath. One day, Rajiv had sworn back then, he’d be famous. But, he’d said glumly, “There are no famous materials engineers!”

His friend, the one who’d declared her disappointment in Rajiv, had aptly pointed out all this and more to him, and she hadn’t been the only one to do so. Rajiv’s own brother had told him he didn’t want to end up like Rajiv had ended up, giving up on his dream.

Harsh words, but not untrue.

For many years, Rajiv had dreamed of becoming a comedian, a ‘comic’ as the funny folk say. While at Procter & Gamble, still in his twenties, Rajiv had even performed late-night stand-up. And he’d always kept his “number” in mind, the amount of money it would take to leave his job behind to pursue his dream. For Rajiv, that number was $25,000.  

So, right around the time he turned thirty, Rajiv reached his financial goal. And, he said, something struck him: “At thirty, I knew I didn’t want to be forty knowing I could’ve done it.” And “it” was what people all along had been telling him makes his eyes light up: comedy.

And here I’ll insert a personal note. Of all the people I’ve met and interviewed from New York to New Zealand and China and even to North Korea and Mongolia, I’ve never met a single person, not one, who’s talked about the thing they’re passionate about without their eyes lighting up or welling up. Not a single person. It’s like they’re suddenly switched on

But back to Rajiv, whose seminal moment had come.

After a frank conversation with his boss, Rajiv bit the bullet and resigned from his job at Procter & Gamble. Without much adieu, he doubted himself and took another corporate job, where he lasted only a few months. And then he wrote a very un-comedian-like sixty-five-page action plan detailing how he would achieve his dream. 

Another personal note: in my experience, people who follow dreams don’t walk in a straight line. They, we, have doubts. We sidestep, backtrack, stumble, and occasionally fail miserably. But, we march on. And that’s just what Rajiv would do.

Anyway, after simultaneously quitting and getting fired from that new corporate job, Rajiv embarked upon the path he'd always dreamed of. He sold his house and moved from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. He began performing stand-up regularly. He started getting gigs in a lot of places: Ottawa. Oman. Switzerland.

I met Rajiv back in the summer, when things were looking very, very up for him. He's 36 years old now, and quips that he's a “Recovering Corporate American”. As we talked, I had to ask him several times to just...stop. I was nine months pregnant then and every time Rajiv spoke, I had to gasp for air; I was laughing that hard. For instance, as Rajiv himself explained, he's overwhelmed by the thought of Helen Keller, whom he finds completely uninspiring. As he puts it, “She was deaf, dumb, and blind, and has accomplished more than I have.” 

By now, Rajiv has repeatedly opened for the likes of Dave Chappelle, Tim Allen, Kevin Nealon, and Russell Peters. He co-founded the world-touring Make Chai Not War (A Hindu/Muslim show that traversed seven Indian cities in 2012, and is sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Standpoint Agency). He has spoken to audiences from Fortune 500 companies to NFL players - on subjects ranging from innovation, diversity, and personal branding. Yes, he can make even those subjects funny. Rajiv has garnered more than two million Youtube views, performed on three continents, and been featured on NBC and NPR, and in the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and the L.A. Times. He does stand-up at dozens of colleges each year and at comedy clubs all over L.A. Rajiv records a weekly podcast, acts in funny commercials, and writes humorous ads. His favorite sites in the whole world are...his own. You can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter at Make sure you check out his website!

As Rajiv says himself, he’s good at getting people in a room to do what he wants. Which, of course, is laugh. His ultimate goal, the real nod of approval from the comedy world, is to get his own late-night television gig. Watch this space as he does just that. Come to think of it, don’t take it from me; watch the video of Rajiv’s act to see for yourself!

This blog will be following Rajiv’s story so make sure to tune in for updates. Follow me on Twitter at Also, be sure to check out my book, which is now available on for pre-order. No surprise, it's the true story of what can happen when you follow your wildest dream in life! 

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