Up until a few years ago, Zarna Garg didn’t know comedy could be a career. But when she tried to get back to work after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom, her kids said, “Mom, just do comedy.”
“I remember going to the first open mic and getting up on stage and being like, ‘White people do this? This is a job? What?’” Garg laughs. “That was the day I first stepped foot on a stage, and I never looked back.”
After that first open mic in 2018, the host told her she was funny — but didn’t have jokes. So, Garg went home, researched how to write comedy, landed her first gig and took off. Now, she’s a TikTok sensation and touring stand-up comic who brands herself the “Funny Brown Mom.” And next week, she’s coming to D.C.’s Miracle Theatre to ring in the new year with her show “One in a Billion,” all about her immigrant experience.
Garg jokes that her kids played her.
“I got into comedy not knowing anything. But I think they were like, ‘If she becomes a comedian, that means she’s out of the house nights and weekends.’”
Her children certainly helped her star grow. Right after one of her first big headlining gigs, the pandemic shut down New York City. Garg thought her career was over. Her son, however, encouraged her to upload a few videos to TikTok.
Garg went viral.
“The first few TikToks got millions of views within days. Even then, I was very suspicious,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh, you know, TikTok must be one of those places where everything starts at a million.’ You know, like you go to a country where a loaf of bread is 1 million [in] whatever unit of currency. So, I was like, ‘It’s like that.’”
But no, she truly was a hit. She thinks her comedy resonates because it’s relatable: full of jokes about food and family, all from a “very Indian perspective.”
Her mother-in-law is a favorite topic. In fact, she’s the first person Garg ever talked about on stage.
“Because India is far and the ticket is expensive, she comes for three months at a time,” Garg says. “So, I make jokes about how she has her own season: Winter is coming!”
She’s worked hard to make her shows feel informal, like she’s a neighborhood auntie throwing a dinner party — a very funny dinner party, that is.
Now, as Garg looks to new year’s in D.C. and beyond, she’s contemplating a few goals for 2023.
“Yell at my kids more, if that’s possible,” Garg suggests. “No, I think the resolution is to stay on track with the comedy. But don’t tell my kids I said that.”
Zarna Garg will deliver her special “One in a Billion” at Miracle Theatre twice on December 31, at 6 and 10 p.m. She’ll be joined at Miracle by comedian Badar Tareen and violist Rizwan Jagani. Purchase tickets here.
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