By Sonya Rehman
Meet Aaron Karo, a 25 year old stand-up comedian and writer who gave up his job on Wall Street to do what he loves best – making people laugh. His observations about college life and being a ‘twenty something’ individual just entering the ‘real world’ makes you want to slap your knee, throw your head back and laugh out loud – as you too, can relate perfectly well with the writer.
I discovered Aaron’s website whilst I surfed the net one lazy Sunday afternoon many months ago, and since, have been, an avid reader of his ‘ruminations’. Sending out a quick email to him just a few days ago, I was surprised at his prompt response only a few hours later. And that is when, I made up my mind that Pakistan could really do with knowing a little bit about Karo. This is what he had to say:
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Karo: I’m 25 years old and was born and raised on Long Island, which is a section of New York east of Manhattan. For some reason, my parents gave me and my younger sister rhyming first names, so I’ve always gone by last name, sort of like Pele or Madonna or Cher. You know, but not as glamorous. I graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2001. Apart from that, I enjoy drinking beer and have unusually large calf muscles.
How did you get into doing stand-up acts?
Karo: That’s a good question. I honestly don’t know. I feel like I’ve been a comedian all my life, just never on stage. Then a few years ago I got the itch to actually go on stage. I knew a friend of a friend who worked at a comedy club, and he got me on an open mic night. The show went great, I had a great time, and the rest, as they say, is history.
How did you break the news to your parents? How did they react?
Karo: ‘Break’ is probably the wrong word. I just told them I was going to do stand-up. They were like, “Okay, that sounds like fun. Can we come?” And I said, “Not a chance in hell.” They have been very supportive from the beginning which is kind of weird because I never thought my parents were that cool…but it turns out they are!
Do you think the career path you’ve chosen now, is much more fulfilling?
Karo: I worked on Wall Street for 13 months following graduation. Stand-up and writing is definitely a lot more fulfilling, no question. Really though, I don’t like shaving, tucking in my shirt, or waking up early. So Wall Street probably wasn’t going to work out anyway.
What was your first stand-up comedy act like?
Karo: They told me I could only do 10 minutes. I think I did like 16. I just couldn’t be stopped. A week later, the New York Post ran a full-page article about the show. It was awesome – but a lot to live up to.
Were you nervous?
Karo: Yes, but that’s what alcohol is for.
How did the crowd react?
Karo: Half of the audience were friends and family and the other half, strangers. Everyone loved it. I got lucky; they were nice strangers I guess.
How would someone get into doing stand-up routines? Is there any one particular process?
Karo: The only way to do stand-up… is to do stand-up. You need to get up and do as many open-mics as possible. You need to get out there and start building your material and your fan base. It is extremely difficult to get into but can be very rewarding. I had a leg up when I started doing stand-up because I already had an established fan base through my column.
You gave up your job on Wall Street to do stand-up. How did you manage financially in the beginning?
Karo: Very carefully.
What were the reasons for giving up your 9-5 job?
Karo: My first book, Ruminations on College Life was about to come out. It was generating some great buzz, and that’s when I realized I could possibly make a career out of being funny. I had a degree from Wharton. I figured I could always go back to Wall Street if I wanted to. But that’s never going to happen now.
Do you think fate had a hand to play with regard to where you are and what you’re doing now?
Karo: I’m not a big fate guy. I work extraordinarily hard and have created opportunities for myself. Sometimes you just have to be at the right place at the right time, of course, but fate is a strong word.
How do you manage reading all your fan-based mail?
Karo: I love reading my fan email. That’s the best part of my ‘job’. I do get a ton though. Up to hundreds a day. But I’ve been doing this for eight years now. I am pretty adept and quick at reading the email and responding quickly. My fans are always surprised by how fast I get back to them.
Do you think their comments, views and criticism help in any way?
Karo: Sure, I listen to what my fans have to say, good or bad. I wouldn’t say I often take suggestions from one fan or another, but from reading lots of emails, I get a general sense for what they like and don’t like, and then adjust accordingly.
You’ve stated on your website that one of your readers suffered a broken rib laughing really hard after reading one your pieces. How’d that make you feel?
Karo: Thankful not to get sued.
Have you had an embarrassing moment on stage whilst your performance?
Karo: What the hell does ‘whilst’ mean? You mean ‘while’? Haha, I’m just joking. Um… I’ve been pretty lucky not to embarrass myself too much while on stage so far!
Do you plan on continuing stand-up acts and/or would you rather branch out into writing books and script writing?
Karo: I already have! My first book, Ruminations on College Life, was published in 2002. My new book, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, was published this May. I also just finished a sitcom script called The Whatever Years about a group of guys in their early twenties living in New York City after college.
What are the perks of your job?
Karo: No shaving, tucking in my shirt, or waking up early.
And the downside?
Karo: I have no office and I have no regular hours. I work from home and no one tells me when my day is done. In that respect, sometimes I have a little trouble letting go and will write and work all day and night until someone stops me. It’s tough to disengage yourself from your work when you are literally surrounded by it 24 hours a day. But not having to shave more than makes up for it.
What is your favourite excerpt from your recent book, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life?
Karo: Here it is:
“ You know what I’m tired of? People saying, ‘I’m very disappointed in you’. When I was a kid and got in trouble, my parents always gave me that same speech, ‘We’re very disappointed in you’. In college, when my fraternity got in trouble, we were told by an administrator, ‘I’m very disappointed in you’. At work, when I messed up, they said, ‘We’re not your parents and this isn’t college anymore…but we’re very disappointed in you’. You know what? Shut the f**k up already. I’m about to turn twenty-five and I’m sick of everyone having such high expectations. And when do I get to be the one disappointed, huh?”
What was your most amusing experience in college?
Karo: At one point in the semester I was feeling a bit, well, irregular. I emailed my mom to ask her what I should do. She wrote me back with some advice as to how I could, um, get things flowing a little better. As I read the email, I started to notice that everyone in the computer lab was looking at me and snickering. I looked up and saw that my computer was hooked up to a huge screen that was projecting my email in front of the whole lab! I couldn’t show my face on campus for weeks after that.
In case this joke doesn’t translate in Pakistan, I’m talking about being constipated!
What inspires you the most when you write?
Karo: Anything and everything. I just wrote a joke about a muffin. A freaking muffin! There’s nothing that doesn’t give me material.
Where do you see yourself a few years down the road?
Karo: Hopefully writing and starring in my own sitcom.
Would you like to say a few words to your readers?
Karo: Sign up for my mailing list! If I get enough fans in Pakistan, maybe I’ll come over and do a show. Then you’ll really see an embarrassing moment ‘whilst’ I’m performing on stage!
Sunday, Daily Times