How comedian Zarna Garg built her popular TikTok account

Welcome to the latest edition of Creator Collab House. I’m your host, Simon Owens. For those who don’t know me, I write a media industry newsletter you should definitely check out.

Today’s featured creator is Zarna Garg, a standup comedian who has over 170,000 followers on TikTok. I’ll start by asking her a few basic questions, but my main goal is for you, the audience, to ask her questions of your own. Zarna is an expert on everything from building a professional standup career to growing a huge audience on TikTok.

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Ok, let’s turn it over to Zarna…

What's the origin story of your TikTok account?

It was the middle of pandemic summer and I was really struggling. My 14-year-old son was watching me and suggested I try out an app he saw some other comedians on, TikTok. He uploaded my first three videos and subtitled them himself. Within a week we had over a million views. We definitely learned as we went along what worked and what didn’t, but most of the time it’s a big surprise what video will be a hit. The first big hit was “I’ve Never Said I Love You To My Husband.” It got millions of views and thousands of comments. Not saying “I love you” to your loved ones is a cultural thing in South Asia and other eastern societies, but most of my viewers had never heard it articulated before, let alone as a joke. 

What have you found to be some of the most effective growth strategies for getting new subscribers?

I think it’s important to engage with your audience in the comments and show them how much you appreciate their support. Create new content consistently. It’s hard to predict what will connect and what won’t, just keep putting yourself out there and learn what your audience responds to. But if you can do something timely and of the moment, that material has the highest probability of circulating. On the day of the Presidential inauguration, millions of people were just looking for inauguration content, and that definitely helped me move a comedy video I did about blessing the new president with an aarti.

Can you walk us through the business model for your TikTok?

TikTok is a platform that will show your content to people who haven’t heard of you before. It’s valuable for collecting new audiences, and then you can direct them to your other platforms like YouTube and Instagram. As word spreads, viewers have booked me for paid Zoom shows. Additionally, two high profile showrunners of major network TV shows have found me on TikTok. They have seen my writing and my performance ability. I just did a TV spot for one of them and am in talks with the other one to develop a show. One of the most elite casting agencies in Hollywood has reached out to me for possible acting jobs based on my Tiktok material. I would not underestimate the power of this platform.

What are some recent videos that you're particularly proud of?

I’m really proud of my “Water” joke, where I talk about the difference between how water is perceived in America and in India. In America, the shower doesn’t stop until you stop it. In India, you get water in one bucket. People in America fill bathtubs full of gallons of drinkable water and just… sit in it. Because they’re sad. I think when that video came out, I heard from Americans and from Indians surprised at life on the other side of the world. It put a lot of things into perspective for many people and started some great conversations. It also really helped encapsulate my brand and product: I have a unique perspective because of my experiences, and I’m in a rare position to bring two worlds and two audiences together.

What are some of the TikTok users that you make sure never to miss when they put out a new episode?

@MJudsonBerry is very creative, pushing the envelope. He does an impersonation of Moira on Schitts Creek. I’ve never seen Moira but I love him. 

@thetimingwizard blows my mind that he took such a simple concept and so replicable and made it so fun. He finds bloopers on youtube of people falling or accidents happening, plays them on a TV and then makes it look like he caused the accident. He’s soon about to hit 1 million followers. I connected with him through TikTok and he seems to be the nicest person ever.

I really love the accounts that tell you how to grow your TikTok, like @itxmejules

The magician @ryanorion_ is amazing too.

Want to ask Zarna questions of your own?

Go ahead and leave your questions in the comments section and she’ll dive in and answer them.

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