Apr 20, 2018
Mahesh Kotagi is a pharmacist turned stand up comedian. He has appeared on MTV and season 3 of Fox's stand up comedy show Laughs. He is also working on a pharmacy based web series and a sitcom pilot. You can find him on twitter and instagram @maheshkotagi and Facebook @maheshkotagicomedy.
Here's a clip from YouTube on his being born and raised in Texas
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welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast with your host Tony Guerra the pharmacy leaders podcast is a member of the pharmacy podcast network with interviews and advice on building your professional network brand and a purposeful second income from students residents and innovative professionals disappear like a ghost there's a new thing they're calling it zombie zombie is when an ex gets back in touch with you after a long period of time I made up my own thing I call it mummy mummy is just when you try and preserve a relationship way after it's been dead [Music] I like doing that joke because I like to look at the couples in the audience hey welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast today I have Mahesh kotaki who's a pharmacist turned stand-up comedian he's appeared on MTV in season three of Fox's stand-up comedy show laughs he's also working on a pharmacy based web series and the sitcom pilot you can find them on twitter and instagram at mahesh gitaji ma h es h KO ta GI and facebook at mahesh kotaki comedy welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast hey thank you so much for having me appreciate it as everything going with you guys I'm pretty good I'm you want to first tell the listeners that you're in downtown by Wilshire in LA so this is a quiet place in LA that's about as quiet as it gets [Laughter] yeah no but excited to interview you everybody's always looking for you know either whether a side hustle to find community or money but something different than just being in the pharmacy all the time so everyone's leadership Road is a little bit different tell us a little bit about where you started with this and where you are today for sure yeah I think it's definitely important to have something else on the side in addition to the pharmacy just during school especially because you get so bogged down with studying working rotations and for me I was always interested in doing comedy and I had been writing all through college and as soon as I got into pharmacy school you know that everything got so busy I was like well I don't have time for this I'll put it on the back burner for now and you know that passion never went away during studying like my roommates and I would watch comedy specials just to kind of break up the monotony here you know exams and then so my p4 year we were on rotations outside of Austin in Temple Texas I was it's cotton white and I finally had some free time and being in a small town there I didn't really know too many people and everyone that was there all the doctors the medical students everyone was busy all the time so I was like well maybe I'll give stand-up a shot and I wrote a head written a bunch of jokes which I thought were funny at the time went and did my first open mic in Austin I bombed for about three and a half minutes it was terrible I got one joke some pharmacists jokes which come to realize you can't really do pharmacy related jokes to a crowd that isn't a pharmacy they don't know your audience yeah but honestly I fell in love with it it was such a fun time even though I was horrible at it and I just kept doing it it's about seven and a half years later now yeah so it's a lot of fun finished pharmacy school and did one a different route I did the Rutgers farm deep fellowship program out of New Jersey because I think part of it I knew I wanted to do this and you know a lot of my friends that were in retail and Husky their schedules you know it's it's insane it's it's a tough schedule and I was like I want something a little more flexible so I don't know what happened i wheeled my way in and I guess I write things on the interview and I was really fortunate to get into the fellowship program and moved out to New Jersey and started commuting to New York pretty much every night of the week to do stand-up after work so you do this quite a bit so I guess and most people think of like stand-up or writing and things like that is something that you do for a couple hours on the weekend can you tell me a little bit more about how much time you actually spend doing this yeah for sure I think it's one of those things where you know some hobbies like guitar and things like that you can play for like an hour at a time hour a day and you just on it you're by yourself and you can get really good really quickly but would stand up it's one of those things I feel like it's 24/7 like I have a bunch of different notepads and even on my phone like I noticed something I down something your mind's always kind of going in that direction where you're trying to think of Tyrael and then it's been it's like we're actually sitting down and writing it and then you know watching stand-up going out into the into the world and like performing connecting with other comedians is the biggest thing so it actually takes a lot of time and it's one of those art forms that to get good you just have to be okay with being really bad I remember seeing one of those comedy contests like I don't remember what it is it was it was something to the effect of one of those ones were you know basically you you get knocked out until there's one winner and there was the guy and he kept writing in a notebook and that you you just mentioned a little bit earlier that you wrote jokes but they weren't funny so a joke is funny but presenting a joke to a group of people is a different thing can you talk about the difference between nailing and not just the joke but the timing absolutely yeah the timing I think is the number one most difficult thing to learn and I think that's why you know the first couple of years if anybody's listening wants to get into stand-up but I definitely recommend it it's just one of those things you just have to do over and over and over again until the timing becomes kind of inherent and it's like a joke could be like amazing on paper but if you just don't have to write pauses and you just don't hit the words at the right time it loses all meaning and people can either see the joke coming or they just don't believe the you know whatever the meaning is behind it and you just lose the audience immediately and so timing is just really difficult is one of the harder things even sometimes just figuring out how to write a joke that takes a lot of practice to because at first I was like this is a good joke and it wasn't you know there's a structure in and of itself that it's really hard to just kind of learn and get that down but it's just one of those things the more you get on stage the more comfortable you're gonna get in front of the audience and it's one of those things that people hate public speaking and it's so different because it's not only just public speaking but now it's also you're trying to make them feel an emotion that you felt when you wrote the joke which is it's crazy but when it works it's it's really one of the best feelings out there yeah because I saw you that you've got a couple of videos on YouTube and every time you told the same joke it got laughs and yeah but but I feel like we're seeing like the best like you know how people take pictures and post them on Instagram and that's like a happy time but they don't talk about the time we're in the morning or things were just a freakin mess and they wanted a divorce and they hated each other you just see that there's this picture of greatness or whatever so maybe if somebody's interested in kind of getting out and doing something creative like this what are some first steps like what are the baby steps or is it just you gotta suck it up and just take the punch in the face it's a little bit of both but I think I guess for baby steps is just I think the most helpful advice I've ever gotten from I had you know in New York you get to work with alongside a lot of really good comedians and I think the biggest advice I got was just be as honest as you can and a lot of comedy comes from like you said like places of pain or stress or things that you just don't like because it has that raw emotion and I think that's what people can relate to most cuz nobody wants to see somebody go up on stage and be like oh my god so great exactly and I just feel like I think that's one of the best things about comedy and you know I we we were able to do a lot of stuff and you know as pharmacists we're able to see patients and touch patients lives and things like that and really make a big difference especially pharmacists and retail you're you're getting to see the patients that after they've left the doctor's office and really have those conversations that the doctors don't have time to have and I think what standup you're also having conversations with people that they necessarily wouldn't be having even with clothes people and it's part of it is when they can they hear that oh this person's going through that too they just have such a way to relate and I think no matter what people are going through like for a few minutes while you're up on stage people forget like their problems and everyone is just together as human beings and just having a good time well let's talk about that and I think we're well we'll use patch Adams is the common frame of reference where you've got a health professional that comes in makes people feel better by laughing but then the establishment beats him down so let's talk about those two sides so I think you talked a little bit about how does physiologically how does laughter how does you know having these good feelings make someone or or improve healthcare outcomes do you think you know it's been a it's been a little while since I've read my but I think part of it is just with like the serotonin and things like that where you're getting the same releases and you know there's been there's been a bunch of studies I think that have been done of just patients that have more positive outlooks tend to do better kind of like almost like a placebo effect I feel like and I think that kind of plays in I think the happier you feel and the less you're focused in on like one specific thing the more maybe you just body gets a chance to just start getting better I'm not sure I know I sound I don't sound like a put you on the spot oh well I just talked last week with Rajeev Cora potti who's a physician he wrote a book called the unbound intelligence in the position and then in tradition or position how science transform the art of medicine and and one thing that he talked about was how they kept answering questions in in terms of therapy and things like that but the patient asked why me and that was a question I got an answer so I guess what I was what I'm asking you is so the patient's tired of hearing over and over again yeah I get it okay thank you just give me a break from all this stuff it's like you're listening to a nonfiction book and you want a fiction you you're in pharmacy school and you just want to break from it so it sounds like you're providing that kind of break but tell me a little bit about the struggles that you have in terms of the establishment you know when you go to a pharmacy conference it's you're allowed to have like one joke at the beginning but then it's all powerpoints in business so how do you think we could maybe put a little more laughter and a little more humanity into the process rather than just well let's let's go back to your a1c okay let's just get back for showing up yeah I think um I think part of that I can just answer in the same way is for both of those questions is trying to connect with the people as much as possible so whether that be like on stage where it's not you saying okay I get it like let's go on to the next thing it's like hey I get it but I've also been through this I think that's one of the most powerful things in comedy when you're talking about something where you know you had like a bad day or you missed the train and you were late to work and your boss yelled at you for half an hour yeah it's things the universal things that everybody's like oh man that guy gets it okay that happened to me yesterday that makes for the best material and I think with these pharmacy conferences or even seeing patients I think sometimes we got to remember like you know the patient we're seeing is you know somebody's mother or father or brother sister or best friend and everybody has those feelings and everybody I think at the core of it everybody you know like I think humans are more of a what is like that pack mentality where that they're they want to be around other people and they want I think they want to feel accepted and I think if there's just small ways of working that in where where maybe it's just like hey how's it going or just connecting on a very small level I think people would really appreciate that okay and I think it would help out yeah well we just saw Pauly Shore about two or three months ago just completely randomly it was our wedding anniversary we walked past the comedy clubs like oh my god there's Pauly Shore and then my wife was born in the 80s and I was born in the seventies she's like who's that so tell me what I wanted to kind of get into is a little bit about name recognition many pharmacists are trying to build brands obviously as a comedian you know when the intro act comes you like hear a name and you forget the name and then hear another but then you're like oh and then there's Pauly Shore so how do you build that name recognition how do you build a brand in a place where there are so many celebrities there's so many big names that's a great question I think it's funny I think more people have forgotten my name but I think it's to focus on those few people that do remember your name and then build your audience and build your fan base through that because I think nowadays - whether it be you're starting like your own pharmacy or you're you know trying to be a comedian or actor social media comes into a lot of into play a lot more than I think it used to like 10 20 years ago I always say there you know there's a lot of stuff wasn't even around but like social media presence is big these days but I think at the end of the day I read that I think it's Malcolm Gladwell book it wasn't outliers it was the other one what the dogs you know or something like that yeah I think that one it was like he talks about how the one of the best ways that ideas maybe it wasn't him I you know I know like two or three authors but it was about how ideas are spread and like I think one of the biggest ways that brands spread and like people's like oh those are cool shoes it's like word of mouth is like one of the biggest things so if you can really impact out of like you know some of these shows like you know out of like a hundred people you might get two people that come and talk to you afterwards and sure that's not like a lot of people but if those two people you can make a genuine connection with and they really like you they might go and tell one or two other of their friends okay so this guy who is pretty funny and I think even with all this technology I think word-of-mouth still makes the biggest impact on getting your name out there where it'd be for a comedian or for a brand or a company okay well let's talk product I was just in Nashville I talked to Matt Marin chick who is a national music singer he's been there for about six years and and those guys always have like a CD they sell them for 10 bucks do you only get paid for a comedy like like here you've got a booking do you have products do you have videos downloads anything like that so I have I'm starting to make think about doing some merchandise but the thing is I think with me so far right now just been focusing on the bookings and trying to get my name out that way I'm gonna be recording an album like at the end I think she was shooting for December just like a comedy album and put it getting Spotify and things like that cool which helps were getting more bookings but as far as actual merchandise I don't have anything yet I was thinking of maybe doing some t-shirts with like a funny saying or something I think sometimes it's just kind of hard like to get out there and do that and I get mean I feel weird about doing buy my t-shirt yeah yeah exactly I think the album will be a good way to get out there know we'll definitely have to have you back for the release I would love to but tell me about representation so pharmacists especially if they're going into creatives you know getting representation getting an agent you have agents on both coasts for different things can you explain that process yes I can and it's a doozy I'll tell you the mistakes that's funny tell me the mistakes you've made like that's that's gonna be well I think one of the biggest things is once you get in it's um I think it's that to that saying is true what you you know what you know but you don't know what you don't know I guess and it's like one of those things is like I had no idea how difficult it was to get like not even just get an agent our manager and like how to even go about doing that like for me I just got boss on my manager I'm working with this company this management company in New York rajae Paul there are a small boutique management company there they're also they're really nice people I got them randomly so you know I thought you go out on stage you do a show and then when he comes up to me and and you're like set like a month in which actually happens to some people no it did not happen to me majority of people it just takes years of you actually have to the funny thing is you have to have a manager to get auditions for stuff and to get booked at things like that but management companies won't see you unless you have bookings doesn't want to see you unless you had a published book I think you can't publish a book until you get through the publisher yeah exactly into like pharmaceutical industries like oh they want five years of experience to get this entry-level position so I had so it took me about six and a half years in is when I finally got my manager and it was one of these things I had been doing stand-up for a while I had I got onto that Fox show and the taping was at in New Jersey at the stress factory and some of the managers some of the other comics on on the show had their management come out and so that's that's like the thing I was like okay I know there's agents and people out here so I got to really do a good job and I did I had a great set and I finished and nobody came and talked to me and I was like oh well that kind of sucks square one and I walked to the New Brunswick train station and I was kind of a little bit down as a clan I was like I was really hoping this and they would work out finally after like six and a half years and just standing there and there's one guys like hey you just did the shore exile you're funny oh thanks he's like well I'm an assistant at this management company and we were here watching some of the acts and we liked you why don't you come meet with us tomorrow and I was like oh that's kind of cool and yeah that's the secret right that movie the secret you just say what you want and then five minutes later it happens yeah exactly hey I want both of us to have a million dollars by the end of this [Laughter] so yeah and then you know the funny thing is that so I got the meeting with them it was just like a general meeting but then when you get these meetings they ask you what you've done or what scripts you've written or what you have so you have to have a portfolio ready to go at a moment's notice so luckily I had that TV appearance and I had done a commercial before and I had written three scripts and like a feature a feature script and so I had like a bunch of stuff ready to do and so then it was like okay well it's kind of like one of those things where they want to make sure you're capable of doing all the work on your own and also that you're you're somebody that they can you know get behind that somebody that's a hard worker I think those are the things they look for and so that worked out I started working with them and they actually put me in touch with this commercial agent who sends me out for TV commercials and things like that out on the west coast so and that's how's that your la representation they are la okay so you didn't have to you didn't have to go by the well the train station in LA is sketch I wouldn't I would never want to but tell me a little bit about what your expectations are for them so I was just at the writers conference down in Tampa and it's always weird to hear this but I hear it over and over again where someone's agents up there and saying yeah you know when you get on something like a podcast or something like that make sure to tell us and I'm like wait a minute yeah why is the PR company asking the author yeah to tell them to tell I was like is it the PR company supposed to be booking this and getting this so it's a little bit upside down to someone who's maybe not familiar could you familiarize us with the actual yeah definitely sure yeah I think part of it is some of these bigger companies they're not managing one to get person there they've got like 20 or 30 other people on their roster then are at different levels of their career they have different totally different things going on and I think part of it is you have to kind of always be in their ear I'm like hey nope don't don't forget about me I've got working on and that was one of the one of the people I was talking to one of the producers I met out here we were working on a script together and he was like hey just FYI like some advice he's like make don't be annoying but definitely make sure people remember you because he's like and just the entertainment the way it is is you just know talked to so many people and they're always have meetings and for them if you don't reach out to them for a month they might just be like oh yeah I forgot that person was here so it's kind of that keeping in touch and also kind of letting them know it's like hey I'm also working on X Y and C because I think a lot of people get a manager and they're just like oh sweet my job is done I'm gonna be famous now they're gonna do everything for me it's like no no no you still have to keep doing everything you're doing and they just help help you get to a different level with that like they make other introductions but if you're not out there you know hitting the pavement writing and performing and you know doing all this other stuff they have nothing to represent I guess no I get what you're saying so and we're kind of going deep into the weeds like most people are you know like I just want to know how to start my comedy career but but no as I'm now I'm being selfish and just asking for myself because I'm a writer and and so you know they're you're at certain levels and and when I started talking to these people it's like oh yeah and definitely tell me when you're on it's like what what are you talking about why am I telling you you know it's like well but you got to remind me you exist all right well I just wanted to make sure okay thanks first sure okay well I think I think that actually works for the work world too you know I think sometimes you just got to put yourself out there and tell people is like hey I've done this this and this like I think I'm ready for the next opportunity so I think knows I mean that's definitely a valid question for the podcast too just in general like I think it's good information for people regardless of what they're doing okay well I've asked you a lot of questions is there anything that you want to say that I maybe haven't touched on I think if anybody's interested in starting I think the biggest thing it cuz you know sometimes people like oh like I want to do stand-up like I don't think I'm funny but I would love to I was like you don't know you're not until you get out there and I always recommend just go to find an open mic it's gonna be I'm not gonna tell you it's gonna be good I'm not gonna lie best thing but it's just about getting out there and you know the comedy community is pretty supportive for the most part so can even audiences if they know it somebody's on there the first time there it's not as bad as people say it's bad I mean don't get me right spring show that the competition is not coming it's like you know what I was gonna get into comedy but I heard my gosh and I'm like no yeah definitely don't I think just get out there and try and open what you got nothing to lose I mean it's literally three minutes out of your life if it doesn't go well it doesn't go well but at least you've tried it and you can say hey I gave it a shot and maybe it was it worked out great or maybe it wasn't for me but I think the best thing is just to give it a shot you know I think everyone I think everyone has their own unique stories and something unique to bring to the table and that's why I think comedy is so great because you can be totally yourself and there's room for you there okay if somebody wanted to see you online or in person what are the best ways for them to get a hold of you or to see where your bookings are yeah definitely so my website is just my hash kotaki mah es h KO ta GI comm I have that updated with all the shows and everything I have going on regularly figured out how to use Squarespace I'm not trying to brag here six months to figure it out nice something that should have taken twenty minutes yeah and then all my social media is on there I'm like Twitter my Instagram I try and post you know funny videos things stupid videos things like that on there but yeah everything is up there or my Facebook page Smosh Kotani comedy they can find my information on there and I'll be linking to this podcast all of those platforms sweet and I will be telling my managers I did this podcast today okay I've been working man I've been working yeah cool all right well Mahesh thanks for being on the pharmacy leaders podcast hey I appreciate it and yeah anybody got questions just add me on Twitter or you know send me a message I respond I'm trying to keep my response rate on my Facebook fan page to a hundred percent so I will respond to your messages I you know it's it's a pharmacy school thing never leaves this does it right it's like now I have to have 100 I have to have 100 on my facebook response rate absolutely I'm like what are people gonna think all right well thanks again I appreciate it thanks a lot have a good one and I will talk to you later support for this episode comes from good night pharmacology 350 brand and generic name drugs with classifications a leading resource for students in the United States United Kingdom and Australia print ebook and audiobook available on audible iTunes and amazon.com thank you for listening to the pharmacy leaders podcast with your host Tony Guerra be sure to share the show 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