May 16, 2023
In the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, King Drupada sets a tall task for anyone wishing to marry his daughter Draupadi: they must string a bow and shoot a revolving fish five times in the eye — only by looking at its reflection in a bowl of water. If the premise sounds ridiculous today, enter comedian Zarna Garg. During the heyday of AOL in the late 1990s, she created a filtering process of her own. She posted a personal ad on a “primitive” website for South Asians, saying she was ready to get married, was looking for an Indian man who was “brilliant” and “ambitious,” and was not interested in friends. She got hundreds of responses. But one man emailed her from Zurich to ask if she was joking.
Little did he know that years later, the two would marry and Garg, now 48, would make cracking jokes a career. In just half a decade, she has grown her Instagram following to over 650,000, gone viral thanks to actor Viola Davis, written an award-winning screenplay, signed on to star in a film with Karan Soni of Deadpool fame, and is now out with an hour-long comedy special on Amazon Prime Video, One in a Billion. She’s on a roll.
She is quick to tell you she’s not your typical Indian immigrant, mother, or aunty. As someone who embarked on a new career in her 40s (and found her soulmate online pre-OkCupid, Tinder, and Hinge!), she is nothing if not intentional. If her humor hurts you, she’s not worried. (“Whatever. Cancel me! I don’t care!”) But, if her humor manages to change your behavior or make you think just a little bit about what it means to be American and/or Indian, she’s succeeded. And beneath her motherly exterior and wide, gap-toothed smile, it’s Zarna Garg’s harsh truths that will stay with you long after her set is over.