From IT sales to stand-up comedy

Gags about techies - the IT Crowd aside - aren't exactly common. But then again there aren't that many people in the IT industry that have swapped software and hardware for stand-up comedy, either.
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor
Did you hear the one about the CIO who thought going green was something to do with Scottish football jerseys? Or the one about the techie and his unusual second life? Or the one about the IT saleswoman who became a stand-up comedian?

Gags about techies - the IT Crowd aside - aren't exactly common. But then again there aren't that many people in the IT industry that have swapped software and hardware for stand-up comedy, either.

Enter stage right Thea Montgomerie-Anderson, a 32-year-old former BPM software saleswomen who sold risk management and quality management software packages to the financial and insurance sectors, and who, after being made redundant last year, has traded in her City smarts for the stand-up comic's microphone - accessorized with hot pants and heels.

Montgomerie-Anderson did not make a complete leap in the dark - she had being doing stand-up for a couple of years in her spare time as a way to unwind from the day job. "If I'd had a really bad day at work I'd go and find an open mic night and I'd just rant and make people laugh," she explains, adding: "I was glad that I had it to fall back on when I got [laid off]."

So how do IT and comedy compare? Which is the most stressful job? "Stand up comedy is one of those things where if you have an off night it's horrific and you're always worried that you're going to have an off night," she says.

"It gives you the fear - you wake up in a cold sweat having nightmares where you've just not been funny on stage… You can't always judge a crowd. Whereas the thing about IT, I would say you know exactly who your audience is when you're selling and you can do all your research on the 10 people that are going to be in a meeting."

She adds: "And IT if you're selling a good solution it kind of sells itself - if you've found a business need."

That said, tech sales is no picnic either, according to Montgomerie-Anderson, with each sales project bringing its own bundle of ongoing stresses.

"In some ways I'm glad to be out. I loved selling IT but I think selling it to the financial markets at the moment would be very depressing," she adds.

But stand-up is no soft option - apart from needing nerves of steel to get up on stage and perform it requires bags of creative energy to write material to prepare for gigs.

"It takes three hours to write 30 seconds' worth of material and it's not all reusable," says Montgomerie-Anderson. "Whereas when I'd written a good [sales] pitch - say a banking pitch or asset management pitch - I could then reutilize all that pitch round all the asset managers. Once you've done your work in IT you can recycle it, whereas in comedy I've got quite a big following so if I keep recycling my material they won't come and see me. And I have to write different types of material for different [gigs]."

Comedy's paypacket is no laughing matter either - and Montgomerie-Anderson takes on typing, market research and data entry work via freelance website PeoplePerHour to square the pay circle.

Does she do any IT-related jokes?

"I do do some IT-related gags," she says. "I've got a little routine that's based on the IT guys that I dealt with who had this pseudo life online… In Second Life they'd have a rippling six pack and all look like James Dean and in reality they've got a pot belly and a bald head and they've always got these hot chick girlfriends online and they drive Harleys…"

"My humor is more observational and the absurd and it's not really gags," she adds - describing another tech scenario she has recounted on stage involving an IT director who thought 'going green' meant wearing a Celtic jersey rather than serious investment in environmentally friendly tech kit.

Does she have any advice for IT workers who fancy themselves as the next stand-up star?

"Go and do a course that's got a showcase at the end and go and collaborate with writers meetings. Other tips I'd have is get a very small notebook - when you start doing comedy you start seeing the world in a different way and silly things become really funny… just write them down, note them down and they will develop and become funny."

She adds: "Being a comedian is like any other job - when you're selling for instance you ask the questions and then you repeat back the answers to the person - it's a process in sales and that's how you sell. In comedy there are processes as well like [lists with] three things are funny… it's the third one that's ridiculous and sublime and that's how things are funny. That's what you learn when you go to comedy colleges."

Would she consider going back into IT?

Yes - but only for the right job.

"I really miss the IT people I used to sell to. I'm lucky because a lot of them come to my gigs - I found them sincere and I found IT a really interesting job. You get a real completion of task when you book in a project and then the IT department come back to you or the business comes back to you and says 'do you know what, that's really improved what we've done'," she says.

This article was originally posted on silicon.com.

Editorial standards