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From left: Phoon Chi Ho, Riezman Radzlan, Shamaine Othman, Joanne Kam, GB Labrador, Fakkah Fuzz, Papi Zak, Rizal Van Geyzel, Shankar R. Santhiram, and Nor Arlene.

On the 30th of April, 2019 I celebrated a huge milestone with my partner, Rizal Van Geyzel at the Crackhouse Comedy Club Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s first and longest running dedicated stand-up comedy club. We turned 5-years old.

When we started, I had no idea if we would stay open beyond the first year.

For most businesses this initial period is quite critical. This is when passionate people who think they have an idea, face the harsh realities of running a business. The economics of your project often collides with the raw passion that you have.

The Crackhouse Comedy Club was no different.

I met Rizal as an outstanding stand-up comedian about ten years ago. I loved his humour, and his ability to connect with audiences. My job as a corporate trainer involves speaking to large groups of people, to inspire and engage them. So, naturally I was interested in stand-up comedy as an art-form, which I could learn from.

I regularly kept going to watch Rizal perform at all sorts of venues. And, somewhere at the beginning of 2013, he obviously recognised me from the stage and at the end he said a special thanks to “…the Indian gentleman who was part of the furniture, in all his shows”.

My first proper chat with him was after this show. That evening signaled the start of our fruitful friendship that has withstood the test of time.

Later that year, by chance, I met an Australian comedian while he was performing in Singapore. He was hilarious and was an established name in the international circuit. I had an opportunity to chat with him and he was interested in exploring the idea of setting up a dedicated stand-up comedy club in Kuala Lumpur, similar to the clubs in London, New York or Sydney.

I was really enchanted by this idea and asked him to look me up if he was actually serious. It turned out that the other person he had been chatting with about this idea was in fact Rizal Van Geyzel.

So quite serendipitously, the three of us came together in April 2014 to found the Crackhouse Comedy Club Kuala Lumpur.

After the initial months of starting with much fan-fare and laughter, the realities of business began to set in. For at the end of the day, no matter how passionate you are, the sustainability of a business only comes with being disciplined, focused, smart and driven.

This is where I was and I am still am most impressed and grateful to my business partner and co-owner of the club, Rizal Van Geyzel.

He was willing to add craft to his passion.

I remind everyone I train and coach that the first trait you need to develop is a solid work-ethic. You must put your head down and get things done. This is at the heart of every successful venture.

You must constantly hustle. This requires dedication and commitment. And, you have to create opportunities, solve problems, and be resourceful. Rizal does this every single day.

Next, acknowledge that you need support.

When Rizal decided to make stand-up comedy and the club his vocation, he surrounded himself with people who had a common vision.

As his business partner, this is what I do for him. I help him stay focused and inspired.

Rizal had to understand that in following his passion, he would face much self-doubt, fear, and all of the other inner-battles that came with this.

He needed emotional support. And he got this from me, and his lovely wife Arlene.

And, he cultivated great relationships with people like Douglas Lim, Jason Leong, Papi Zak, Phoon Chi Ho, Kuah Jen Han, Riezman Radzlan and a few more, for support.

He knew that he needed people he could trust and who could provide him guidance during uncertain times. Rizal understood that he needed people to help him with perspective, and to provide optimistic, and affirmative thoughts.

And the third and most important trait that carried him through was the realisation and understanding that his patience would be severely tested. Rizal experienced what many entrepreneurs undergo in their journey through business.

We were betrayed by our partner, we were stabbed in the back by our friends, and we found out the hard way that not everyone is rooting for our survival and well-being.

Rizal worked out that unexpected challenges, change of plans, mistakes, and that strategic pivots will all occur, and he understood that these were all par for the cause, in running a business.

“Follow your passion” is a mantra that is repeated so commonly. It is like a quick-fix-solution offered to anyone who doesn’t have a plan about their future.

But in reality, achievement only comes with hard work and dedication. If you want success, you must add craft to your passion.

I am proud to be a co-founder of the Crackhouse Comedy Club Kuala Lumpur, and I can say without reservation that our success rests on the shoulder of my partner, Rizal Van Geyzel.

Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”

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