Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Career conference keynote spotlights entrepreneurship

During his keynote address, Kyle Kazanjian-Amory ’14 illustrated his path from forensic accountant to founder and CEO of Don't Tell Comedy, an independent comedy production company. (Photo courtesy of Kyle Kazanjian-Amory ’14)

Six months after graduating from college, Kyle Kazanjian-Amory ’14 knew he wasn’t happy. While working as a forensic accountant at a firm in Newport Beach, he realized what his life was missing: He wanted to make people laugh.

Three years later, Kazanjian-Amory founded Don’t Tell Comedy (DTC). Today, it produces intimate comedy shows in more than 45 cities and is the country's largest independent purveyor of live comedy. He spoke about his experiences during the recent U of R Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) Career Conference, a virtual event that featured alumni panels about careers in diverse fields and sessions with employers looking to hire interns and full-time employees.

Simmy Grewal ’22 introduced Kazanjian-Amory and spoke about her experience working as a DTC intern, thanks to the OCPD Bulldog Endeavor program launched in 2020. The program’s goal was to help students whose jobs or internships were rescinded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the most impactful parts of my experience with DTC was being able to see the company pivot in a time where live comedy events were simply not possible,” she said. “Kyle was resilient and has continued providing opportunities for comedians while also expanding DTC’s operations by taking risks and problem-solving.”

At the crux of the Don’t Tell Comedy value proposition is Kazanjian-Amory’s interest in making shows accessible to everyone.

“When I started Don't Tell, I thought it would be an awesome way to get more involved in the comedy community,” Kazanjian-Amory said. “I was addressing problems I had seen from doing comedy for four years—it's too expensive, there're two-drink minimums. I was thinking: how can we make this a much more enjoyable experience and bring comedy to people instead of them having to drive to a specific part of town?”

After leaving his accounting job, he outlined a plan of action that involved actively participating  in the Los Angeles comedy scene, volunteering to run show operations, and building the skills he needed to launch his own business—something he called a “Master’s in Comedy and Producing Summer Program.”

After leaving his accounting job, Kazanjian-Amory outlined a plan of action to build the skills he needed to launch his own business—something he called a “Master’s in Comedy and Producing Summer Program.”

Throughout the process, Kazanjian-Amory leaned on family and friends, and personal resources, even liquidating his retirement account to access funds to launch the company. What started as a hobby—hosting comedy shows in friends’ backyards—turned into a successful business. The weekend of the OCPD conference, DTC was hosting 18 shows in different cities.

However, Kazanjian-Amory’s path didn’t come without challenges, the largest of which was managing an entertainment company amidst a pandemic. As Grewal mentioned, the DTC team pivoted and created a virtual trivia experience, marketing it to companies as a private and personal team-building event. To date, DTC has catered to Google, Amazon, and other large technology companies.

Ending his talk, Kazanjian-Amory outlined three points that informed his entrepreneurial approach and encouraged conference attendees to adopt them:

  • Embrace discomfort. “Stand-up comedy is one of the most uncomfortable things you could ever do … but I’ve learned that putting yourself [in those situations] is a great way to grow,” he said.
  • Learn how to take risks. Kazanjian-Amory noted that entrepreneurship isn’t the only way to go out on a limb—he encouraged listeners to challenge themselves in their own organizations and remain curious.
  • Learn how to fail. Recalling an embarrassing monologue he wrote for a U of R acting class his senior year, Kazanjian-Amory said his failures revealed what he was passionate about, ultimately paving the way for creating DTC.

Learn more about the Office of Career and Professional Development.