No one would ever accuse either Miro Kazakoff or Tom Rose of being the next Jon Stewart. But these two second-year MBA students at MIT’s Sloan School have adapted Stewart’s “The Daily Show” formula to come up with a satirical news program on MBAs that is steadily growing a cult following on the web.
Through 14 episodes dating back to last August, The MBA Show is now seen by thousands of B-school students who find its acerbic humor well worth the ten minute or so investment on iTunes or YouTube. The show’s Facebook fans hail from all over the globe, including Pakistan, India and the Ukraine, and from all over the U.S., including Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee.
Together, they’ve made fun of everything from the acceptance of the GRE exam by business schools, (dismissed as a ploy by schools to appeal to more women) to what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur (you need to be an Indian with a degree from the Indian Institute of Technology). Or there was the “funeral” they held for five B-school words that have lost all meaning: synergy, leadership, innovation, development, and ‘building on your last point.’
But like The Daily Show, The MBA Show is more than just comedy. It’s news delivered as energetic entertainment. For a recent segment on the invention of capitalism, they donned powered wigs, ruffled shirts and tailored Victorian jackets, bantering on in English accents. They’ve used stuffed animals as props to address the importance of getting enough sleep during exams. (To see our favorite episodes of The MBA Show, click here.)
“Most MBAs give boredom a whole new meaning, but the Miro and Tom show is absolutely refreshing,” says Howard Anderson, senior lecturer at MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center and the founder of The Yankee Group and Battery Venture Capital. “They know what is going on and they can make their funny bone resonate with their audience.
They are an unlikely pair. Tom Rose, 28, is a “quant,” with an engineering degree from Duke University. After scoring a 760 on his GMAT exam, he spent a couple of years teaching prep courses for Manhattan GMAT. For his MBA Show episodes, he dresses in a tie, white shirt and gray flannel suit, a 30-year-old, hand-me down from his father. Miro Kazakoff, 31, is a “poet,” with an English and Political Science degree from Georgetown University. A former Bain & Co. consultant, Kazakoff is always on air in a different t-shirt with Clark Kent-like glasses. He plays the didactic startup entrepreneur to Rose’s witty investment banker persona.
They met during an admit weekend at MIT during the spring of 2009 and immediately took a liking to each other. So did their wives. “My wife said, ‘As long as you hang out with people like that, I don’t have any problem with business school,’” remembers Kazakoff. “She wasn’t enthused about the culture of significant others, many of whom weren’t working and were just following their spouses to school.” The same was true of Rose’s wife who was training to become a medical doctor. “She was afraid that whoever was going to business school would be the breadwinner and the other person would be marginalized,” he says.
Though they are both enthusiastic fans of Stewart and The Daily Show, the inspiration for their venture came when both were summer interns at Hubspot, a Cambridge-based online marketing firm. Every Friday afternoon, the company’s employees gather in a large room and beers to watch a video podcast. “Tom turns to me at one point,” recalls Kazakoff, “and he says, ‘We could do this. We should do this.’”
Three weeks later, the pair snuck out of work one day, plopped down behind a table in the lobby of MIT’s B-school building and turned on the camera in Rose’s laptop. They told a group of fellow students nearby that they were filming a video show and asked them to cheer during the intro. “They must have thought we were insane,” laughs Kazakoff. To describe the production values as “webby” would be to overestimate the episode’s quality. The lighting was crude and the sound was shaky. Never mind. You could feel the chemistry between the two and the fun that came from it.
Initially, their goals were simple: To have fun and entertain people, to increase their “personal brands” (after all, they are MBA students), and finally, as they facetiously admitted on their blog, “to get rich, laid and famous.” The two conceded that the path to this final objective was rather unclear, except for the middle part because they are both married.