By John A. Byrne
January 6, 2011

A pair of MBA students at MIT have set their satirical gun sights on the business school world and MBAs with a web show that’s steadily developing a cult following.

(poetsandquants.com) — No one would ever confuse Miro Kazakoff or Tom Rose for 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 web show on business schools and MBAs that is building a small, but steadily growing, cult following.

Through 14 episodes dating back to last August,
The MBA Show
has accumulated thousands of viewers, many of them business school students, who find the show’s acerbic humor well worth the 10-minute investment on iTunes or YouTube. The show’s Facebook fans hail from all over the globe, including Pakistan, India and the Ukraine.

Kazakoff and Rose have poked fun at business schools’ growing acceptance of the GRE exam (dismissed by them as a ploy by schools to compete for more female applicants) and donned powdered wigs, ruffled shirts and tailored Victorian jackets, bantering in British accents for a recent segment on the invention of capitalism.

And then there was the “funeral” they held for five B-school terms 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 entertainment.

“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 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 test prep courses for Manhattan GMAT. For his MBA Show episodes, he dresses in a 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 thick black-rimmed glasses. He plays the didactic startup entrepreneur to Rose’s witty investment banker.

They met during an admitted students weekend at MIT in 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,’” says 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,” Rose says.

Though they are both fans of The Daily Show, the inspiration for their show actually came from a summer internship they spent at Hubspot, a Cambridge-based online marketing firm. Every Friday afternoon, the company’s employees gathered in a large room with 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 built-in camera in Rose’s laptop. They told a group of nearby students that they were filming and asked them to cheer during the intro.

“They must have thought we were insane,” says Kazakoff.

To describe the original production values as “webby” would be too generous. The lighting was crude and the sound was shaky. Never mind. The chemistry between the two made up for it.

Initially, their goals were simple: To have fun, entertain, to increase their “personal brands” (after all, they are MBA students), and finally, as they facetiously admit on their blog, “to get rich, laid and famous.” The two conceded that the path to this final objective is unclear, except for the middle part, as they are both married.

Little by little, the shows got better.

When a ranking of executive MBA programs named Wharton’s pricey $150,000 degree the best of the lot, the duo pounced.

“The only regret I have is that I just don’t feel I’m paying enough money for my MBA,” quipped Rose. “When I go to business school, I want to get that penniless, wallet-draining, soul-emptying sense of debt.”

Kazakoff, without missing a beat, advised, “If you have a job right now and you’re thinking you want to spend cash as fast as you can and spend no time at all with your family, the executive MBA is for you and all it’s going to cost you is $150,000.”

Suddenly, they were getting recognition from fellow students and faculty. Fans from around the world began to “like” the show on Facebook. Some classmates even recite lines from the show as if they were from a Monty Python movie.

Rose estimates that current MBA students in the U.S. represent 70% of the audience, with at least another 10% from overseas in Asia and Europe.

The production values have improved. The duo sit in front of a red curtain taped to the cafeteria wall with a gray table and an oversized, 1950s-style radio microphone in front. They now have a set of lights, a boom mike and a video camera on a tripod to film the show.

“Even though you see the show looking more serious, it was always a goofy, fun thing. Yet we started with the commitment to try to make it better every time,” says Kazakoff.

Were they ever worried that the show could hurt their chances for a six-figure MBA job?

“Before we started making the show, we said that we wouldn’t want to work for a company that didn’t think the show was cool,” says Kazakoff. “And trust me, no company would want us working for them if they didn’t think it is a good idea.”

As it turns out, both Rose and Kazakoff decided not to interview for the mainstream MBA jobs, anyway. They’re planning to launch a business together when they graduate in June.

Of course, they may have another alternative. “If this business thing doesn’t work out,” says MIT’s Anderson, “stand up is always an option.

More from Poets&Quants:

The Best of “The MBA Show”

Ranking B-Schools on Intellectual Capital

Turning the Tables: Ranking the MBA Rankings

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