The co-founder and former mainstay of East India Comedy talks about politics, comedy and everything in between ahead of his show in the city tomorrow
When Sorabh Pant drew out travel plans to England, he had a lovely vacation in mind. A nice English breakfast, a few pints of stout and a quiet weekend that would have just one engagement at the University of Warwick – the initial itinerary was breezy. However, the man now finds himself staring at a packed schedule, with shows lined up in London tonight and Birmingham and Manchester over the weekend.
When we caught up with the man, he seemed a little hesitant about his work getaway. “I was really looking forward to the show here this weekend and then I found out the temperature is around -2 degrees. I don’t think I have been in such frigid conditions since I last fought with my wife,” he says.
Satire in times of censorship
When you put the Indians and the British together, colonialism is the oh-so-evident elephant in the room. “This has been spoken about by Shashi Tharoor and several others, but there are still different ways to find fresh nuances to the equation.”
The reason why the likes of John Oliver and Trever Noah are successful in the US is that they are coming from completely different perspectives. I try building my own perspective of the place I am in.
Over the last few years, Pant has built a reputation for holding a mirror to society with his passionate “rants” on hotly debated issues in India and across the world. They have earned him his share of brickbats and trolls. “For every one of those videos, I have got at least one death threat, on Facebook or YouTube. It’s come to a point where, now if I don’t get a death threat it feels like maybe the video isn’t as good,” says the Pant on Fire comic.
He does not plan to alter his content to suit the whims of the ‘fascists’, but he loves adding contextual flavours to his sets. He quashes the British stereotype of being hard to please and points out, “I have been touring with international crowds now and I have found the Brits to be very hospitable and fun and I don’t know where this reputation of Brits being cold came from. The intention of coming to the UK to perform was to reach out to this audience that I normally wouldn’t get.”
“Even if you’re a non-brown person, you’ll still enjoy the show,” he says reassuringly.
More recently back in the subcontinent, inspired by the #MeToo wave, the slam poetry community lashed out against abuse within its fraternity and people young and old are now discussing disparity, from abuse to simpler parameters like a gender gap. We ask Pant if such battles are being waged in the stand-up scene to which he responds, “I don’t think the gender gap in the stand-up scene exists anymore. So many more women have stepped into stand-up comedy and are doing so well. Everyone knows Aditi Mittal, for instance. She’s sold out more shows in the UK than any other Indian comedian out here. The tide has changed.”
Having said that, the comic does draw attention to the absurdity of this movement placing onus almost exclusively on different spheres of the entertainment industry. “I hope we see this becoming a discussion outside the realm of showbiz too. I’d like to see this spill over to the corporate world and its functioning,” he says.
A “little” dose of wisdom
Pant’s adrenaline-high shows will stick to his standard 1.5-2-hour duration and will see him talk about a range of issues from depression, smoking, drinking and political commentary to his relationship with his wife and his two children among other things.
I think babies should be allowed to vote. They seem to have a better understanding of how things work than adults
Having based a few of his shows on his son earlier, Pant believes that kids are a huge source of motivation to continue doing comedy. “The fun part about having kids is that the world can make you very cynical and when you’re some sort of a public figure, you get love but you also get hate. That pulls you down a bit. But when you hang out with kids, you realise that even the most basic of things make them break into a smile. Human beings aren’t very different when it comes to things that make us laugh,” he adds.
Pant has toured over 75 cities and staged more than 1500 shows since he broke into the scene in 2008, but that’s not all. Over the last half a decade, he has also authored three non-fiction novels. His latest is Pawan- The Flying Accountant, a dark comedy about an invincible being who is also suicidal. “There are references to actual political figures alive today, which made my publishers very nervous. The book largely discusses the futility of wars – all kinds of it,” he explains.
Post his English sojourn, Pant heads back to Mumbai for a string of shows. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is also on the cards for him this year besides performances in Singapore, Nepal and the US.
Catch Sorabh Pant live tomorrow at Zara’s Bar at 7.30pm. For tickets, click here.