Meet the ace player of Indian stand up comedy — Sorabh Pant

Asmita Kundu
Stand up comedian Sorabh Pant

Well, as Wayne Brady (Sorabh Pant did an opening act for him) said, "He's the second brilliant Indian comedian I've seen, after Russell Peters."

Indian Stand up comedian Sorabh Pant is well known for founding the comedy troupe East India Comedy. Having done more than 1,000 shows, Pant is one of India's most favourite stand-up comedians.

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Aside from being a great father, he is also an author. He penned down two books, The Wednesday Soul and Under Delhi.

In a candid interview with International Business Times, India, Sorabh Pant talks about his initial journey, experiences, future plans and more.

Here are the edited excerpts of the interview:

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International Business Times: Do you remember your first joke?

Sorabh Pant: I am pretty sure that it was about some ridiculous part of my surname. I had written a series of jokes like half pant, panties and all that nonsense. But, I do remember one of the first few jokes I did on stage. It was about a cricket ad which was released online after almost five years. It is one of the first few jokes I have ever written.

IBT: When did you realize that stand-up comedy was your calling?

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Sorabh: It was 2008 while I was touring with Vir Das. Vir put me as the opening act in ten back-to-back shows. And I had delivered on his promise by failing in almost every show. It was a complete disaster as the first show completely bombed, Vir (Das) was like it's okay. Then the second show was even worse.

I guess it was the eleventh show, which I did at the Tata Theatre in Mumbai, that gained success. People went crazy and the response was completely insane. There was a wave of laughter coming at me. I literally got goosebumps because it was what I was struggling with at that time which I knew I was good at. It is the moment when thousands of people acknowledge you for your work. It was quite exciting. I remember I was extremely emotional and almost ended up in tears backstage.

There was a wave of laughter coming at me. I literally got goosebumps because this is what I was struggling with at that time which I knew I was good at.

Actually, I spent that seven years of entrant period doing a bunch of different things like acting, photography, writing for TV and etc. and people constantly kept telling me that I was terrible. But that's the moment when I realised that this is right. This is what I am gonna do. Tata Theatre remains my favourite for any kind of act or stand-up.

IBT: If not a comedian, what would you like to become?

Sorabh: A supermodel may be [Chuckling]. I am 5.7, I am bald, and I am pretty confident that I can make it. You know, we are entering a new age where people are searching a different body type.

Jokes apart, actually I always wanted to do something stupid in my life. Firstly, I wanted to be an author and secondly, a comedian. I didn't know that I could even do it until 28 years of my life. But being an author and a comedian has always been the part of the plan. Fortunately, I am able to do comedy along with other things as well in my life. Also, two of my novels have already been published.

But there was a funny incident about this. My mom took me to an astrologer when I was in ninth standard and he foresaw my future as he said that I would become a pilot. I was left in total surprise. [Laughing harder]

IBT: How difficult was the journey during the initial years?

Sorabh: Initial years were very hard. Nobody understood what I was doing. Corporate shows used to be horrible. Colleges asked to do show for free. I used to fly down to different places across India and land there to find out that there were only 11 people in the audience.

It was challenging. But if you find something you love doing (forget it's good or bad), you will figure a way out. I was very overexcited about doing stand-up. If I really love anything in my life then my son would be the first and stand-up would come at second place.

IBT: How do you deal with a hostile audience?

Sorabh: It happens every now and then. I do 15-20 shows in a month. Out of 30 shows, it happens at least once. I like people to come and enjoy my show. If you notice, I would always prefer to interact with the audience. There are two types of audience -- one who are ready to have fun with me and who just want to relax and enjoy the show.

Initial years were very hard. Nobody understood what I was doing. Corporate shows used to be horrible. Colleges asked to do show for free.

IBT: Any interesting incident that happened during your shows?

Sorabh: Recently, I did a corporate show in Chandigarh. I love the crowd there. They are very enthusiastic. There were almost 150 people and you won't believe I interacted with almost 50 people during the show.

And, out of nowhere a guy suddenly came on the stage with two girls by his side. I tried to interact with him and he was like "kaun hain ye saala!" He became very aggressive on stage, but fortunately we had bodyguards to control the situation. Later, I heard that the guy was searching for me. But it's a very rare kind of situation though.

IBT: Tell us what Sorabh Pant is like offstage?

Sorabh: These days I write jokes, perform jokes and hang out with my son.

IBT: "My dad thinks he's funny" — how has your son inspired you?

Sorabh: I never wanted to have a kid before. But my son is so much fun. He always lands up with something silly, but having him around is just incredible.

IBT: What are you working on currently?

Sorabh: I am wholeheartedly committed to stand-up. I am working on Rant of the Pant (Sorabh's upcoming show) right now. Apart from that, I am working on my third novel which will hit the bookshelf by the end of August.

IBT: So, what's your next novel all about?

Sorabh: It's a mix of mythology and history with a pinch of comedy in it.

IBT: Web series is now an emerging platform in India. Do you have any plan to create your own web series in future?

Sorabh: We are in talks with Amazon about a web series, though I have a very little involvement in it. Angad (Singh Ranyal) is the one who is writing the script and all.

IBT: What is the mantra behind the most successful comedian in India?

Sorabh: According to me, the most important part is consistency. I always try to be professional about my job. I think most of the top guys in our country are really professional at their job. My take is always to keep working. That's what I am focusing on largely.

I love writing. I think writing is the best part of a creative person. I had written for TV for quite a long time. Started at the age of 21, I continued writing for eleven years.

IBT: Recently, a lot has been said about TVF's Arunabh Kumar case, what's you opinion on it?

Sorabh: Something like this happening in our own community makes me very angry, honestly. Comedians like us always talk about women issues, women safety and all. But a large number of people always react like "arreh ye kya badi baat hain!" Actually, seeing the volume of people came out against him makes me absolutely furious. I just want to highlight the fact that this is a huge problem in India.

Now, the investigations are still on. So, let see what happens next.

Comedians like us always talk about women issues, women safety and all. But a large number people always react like "arreh ye kya badi baat hain!"

IBT: Apart from using digital media, how can you promote stand-up comedy in India?

Sorabh: To be honest, a majority of the outreach tends to be younger people. And most of them are on social media. But I am still a fan of newspaper. I am fan of writing in newspaper or online website, whatever it could be. Actually, we are doing pretty much all we can in this regard.

I love doing news debate. Especially our shows like EIC Outrage and Rant of the Pant are all based on various news issues. But social media and online platforms are the most crucial part right now.

Sorabh Pant's favourites:

Movie: Old school Bollywood films like Chupke Chupke [specially Hrishikesh Mukherjee films]

Politician: P. V. Narasimha Rao and Chandrababu Naidu

TV series: Rick and Morty, Doctor Who {Jaspal Bhatti Flop Show]

Fellow comedian: Everyone in EIC (East India Co.medy)

Dish: Rajma-Chawal [but he has a all-time favourite fruit though—Papaya]

Cricketer: Rahul Dravid [Apart from him, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni are also on his list]

Sorabh Pant's My dad thinks he's funny and EIC Outrage are available to viewers on Amazon Prime Video.

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