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Frustrated TV scriptwriter finds his calling in stand-up comedy

After touring the country with Pant on Fire, The Traveling Pants, The Comedy Lab and Tuesdays with Morons, stand-up comic Sorabh Pant touched down at Virgose, Hotel Hindusthan International, to crack a few jokes with fellow comic Sahil Shah, one of the members of East India Co.medy, an act that Pant founded in 2012. Sorabh shared his nanga-fun story with t2 on Friday...

Switching from writing for TV to stand-up comedy.

It was an absolute disaster. Writing for TV in India is the worst thing ever, especially when I started off. Seven years back there was nothing worth watching on TV. The only fun show I was doing back then was a news comedy show (on CNBC). I ended up writing a book (The Wednesday Soul) about what happens after one dies… I was so frustrated writing scripts. I remember this once incident when I wrote a ‘script’ for a VJ... All he had to say was: “Hello this is so and so and we are at club XYZ.” This sentence took him 14 takes! So, I was like, what am I doing here?

So, no K-shows for you?

(Smiles) I was approached to play a villain in one of those serials and I overacted my a** off. They were like, “Sir, brilliant take.” I said, “No it’s not. It’s absolutely f****** awful.” Stand-up comedy allows you to be yourself.

Your lead character in The Wednesday Soul is a modern-day vigilante who takes on rapists and molesters after she dies. Besides, a lot of your material dwells on lecherous men. Would you call yourself a feminist?

I’m not a feminist. Indian men are idiots. Men behave differently across India. In the north they give women a “whole-hearted” stare. I was with my sister in Hyderabad and she wondered if it was appropriate to wear a skirt. I said it was fine. Had it been Delhi, men would have done a head-to-toe scan. That was how Nyra (the lead character in his debut novel) was born. I was born in Delhi and I’m one of those few people who still likes Delhi. It’s always that seven per cent of the population who gives the city a bad name.

Tell us about East India Co.medy.

After Apple and Google it’s the third biggest company in the world! It actually started as a mission to promote comedy. We’re not getting any money out of this. We’re doing a show where we actually lost money. But the plan is to spot fresh talent. Our tagline: “Importing Indian comedy to India”.

It’s said that Indian’s don’t talk about sex.

Indians are actually not like that at all. Come on, we are born nanga. We became prudes because of the Raj… the Brits are conservative. Look at Khajuraho. Please, sex is in our genes!

You’ve opened for Rob Schneider and Wayne Brady and started your career with Vir Das. Is there an Indian approach to stand-up comedy?

It’s way more evolved there. Our comedy is racist. I crack jokes about the Chinese and French and in the US they say stuff you can’t talk about in India. The stand-up comedy scene in the US is decades old. Yes, there have been ‘hasya kavi sammelans’ but that’s not exactly stand-up comedy. We still have a long way to go. I have close to three hours of material and I could probably use just 40 minutes of it abroad. When Rob Schneider came to India he didn’t do too well. He tried to be personal, which is the American blueprint for comedy. It doesn’t work here.

Shootout with Sorabh

Who wears the pants in your family?

My wife. I lent them to her.

When is your pant on fire?

Err, when I’m not wearing them. But that is because my wife is wearing them.

If brevity is the soul of wit, what’s the heart?

Whisky.

That awkward moment when…

I have nothing to say.

One personality who makes the best fodder for your jokes…

My wife. She’s crazy. She’s a lunatic. You know how women have that fat-arm complex! She has skinny arms but all she has to do is find one woman with thinner arms. And then she goes, “My arms are fat.” Lunatic!

Picture: Soumali Chaudhuri