Sorabh Pant is a comedy whiz and a writer. He started off writing for TV and now, he has three novels to his credit. Plus, of course, who can forget that he is an absolute delight to watch as a stand-up artist. We had the pleasure of interviewing him recently, and he had some really interesting things to say about stand-up comedy, democracy, and writing.
This is the second and last part of the interview, the first part of which appeared on Writers Melon recently.
Stand-Up Comedy – Changing With Times:
Sorabh Pant observes the change in the stand-up comedy scene and talks to us about what he knows was and what he thinks should be.
“When I was young all I wanted to do was make stupid jokes about Bollywood and do jokes about genitalia. I am still doing those jokes but I think the topic that I am talking about is a little bit more. So, yeah, again I am not saying standup is changing things but as a lot of Indian comedians have recently demonstrated we are at least capable of having conversations about different things, which is interesting.
And I do think there should be conversations about everything. It doesn’t have to be about going against one political party or one whatever. I know that there are some misguided people out there who believe that if you do one joke about the government that ties you into being a terrible human being and an anti-national and all that rubbish. I think it is a little bit more anti-national to just blindly support a government without any criticism. Your job as a comedian is to make fun of the government no matter which party is in power. Which I have been doing as a writer, on TV as a host, and a comedian since 2008.”
Democracy and Internet – Related?
“The best part about Internet is that is a democracy, right? It is a democracy of opinions. Everyone has a say, which is a positive and a negative thing. Everyone has a say, which could go either way. I am very happy with the internet, by the way. I am not one of the people who is going to complain about it. I think it’s got some not good aspects but somebody like me would not have a close to career like this if I didn’t have the internet.”
Sorabh Pant – The Writing Process:
Sorabh Pant’s writing process, he tells us, is bizarre. He based his process on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, who sort of winged it chapter to chapter. But according to Sorabh, it didn’t really work out that well.
“Douglas Adams was just him free flowing and writing insanity. And he was a goddamn genius. I tried that a couple of times and it didn’t really pan out well. I remember I had written a first draft for Pawan which was 120 pages about 30% into the story and I just deleted all of it because I didn’t think it was any good. I just write a lot. I tend to go through many drafts. This current one we went through about 11 drafts. The first draft I think was about 150,000 words and we eventually cut it down to the current thing which is about half of that.
Thoughts on Character Development:
Sorabh Pant is thorough when it comes to character development. Here’s what he tells us about his character development process:
“I wish I spent a little bit time with Pawan because a couple of characters deserved a little bit more than I gave them. I did think I spent enough time in trying to figure out Pawan and his background. There is a character, Bakshi, who I think I did pretty well. But I think I did shortchange a couple of my other characters which I was not happy with later when I read it. How you develop the characters is you just interview them and try to understand their back stories. You ask yourself questions about them. You ask them.
One of the writing techniques that worked for me is I did a little Q&A with my own characters to try and figure out what kind of answers they would give. Also, I think, when you are writing comedy you need to figure out how they speak and the kind of humor you will be able to extract from them, which are both challenges.”
Sorabh Pant and the Art of Scene Writing:
“I write the whole story line and then take a call on which scene to write when. Sometimes I get really excited by a scene and I am like, “Oh my God. I am going to write this scene first because it really stood out and spoke to me”. Sometimes I do that which I think is an interesting way to do this. Not saying an ideal way, but an interesting way to do it.”
Genres and Next Book:
“I have been writing all genres for a long time. Everything I like to write is either a comedy or in the thriller kind of zone. You basically write/create things that you enjoy consuming within budget, of course.
No plans to write the next book at the moment. It’s just an incredible amount of work to write a book and then to edit, then mark it and go through the whole regular process. It is an incredibly high amount of work. I think I won’t attempt this at least for a year now. Who knows, may I will work on a web series or something in the fiction place. I am focusing on my standup and figuring out a non-fiction show at the moment.
So just go out there and pick up the previous ones which are Wednesday Soul, Under Delhi, and Pawan: The Flying Accountant.”
Advice for Aspiring Authors:
If you are an aspiring writer, it is really important to watch my Amazon Prime special which is releasing on August 3rd called Make India Great Again. I remember William Shakespeare and Lord Tennyson and Kalidas and Prem Chand. All of them became great writers after watching my special on Amazon Prime. They were such great writers that they watched this special even before it was released. That’s true talent. That’s my message to aspiring writers.
Most important thing to keep in mind while writing comedy is that it has to be funny. I think that’s it.”
Author(s): Sorabh Pant
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Release: November 2017
Genre: Fiction/Short stories
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Featured image taken from author’s East India Comedy profile.