In a country like India, where taking offence is a national pastime, how political can the comic scene be? Is it okay to make jokes on politicians and their politics, or is everyone too scared of Jaya Bachchan?
We sent email questionnaires to India’s leading comics and satirist to get answers to these questions. We also asked them to rate themselves on our liberal-conservative scale.
Next on our series is Sorabh Pant, the founder of East India Comedy. He has earlier been ranked by the Times of India as one of India’s top ten stand-up comedians. After releasing his novel The Wednesday Soul in 2011, he created his first solo comedy show, “Pant on Fire”, followed by a second, “Travelling Pants”, both of which were successes in and outside the country.
How political is comedy in India?
Depends on the comedian. There are a few who talk a lot about politics and there are others that don’t. Some staple jokes on Rahul Gandhi, Modi, etc. exist across the board. But, beyond that — depends on the comedian. Personally, I tend to do a decent bit on politics: some informed, some uninformed and some completely juvenile. We tend to save a lot of our politics for our online videos, though, where you can communicate it clearer.
How important is it for comedy to be political?
It’s not only about politics but, yeah, if you enjoy giving a general social commentary, comedy is the place to do it. But this too differs from comedian to comedian. I do a bit of politics. But, how important is it? I don’t know. We’ve been doing The Bottom Line (on NDTV Prime) for a few months now, which is a lot about politics. We’re upgrading the show now to make it more political. But again, we’re not trying to change the world. We’re just giving our opinions and making jokes on whoever behaved like an idiot that week.
We know there are a large number of liberal comics (writers and performers) in India. But are there any conservative comics in the country? If yes, please name a few.
Not exactly my place to comment on other people’s political point of views. Ask them directly! Since in India politics seems to be about as dear to us as our religious beliefs!
Where would you place yourself on our liberal-conservative scale?
Neither [liberal nor conservative]. I have zero political leanings. There is no political party I stand behind. I stand behind India. I support whoever is working toward taking India to the next step: whether it was someone from the Congress, BJP, AAP or The Voldermort Vidya Mandir. Sadly, 95% of the times I’m disappointed.