Amazon Prime Video | 1 hr | Released: January 2017
I first saw Sorabh Pant perform stand-up around 10 years ago, when he opened for Vir Das’ live special Walking on Broken Das at the Tata Theatre in Mumbai. I found his style loud and grating, and didn’t seek out his work again, though I did come across it occasionally online—nothing that I saw changed my opinion. So I sat down to watch his Amazon Prime Video special with very low expectations.
To my surprise, I found that Pant now has excellent control over his delivery. He’s still loud, but the bursts of volume are now interspersed between longer, calmer segments and his mic control when he does yell is top notch. It served as a welcome reminder that even for those with more mellow taste in stand-up, a comedian who has control over their vocal aggression—Arj Barker is another example—is a pleasure to listen to.
Pant’s years of experience are evident in other ways too. Most other Indian comedians who have Amazon specials out seem to have struggled with structuring their sets—bits are oddly patched together, call-backs seem forced and long sections are given over to uninteresting anecdotes. But with Pant and Vir Das’s specials, there’s an effortlessness of flow that ensures that your attention does not flag through the show. There are funnier bits in other specials, (such as Rahul Subramanian’s bit on DJs) but as complete pieces, Das and Pant’s specials stand out for their structural cohesiveness.
He’s still loud, but the bursts of volume are now interspersed between longer, calmer segments and his mic control when he does yell is top notch.
Pant’s main subject matter in the special is his marriage and his experience with fatherhood. His wife is the butt of a lot of his jokes, but there’s an affection underlying the material, and a constant edge of self-deprecation that keeps it from becoming too clichéd. He strikes a good balance between a sincere husband and father and a confused comedian wondering what on earth he’s gotten himself into (“my son is evil as fuck!”). But there’s still the occasional line that one wishes had been more closely examined for latent gender stereotypes (“Ours was a love marriage. I loved my wife, she loved marriage.”).
There are no extended set pieces here, no rambly anecdotes that go on for ten minutes and more, as there are in the other specials. And that’s a relief. Indian comics seem to have a long way to go before they get a firmer grasp on anecdotal material—though they’re occasionally writing and performing world-class observational material, we’re yet to see a really good example of anecdotal standup from our comics.
Pant chooses instead to meander through the bylanes of much the same subject for the length of his special, breaking into shorter anecdotes and observations, an approach that helps keeps the viewer’s attention from flagging, and gives the show an endearing, unforced quality. He talks, among other things, about going for a sperm test, the experience of his wife’s pregnancy and childbirth, getting used to the idea of being a father and raising his son. He gets huge, well-deserved laughs in short jokes about how his parenthood changed his relationship with is own parents, and how his father asked his mother to marry him. He also aces his crowd work, including one hilarious reaction to a young man who speaks up about his father’s support for his career choices. At the end of the show, Pant manages to leave you feeling like you’ve spent an hour with a performer who didn’t have to try too hard to keep you engaged—and that’s one of the hardest things for a comedian to do.
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