Digital Studio

Ace comedian Sorabh Pant on adapting online

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Spreading laughter and making the most out of lockdown can be quite challengin­g for a performer used to being on- stage, with multiple platforms to suit. For ace comedian Sorabh Pant – everything boils down to being adaptable and consistent. In conversati­on with Karishma Hingorani, he shares his experience on working with the latest tech and keeping the spirit for good content alive

FROM TELEVISION TO REMOTE TO HYBRID, YOU HAVE ADAPTED TO IT ALL. WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE?

We had to innovate and adapt constantly. At the start of the pandemic itself – April 2020 onwards, I realised this is going to be here for a while. I started a show called Wake Up with Sorabh, which is basically me doing online content four times a week. The YouTube live on my channel features different historians, actors, comedians and sports people etc. The challenges for all these mediums are completely different, but adaptabili­ty remains the most important. Doing a stand up show on Zoom, or any platform needs you to be adaptable. Essentiall­y, you won’t be able to make money, if you don’t.

HOW DIFFERENT IS OFFLINE AND ONLINE FOR A PERFORMER?

Both are completely different. We had a taste of both before the second wave hit India. I was touring back then and had announced about thirteen shows to be performed at live venues in less than a month. Even though the audience was less than a third, we had to keep protocols in mind. Although on a side note, it is easier to get a full house with just 45 people. However, nothing beats the experience of having a live audience in front of you.

The advantage of having your show on Zoom is the fact that you get to play around during the interactio­n, keeping it fun, comfortabl­e and laid- back. There is so much already happening on the Zoom call for you to pick cues from. You become almost like a United Nations of comedy with people from all parts of the world. When we started on- stage in between, people actually came up to me and said please do a Zoom show once a month, so that we can watch it anywhere. The huge pro about online shows I have noticed is – people come back for more, unlike in- person gigs.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT PERFORMING IN DUBAI?

There is always a nice mix bag of people – you have Bangladesh­is, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, etc. all in the same room and I absolutely love that. When you only do shows in India, your references become very local. When you travel internatio­nally to perform, you realise your content needs to be global.

I can’t forget to mention other perks such as the hotels you get to stay in, the experience of traveling in the city, meeting people and organisers who are always so hospitable. Next time I think, I will get my kids too. I might do a show in Dubai soon and I am pretty sure there is a significan­tly high chance that most Indian comedians are going to host their first internatio­nal show in Dubai – once restrictio­ns relax. There is going to be quite a flux of us there.

THE FUNNIEST THING YOU CAN SAY ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF PERFORMING OVER A ZOOM CALL?

There has been so much fun stuff that has happened. Recently, I was doing a show where a person from Singapore and another from Bhopal were on the same call. One of them took their wife’s name and it turned out she was the other

person’s ex- girlfriend. Such random things keep happening all the time.

I also do a lot of corporate shows and it is always fun when people forget to unmute themselves and you hear funny backdrop conversati­ons. Somebody once happened to get through an HR contact over my call too.

HAS GOING ONLINE HELPED EXPAND YOUR REACH? IS IT FINANCIALL­Y VIABLE AND SUSTAINABL­E IN THE LONG RUN?

It has surely gotten me closer to the people who like my work. I have got regular members on my YouTube channel, we are also on WhatsApp groups together, and on the Discord server – where they tell me what I should be doing or watching. Thanks to them, I have gotten into anime.

Financiall­y, it is definitely different from what I did earlier. Before, we would be paid upfront for shows and coporates. Now, money comes from YouTube lives and sponsorshi­ps, however the volume of content is more. Earlier, one could do twelve gigs, but now you have to plan over twenty lives. Sponsorshi­ps help sustain.

This change has also really pushed us out of our limits. Before, I could be a comedian who does his gig and that’s it. Today, one has to innovate. Having work during the pandemic is something to be ridiculous­ly grateful for by itself. You need to invest in a mic, webcam, or ring light, but the cost really isn’t something you can’t recover within a week of doing YouTube lives. Yet, I believe nothing compares to the experience of doing a live show.

HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTI­ATE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE IS NEW CONTENT BEING PUT OUT EVERY DAY?

Internet has become a space where everybody has an opinion, even people who did not have any platform to express themselves earlier. Being in a business where you have to constantly put yourself out there, you need to figure out what works best for you.

WHICH IS YOUR PREFERRED PLATFORM?

YouTube and Twitter. YouTube is my favourite and I love the format. I have got two separate channels on the platform, one for stand- up and another for the YouTube lives I do. I also like how you can make some money on it.

THAT ONE TIP TO INCREASE VERSATILIT­Y?

There were a couple of episodes on Wake Up with Sorabh, where I was not prepared. I did not have any specific questions to ask and things were very generic. And then I started constantly researchin­g about the people I was interested in, spending almost three hours listening to their earlier interviews, or reading a book written by them. What I am trying to say is, versatilit­y is about exactly that – putting in the work and knowing what your strengths are. You have to be excited about learning new skills.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TECHNOLOGI­ES YOU HAVE BEEN USING FOR YOUR LIVESTREAM­S AND WOULD RECOMMEND?

I have used every possible technology for livestream­s and stand up shows out there. I started with Zoom and stuck to it, because it is easy to work on with YouTube as well. I tried OBS streams for a while, but my laptop is an old MacBook Pro, hence, compatibil­ity was an issue. For my corporate shows, I have used every other app available for meetings – be it Microsoft Teams, Streamyard, or Webex. You need to make sure the app being used allows you to see the people and hear them clear. You don’t want your performanc­e to look like a vlog. There is nothing weirder than watching a comedian without any interactio­n. Teams and Streamyard have been fairly good for interactiv­ity, but Zoom is easier. At the end of the day, platforms may change, but what you do stays the same.

 ??  ?? Sorabh has performed more than 250 shows around the world.
Sorabh has performed more than 250 shows around the world.
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