Saloni Gaur is waiting to receive her degree in Political Science and Economics. The popular social media creator only finished her final exams a few months ago, and already has her own show on a major streaming platform. Uncommon Sense With Saloni premiered this week on SonyLIV and follows a late-night-esque structure. There's an opening monologue on current events followed by sketches of her playing various characters and satirising social issues. Saloni has had quite the year. She's become a viral sensation through her memorable characters, like Kangana Runout and Nazma aapi, with over a million followers across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Over a Zoom call the comedy creator spoke to me about her new show, what you can and can't say on a streaming platform and wanting to try stand-up.
How did Uncommon Sense With Saloni happen? Did you approach SonyLIV or did they approach you?
They approached me. I think they might have seen my videos on Instagram. They did not have a plan, they just said 'you do whatever you want to do'. They gave me full creative liberty. They were like 'yeh aapka show hai, aapko jaise karna hai vaise karo. Just keep the audience engaged. Do whatever you do on social media, just on a bigger level'. So we made a team and and did a narration and they really liked it.
With all your viral videos, you're a one person army. You write shoot, record and edit yourself. You're entire set up is a borrowed laptop on a pile of books. Was it strange to go from that to this big show with a lavish set and a whole team?
Slightly, but I'm enjoying this process. I mean, it's very easy for me now. Earlier I used to set up everything on my own. Now there is a team for everything, from the set up to the mic to the camera, and I really have to do nothing. I just go there and act, and enjoy myself. At first it was strange because everything I've ever created was just me speaking to the camera, but now there's three cameras pointing at me and I need to look at each of them and say my line and I'd keep thinking 'abhi kidhar dekhu, abhi kidhar dekhu?'. Then the director told me that you have to complete a sentence and then look towards the other camera (laughs). Everything's happened smoothly after that.
Based on the first episode, the structure of the show involves you talking about current events. There's a stand up component with your opening monologue as well as sketches with you playing characters. Was the concept your idea?
We had a lot of discussions with the team about how we wanted it to be. One thing I had in mind was the fact that my audience have always asked me to make longer videos and they'd always complain they were too short, and they also wanted to see me perform stand-up. So we thought 'let's give them that, let's do stand-up and sketch and make it a longer video'.
There aren't a lot of news comedy shows in India but the US is obviously known for them. Were there any specific shows that you were really inspired by when making yours?
Yes. I mean the writers used to talk about Jaspal Bhatti's shows a lot. I mean, I never got a chance to watch it because I wasn't even born. And then there is also Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act which we talked about a lot. So we thought 'let's do something in that space only'.
You're going for comedy but you're also talking about things in the news and commenting on current events. What do you see as the aim of the show? Is it purely to make people laugh or also to keep them informed through jokes?
Both, because that's my style. That's what I do on social media. And that's what Sony wanted – for me to stick to my USP which is to talk about something, really serious but in a funny manner. That's what I do on social media, now I just need to do it on stage with a 25 lakh camera (laughs).
Is it strange working with a team of writers for a show that's supposed to be in your voice? Was that strange to get used to?
No, it wasn't. We're all friends and we all think alike. So there is no issue ki 'aisa toh hum nahi bolenge ki yeh mera style nahi hai'. They all know my style and they write every episode keeping in mind that I'll be the one performing it and it should be for my audience. So, it's everybody's, it's not just my show. Even if it has my name on it, it's all of ours and we all work on it together to make it what it is.
One of the reasons people enjoy watching your videos is because on social media, you're completely free to talk about the things you want. Whether it's Kangana Ranaut or politics or controversial topics. With your first episode, you get the sense you're sticking to safer territory. So when you're working with a platform, are there places you can't go?
The only thing we kept in mind with the channel is not to target anyone in particular and just say things in a more general way. But even when I made videos for my social media, this was the case. Even there I sometimes feel like I should not call people by their names or directly target them.
And we have seen people receiving backlash on other shows, and that's not what I want. But that doesn't also mean that I won't speak about something which I believe in. Like the first episode itself is about unemployment, which is quite a big thing in India. So we are doing the show in the same way I do, and we're not afraid of speaking about certain things. As long as the channel is happy, and they're not saying anything about it, then we'll do that.
So we can expect a Kangana episodes soon?
Expect everything. We are going to make this huge. Everybody's going to be there, as well as certain new characters. There are certain things the show will evolve into eventually, I can't disclose more than this, but I think everybody will enjoy it.
Is a part of you worried about how your audience will react? Do you ever worry that they'll call you a sell out or complain that you'll be creating less for social media now?
No, my audience is really great in that aspect. I mean, they're always like 'you go girl!'. They were always very supportive of me, even if I was doing any paid promotions on my social media and I think they will do this, in future too. And I'm still creating videos for social media. The frequency has decreased but I'm still making videos. I just made a video about the US elections. That was just me and my camera and that is never going to change.
You're only 21 one, but you've already become a social media sensation and now you have your own show. What's next? Is there a specific thing you're working towards or are you just going with the flow?
I never thought about getting something this big. I mean, I was in college two months ago giving my final exams. I only just graduated. I always imagined that someday I'll perform in front of a large audience at a stadium or something, but I never imagined having my own show at this age. Everything that's happened with me this year like going viral and all the videos, have all happened suddenly, none of it was planned. I just went with the flow, and it's the same with this.
Is that still the dream? To one day perform in front of a full stadium?
It is still something I dream about every day. I used to perform at college fests, but never at a proper club. So, I want to start from scratch. I don't consider myself as a stand-up comedian because I haven't done it much. So, I want to start small. But yes, one day a full stadium is the dream.