Anecdota

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Aparna Nancherla: How depression led to stand-up comedy


I definitely kind of stumbled into comedy. I am a comedian, writer, have a website.
Those all hold up in court. I am a daughter, sister, friend,
frenemy, enemy, Emmy, Oscar. Kind of lost my train of thought at the end of that one. Turned into more of a word association. I am an anxious depressive, as you heard,
therapy regular, PMS enthusiast. Trying to reclaim that last one, bring it back strong. I think what actually got me the courage
to first do standup was, weirdly, that I had had problems with eating
my second year of school, and took time off, and eventually was diagnosed with depression. And I just started writing about those things
cause I was very much in my head. And I was like, “Well, if this is all that’s filling your head,
might as well try to write about this.” I think people responded in a way where I was like,
“Oh, wow, this is something that I think people really relate to.” Cause it can feel very alienating sometimes
to get onstage, and talk about mental health, and have no one understand what you’re talking about. Yeah, has that ever happened, that you’ve gone on and you’ve talked about mental health,
talked about anxiety and depression, and people are just kind of like, staring at you? Yeah! I think it’s just, every so often
they’re just not gonna get it, and you have to be like, “That’s okay, cause I know there is someone
who listened to this and it actually meant a lot to them.” I went to the campus health center, and the resident nurse there was the first person I sort of
figured this thing out with, that I was struggling with. She had a whole bunch of cards and then she was like, “Just pick two that you think might help you along the way.” And I still carry them around with me as a reminder to check in with myself and how I’m doing, and
not always be worried about everyone else. I sort of read it as authenticity to self,
and to not always be like, “This is what people expect of me” versus, like, “What do I actually want?” And even in comedy, it’s like, “What do I want to say?”
versus, “What do I think people want to hear from me?” And then patience, I think, is more like,
don’t rush to get to a goal. Like, it’s cliched, but it really is about getting there. And I have found that, even as I’ve had
more success in my field, it never is about the thing, it’s about how you got there, or the people you can share it with. It’s so rarely the actual thing itself. If you can talk a little bit about what your notebooks
mean to you, and what your process is like, I think a lot of people see these amazing
comedians, and yourself included, onstage, and they wonder, “How do I, where do I draw from?” Here I just wrote down “Subway saxophonist.” “This guy was busking on the subway, but he was so bad, it’s as if he watched an instructional video on saxophone
and said, ‘I’ll do everything the opposite.’” I still write in like, 6th grade cursive, it’s very embarrassing.
I never evolved out of it. I think the idea is just that you’re always
feeding off your environment and trying to look at the world in an analytical way. I mean, I think comedians, in essence, often have philosopher brains
in that they’re often questioning everything. And that’s kind of how jokes come about, where you’re like, “Well, why is it this way,” you know, instead of just taking it for face value. I went through airport security the other day. I went through that big cylinder where it has to make sure,
like, each of your cells gets cancer. And I go through, and the agent,
without even looking up from the screen, he just goes, kind of to himself, he just goes, “Oh, right in the hoohah.” And I was like, “Why did that section go off?”
I was like, “Did all my coins fall down there?” And then I was like, “Oh no, I remember.” I replaced mine with a gun, cause those are less regulated. It is a very inherently masculine art form
in that you’re essentially like, “These are my ideas, and you have to listen to them,
and this is a one-way conversation.” And women are always socialized to be accommodating,
and like, “What do you want to talk about?” Or, “I’m just gonna listen to you talk.” So it’s very much like reversing that power dynamic. I think in the end it’s like, you can only really
stick to what you are and what you know. And people will, you know,
eventually gravitate towards that. Or you’ll create your own opportunities. To me it’s always sort of led with what I want to do. And then all the labels come after that. So, especially to younger girls who might not think that they’re funny, what would be your advice to them? I would say the biggest thing is just to try. Cause I think for me, a lot of years,
I just spent thinking about it in my head. And then the only way to really know was to dive in.

11 thoughts on “Aparna Nancherla: How depression led to stand-up comedy

  1. I have depression and heard most stand up comedians do as well. Throughout my whole life I have loved comedy and people who were funny and made people genuinely laugh. This video basically give me a little shove towards comedy, thanks.

  2. She acts like a white girl aspiring to be one. Doesn't have the strength of an Indian woman. Looks like someone who has given up her culture.

  3. Girl you are my idol!!! In every aspect.
    I’m trying realllly hard to get more comfortable with my Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and anxiety. Watching you and even other comedians has helps me immensely. But you, you are just amazing!!! I love you Aparna!!! ❤️💜❤️💜❤️💜❤️💜❤️

  4. I suffer from depression and know my piano skills help me with connecting with people. People who live in a superficial life don’t live in the reality and do take whatever they get for face value. I still dislike phony behavior and wish I had a platform to speak to people to explain my day to day situations.

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