ROAR Call: Aparna Nancherla

You write some of the funniest and politically incisive tweets out there, such as “I, for one, am looking forward to the first time someone live-tweets their impeachment.” What role does Twitter play in your career? Do you ever prefer it to stand up?

First of all, thank you! In fact, second of all, thank you as well. Thirdly, let us (ahem, me) actually address the question. Twitter has been a huge boon for me in that I joined it expecting nothing. In turn, it has given me a much wider platform than I could have ever imagined, not to mention job opportunities and the like.

I think there was a point at which I got very obsessive about it and needed to chill out and remember to be a person and not an overemotional bot. Now I’d like to think I’ve found more of a healthy balance in using it to send out jokes and commentary, but also keeping in mind the numbers aren’t my problem to worry about. Though I’ll be honest, even as I wrote that, I felt a pang of worry. So, here we are.

I think sometimes I prefer Twitter to stand up in that it’s available anytime and you don’t need a minimum number of live physical bodies to make it happen. Comedians enjoy stand up for the instant gratification, and Twitter is like a synthetic, even more potent version of that because the show is never over and the audience could include Debra Messing or the ghost writer behind the Arby’s account, you just never know. There’s a weird thrill in that it plays with the idea that social media is essentially a type of Second Life where we’re all versions of ourselves or whatever entities we’ve created and how real are our actual interactions versus heavily self-doctored projections?

In that sense, it almost feels like a break from everyday life, even though it’s still very much a part of it, both the good and the bad. Oops, I think my answer turned into a TED Talk and for that (and only that), I apologize.

What was the most unexpected part of the process of writing/recording your album “Just Putting It Out There”?

Honestly, the most unexpected part for me was how it came about to be at all. One of my big inspirations and role models, Tig Notaro, approached me about doing one for a new label she was starting called Bentzen Ball Records. I had toyed with the idea of making an album before, but as a naturally self-loathing perfectionist, I was simultaneously horrified by the idea. But I’d met Tig a couple years back through doing her Washington, D.C.-based comedy festival, Bentzen Ball, back when I was a wee comic starting out there, and then we crossed paths again when I lived in Los Angeles, and we’d always had a friendly rapport. Then I had the chance to open for her at the New York Comedy Festival, along with her HBO special taping, and then received her extremely generous offer. I was floored and it both humbled and encouraged me. Tig continues to be someone I really look up to, both as a comic and as a person.

How do you define feminism?

I believe inherently it’s equality for all genders. Along with that though, it’s about not living in a shame-driven, guilt-based society, which I feel is how a lot of people’s stories get lost or silenced.

What single event, either personal, professional, or global, do you hope will occur by this time next year?

I’m going to say impeachment, but I’m not gonna say who. I’m no snitch!

Which country do you think is the most enlightened in the world?

This is tough. Enlightenment feels like an intangible measure to me. I’ve read that happiness levels are very high in Southeast Asia despite the quality of life being higher in some Western countries. I think that is pretty telling, but I also worry, are we exoticizing Asia again? I don’t know if I can take another Westerner documenting their spiritual journey through India. It is a very culturally and historically rich and diverse country, but you can also enlighten yourself wherever you are. Really! There are apps now. I think I very messily avoided answering this question entirely.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I just finished Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. And I mean just this afternoon. Wow, I had to sit down after reading it. I mean, I was already sitting down, but mentally, I had to sit down again. It’s basically a documentation of a marriage from beginning to end, essentially told from two perspectives, the husband and the wife. It’s this meticulous yet casual storytelling that really draws you in, and when you least expect it, it devastates you. Rinse, lather, repeat. Before that, I finished You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson, fellow stand up comic and all-around hilarious, smart entity. I loved it, and it will make you laugh a whole lot, but also consider the world around you more carefully. I highly recommend both.

When is the last time you had to stop what you were doing because you were overcome by an instance of beauty (and what was that beautiful moment)?

This actually happens to me a lot. I frequently get caught up in minutiae and forget about what I’m doing. That sounds pretentious, and it probably is, but I find so many small moments beautiful. Today I saw this dog on a walk just pause for a moment to consider something, maybe it was a smell or a noise or a memory of one, but the furry head cocked to the side like he was trying to remember whether he left the stove on or not, and he stood stock-still and his owner (clearly not the one in charge) quietly waited with him, and then he decided he’d considered long enough and it was time to proceed onward with the day.

Just Putting It Out There is now available on iTunes.

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