Comedian Aparna Nancherla speaks about ebook, ‘Unreliable Narrator’

Everyone on the web appears to be joking about their deteriorating psychological well being today, and it makes Aparna Nancherla squirm. But additionally, she will get it. She did make a reputation for herself within the comedy sphere by sharing her personal experiences with psychological sickness, in any case — usually on Twitter, the place she once posted that “if you can’t handle me at my depression then you don’t deserve me at my SURPRISE! it’s anxiety now.”

Those memes can act as a coping mechanism. You’re an “anxiety queen”? Yeah, me too.

What baffles Nancherla is companies cashing in on this kind of factor. In her new ebook, “Unreliable Narrator: Me, Myself, and Impostor Syndrome,” the comic, 41, displays on how “against all odds, anxiety and depression became the popular girls, via several VC-backed makeovers that threw off their glasses, de-frizzed their hair, and erased their pores.”

Now you may pay actual cash for an “Anxiety Queen” T-shirt.

“It’s a bit surreal. I think once any topic gets commodified or swallowed up by the market, it does kind of distort the meaning of it. Like, is it a pin I can wear?” (It is, technically, as a result of you can even pay actual cash for a “Lexapro Girly” pin.)

Out Tuesday, Nancherla’s assortment of essays explores this societal conundrum — and others, together with the dogged persistence of impostor syndrome — in an try to make sense of all of it. The need to “contextualize” her psychological well being struggles is what prompted her to look at them by comedy within the first place, a journey that started with an open mic set 20 years in the past, quickly after she began taking antidepressants. “The boundaries of depression and anxiety can be so vague,” she says. “Sometimes, you don’t know what’s really you and what may be these distorted thoughts you have.”

Stand-up could make issues appear much less ambiguous. Every joke wants a setup and a punchline.

On her 2016 comedy album “Just Putting It Out There,” Nancherla states, “I actually find it weirder to not have anxiety than to have it. Because I feel like if you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention.” In a Comedy Central particular that very same yr, she likens anxiety to having “an edgy improv group in your brain” that “just needs a one-word suggestion to spin countless scenarios that no one’s comfortable with.”

Then in a particular launched as a 2018 episode of Netflix’s “The Standups,” Nancherla informs the viewers, “I also have some depression. I kind of like to do anxiety for the week, depression on the weekends. They both have custody.”

Her supply is remarkably nonchalant, if self-deprecating. “If you are sick of hearing about depression & anxiety from me,” she tweeted in 2019, “imagine how i feel.” Wedged subsequent to observational jokes on appearing lessons in Los Angeles or the fear of waking up from a nap, the psychological well being bits come throughout as simply that — a little bit of her story.

But added up, they change into a model.

Though she additionally acts and has beforehand written for reveals resembling “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” Nancherla is thought most for her materials on psychological well being. The bravery of her candidness is underscored by having been certainly one of few feminine South Asian comedians when she began out, an expertise that additionally sparked her impostor syndrome.

In “Unreliable Narrator,” she grapples with these contradictions. “Maybe being a spokesperson for anything inherently makes you question your relationship to it,” she writes. “Perhaps I should have lawyered up early on and negotiated a more contractual relationship? Only partial custody of my brain?”

Nancherla rejects the notion that there’s anybody strategy to symbolize “a whole group of people who aren’t a monolith.” She compares the load of being a “spokesperson” for folks with despair and anxiousness with how entertainers from underrepresented racial backgrounds are sometimes anticipated to symbolize their total communities. She by no means actually felt “like a good example of a South Asian celebrity,” both.

“I’ve come to accept only more recently that you [can] do something that’s more specific to you and it doesn’t have to have huge, broad, mainstream appeal,” she says. “The people who like it, like it.”

And what would the proper South Asian with anxiousness appear like, anyway? Nancherla has all the time solid her personal path. Her first reminiscence of constructing a crowd chortle “in a deliberate and direct way” was at a youth speech contest at a Hindu temple in suburban Virginia. Asked to speak about a difficulty affecting the Indian group, most of her friends responded with the “evergreen themes of racism, discrimination, and representation.” Nancherla stood in entrance of the gathered adults and roasted the Bollywood movies she grew up watching.

“To my complete bewilderment, my speech went over like gangbusters,” she writes.

“Unreliable Narrator” isn’t a memoir, neither is it a information to navigating a profession in leisure whereas coping with anxiousness and despair. Nancherla can be the primary to let you know that “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental illness,” and the impostor syndrome dissuades her from dishing out recommendation, anyway.

The ebook is, as an alternative, a glimpse into the mind of a lady who works very onerous to care for it. She began writing the essays after worsening anxiousness led her to take a break from stand-up. They inform a narrative of wrestle, skepticism and, in the end, perseverance.

“Both the comedian brain and a brain subject to anxiety and depression take nothing at face value,” she writes. “Some of us are lucky to have both — a two-headed-monster mind.”

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