By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER — “I think I first started writing about depression in my act when I was sort of in one, and I was having trouble writing at all, and I was like ‘if you can’t write anything at all maybe just try to write about what you’re going through right now,’ and that pushed me to do it.” Comedian Aparna Nancherla’s comedy often deals with her struggles with mental illness. She’s channelled that and more into a number of TV writing positions (notably Late Night with Seth Meyers), a podcast about dealing with depression called The Blue Woman Group with fellow comic Jacqueline Novak, and one of the funniest Twitter accounts you can find today.
It was only a few years ago that dealing with mental illness was something that comedians did behind the scenes, coming up in the act only as a symptom, taking them to dark places as a byproduct rather than by deliberation. For Nancherla things have changed quite a bit since then. She explains, “I think that comedians like Marc Maron and Maria Bamford have really opened the doors on being vulnerable on stage and being open about darker topics and that has ushered in a wave of more confessional honest and raw comedy.” This might play a role in comedy’s current popularity. “It helps people to go in into darker areas when they tie to their own experience. It makes it more accessible to people.”
While the recent election of Donald Trump might seem to exacerbate anxieties and depression, and comedy might seem like a force of good on that front, Nancherla, who often deals with political issues in her comedy suggests caution: “I think it is a fine line, normalizing or making light of the situation as opposed to attacking the bigger issues that are being affected. It’s fine to make those [peepee jokes], but you shouldn’t be okay with what’s happening.”
Catch Aparna Nancherla live February 25 at the Biltmore Cabaret.Aparna Nancheria, BC, Biltmore Cabaret, British Columbia, JFL Northwest, JFL Northwest Comedy Festival