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Aparna Nancherla On Her All-Female Comedy Show: 'Really, We're Just Four Humans'

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(Photo courtesy of Aparna Nancherla)
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If you're a comedy fan, chances are you've seen Aparna Nancherla somewhere—either onstage at the Upright Citizens Brigade, in her 2016 Comedy Central half-hour special, or guest-starring on series from Love to Master of None to HBO's Crashing.

This Tuesday, July 18, Nancherla is bringing her wit to the West Coast with a new show, "Aparna & Friends: A Night of Subjective Comedy," presented by the Hammer Museum as part of its "Bureau of Feminism" series. We spoke to Nancherla about her upcoming show at the Hammer, dating apps and comedy in the age of Trump.

You're based in New York, but do you spend much time in L.A.? I usually go to L.A. if I have work out there, probably a couple of times a year.

Which city is better for gathering comedy material, New York or L.A.?
They both offer material opportunities, but in New York, walking around, you end up having a lot more interactions and bizarre experiences. In L.A., you're in your car a lot, so it's a little bit more isolated.

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Did you contact the Hammer Museum to put together an all-female show? They actually reached out to me, and I know they're co-presenting it with Bitch Media, so they collaborated on that. But I was delighted that they asked me to put it together.

There are some amazing comedians in the show's lineup—Naomi Ekperigin, Marlena Rodriguez, Erin Lennox. Have you worked with any of them before? Yeah, they let me curate the "& Friends" part of the "Aparna & Friends" show myself, which was really nice. I know Naomi from New York, and she actually just relocated to L.A. for writing, so it worked out nicely that she would be there. Marlena is also a comedian I got to know in New York who's in L.A. for work, and Erin has lived in L.A. for a while. So it was cool to pick friends that I enjoy working with. It's a show that features female comics, but I didn't necessarily want to bill it as a "lady show", because sometimes people see that and think it's some sort of niche event, when really, we're just four humans.

You wrote a Village Voice article in December about doing stand-up in the age of Trump. Do you think "Aparna & Friends" will skew toward the political Well, I've definitely noticed lately that people are a little bit more political in their acts—especially women—just by virtue of the climate we're in right now. I guess there's no shortage of things to talk about, surrounding the government and all the issues that are in danger right now. All of us [on the Hammer show lineup] have at least some political material, but it's not a forced focus of the show, it's just, whatever people feel up to talking about.

Your cameo on Season 2 of Master of None, as a ramen-obsessed, Mortal Kombat-playing girl with a boyfriend who uses dating apps to make friends, is a highlight of the season. Are you on any dating apps yourself? I have been, in the past—I actually met my current boyfriend on Tinder, so I guess I'm a success story. (Laughs.) It's funny, though, because that was the one and only Tinder date I went on, so it was fortuitous. I was only on there for a very short amount of time, but I think I was on OKCupid a lot longer, and I was on Bumble for a short time, so I've definitely done the whole online-dating thing.

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Maybe that's why your scenes, and the whole episode ["First Date," in which Aziz Ansari's Dev takes a slew of online dates to the same restaurant], felt so real. How was it to shoot? It was fun because of the way the episode was structured—it was cut up between different dates, so we'd go to a location, it would be like, "Okay, you're up," and a revolving door of different girls going in to do their scenes. The women were also written to be a little less one-dimensional than those kinds of roles can feel.

Like a lot of today's popular comics, you're super-active on Twitter, with over 250,000 followers. Do you ever find yourself needing to log off from the site's constant news and political updates? It does feel kind of hard to avoid the news right now—even if you just follow comedy people on Twitter, everyone's commenting on whatever the latest piece of political news is. It's hard to not write about it, but I'm not like, "Okay, today I'm going to talk about this." I'll read the news, and if I have an opinion, I might tweet it out, but I primarily use it as a way to exercise my joke-writing muscle, throw out random ideas, see what sticks, and hopefully some tweets generate longer bits. Still, I think I put less thought into it than I used to—it's more things I think of as I'm going about my day, and sometimes I will just log off for a while, for my own sanity. Otherwise, you can just be on there forever.

Do you have a tweet you've written recently that you were particularly proud of? Hmm. I forget the exact wording, but I had something recently about how the White House thinks women are a myth created by Big Yogurt.

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This is the kind of question that immediately makes the mind go blank, but who are some of your favorite comedians working these days? We've collaborated before on a web series (Womanhood, for Refinery29's youtube channel RIOT), but Jo Firestone is someone I always love to watch perform. Julio Torres is another New York comic who just wrote for Saturday Night Live's last season, his point of view is very original. Anyone who has a very singular point of view, like John Early and Kate Berlant—there are so many great comics working right now.
Are there any podcasts you'd recommend to comedy-loving Angelenos stuck in traffic?
I'm a big fan of WNYC's Another Round, which is more of an interview/chat-type podcast, but its hosts, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, are both really entertaining. WNYC also has 2 Dope Queens, hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, which is a great way to find new comics you might not have heard of. 2 Dope Queens definitely showcases a great range of people—Naomi Ekperigin, who's doing "Aparna & Friends" at the Hammer, has been on, and I did one the first season, which was so much fun.


"Aparna & Friends: A Night of Subjective Comedy" is at the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, at 7:30pm on Tuesday, July 18. Admission is free, and seating is first come, first serve.