September 21, 2019

Aparna Nancherla’s Comedy Diary: ‘Inspiration Is Like the Urge to Pee’

Aparna Nancherla’s Comedy Diary: ‘Inspiration Is Like the Urge to Pee’


11:40 a.m. Gym. As I use the elliptical, I wonder about all the substances I put in my body; I picture my GI tract as a Wall Street trading floor with various liquids and solids yelling into phones, making demands of the rest of my sorry organs.

12:45 p.m. Race back to my apartment to shower and pack for the Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Mass., tomorrow. I succeed in my goal of getting to Penn Station just before they announce our gate.

2:20 p.m. As a self-employed “creative,” I feel like I’m supposed to be good at working in transit. “Stand-up?” “I’ll write on the bus.” “The commissioned essay?” “I’ll whip something up on the train.” “My taxes?” “I’ll do them on the redeye.” Guess what? It never happens. On this train I make a set list for tomorrow, read parts of a book and play several games of Candy Crush. Don’t worry, I’ve berated myself thoroughly without your judgment, thanks.

9:30 a.m. Music festivals make me nervous. I figure people are there to see music, not comedy, and that kicks off the roll call of negative thoughts: What if they hate me? What if I have to walk around a bunch of people I just bombed in front of? Why does it matter? Why do I matter? Why does my ego get in the way of just existing? And so on. Nothing perseveres like anxiety.

10:35 a.m. Sound check. Thankfully, the comedy venue is indoors and apart from the music stage; it’s got an art museum vibe. I meet John Hodgman, who organizes the comedy show portion of the festival, as well as the other producers. It’s low-key in the green room, designed to make you feel at ease. But my nerves are like, “At ease? [Expletive] you! This is our time to shine.”

12 p.m. To try to calm my nerves I listen to an old set — it reminds my brain that I’ve done this before.

2 p.m. John Hodgman hosts the afternoon segment with Jean Grae, a comic and hip-hop artist from Brooklyn. They do a live version of his podcast, Judge John Hodgman, where he arbitrates issues people are having (e.g. one man is concerned about his girlfriend putting her drinking glass on top of the toilet). The crowd is warm and engaged, and Rhea Butcher, the L.A. comic who performs before me, has a killer set. I realize maybe my anxiety has no place here. Still, I take some meds — propranolol — to keep me from getting too shaky.



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