This week we feature the current favorites of comedian Aparna Nancherla. She recently wrote for and sometimes appeared on the late, great TV series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. Other credits include @midnight, Conan, LA Weekly‘s “12 Comedy Acts to Watch”, Serial Optimist’s “10 Comics You Must Know”, Splitsider’s “10 Up-and-Coming Comedians on Each Coast”, 2013 New Face at the Just for Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival, the WTF Podcast with Marc Maron, the Nerdist Podcast with Chris Hardwick, Last Comic Standing, SXSW, SF Sketchfest, the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, the Great American Comedy Festival, NPR, Laughspin, Funny or Die, Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post Magazine, TimeOut NY, and Slate V. Aparna was just listed as one of Time Magazine’s Top 140 Tweeters for 2014 for comedy.
1. Broad City on Comedy Central (TV)
I get straight up overwhelmed by all the choices for what there is to watch on TV. I still haven’t started Game of Thrones, or Lost for that matter. Breaking who? And I am shamefully still in the first season of The Wire, but I fell in love with this new show fast and hard. It’s set up as a half-hour comedy, but it plays with the form, with dream sequences and sketch-like elements, and covers all my bases for me. Two winningly specific female best friend leads? Check. Trying to make it on a budget, whether it’s their dreams, their relationships, or just their next sandwich? Check. Playing the city of New York like a half-tuned saxophone? Checkmate. This show is different and sincere in its goofiness and I love it. Scope it out!
2. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Fiction)
I don’t know a lot about North Korea. It’s hard to divine exactly what it would be like to live there just from how the media portrays it and the country’s policy of willful isolation. So when I picked up this historical fiction tale written by a Stanford University professor, I didn’t really know what to expect. The dramatic tale paints a starkly blunt reality with bright red dabs of satire and unexpected turns. I found the experience immersive because Johnson seamlessly fills in the gaps of what he wasn’t able to divine from his exhaustive research into the country and its veiled existence. The story’s main character is Jun Do (à la John Doe) and follows his life working in various capacities for the North Korean government, garnering power and status along the way. In so doing, it details the stark reality of what it’s like to live there depending on what societal role you fill. This is an essential read for anyone looking to understand more about North Korea, and to appreciate many freedoms I know I’ve taken for granted.
3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Non-fiction)
I am a lifelong introvert, and I’ve always been told to speak up more throughout my life. In this book, Susan Cain illustrates the power of this often overlooked personality type and why sometimes it’s good to reflect rather than to be outgoing. She also illustrates ways for introverts to adapt their strengths to societies that favor the “squeakiest wheel.” I felt less like a wallflower after reading this book and more like a worthwhile member of society. Just ask my therapist. I would encourage anybody to read this book, regardless of their personality type. It is pretty heavy on research though, so her TED talk might be a good intro to it.
4. Lo-Fang (Music)
Matthew Hemerlein is a musician who I first saw when I was doing comedy in DC. He was a musician on the rise even then. His work is transcendent and beautiful and ethereal. He now goes by Lo-Fang and is touring with the release of his first album, Blue Film. He also just wrapped up opening for Lorde’s tour. Yes, that Lorde. He’s onto big things, so find out about him sooner rather than later.
5. Sabina England (Poetry)
I recently did a show in DC and was lucky enough to get to see deaf punk/playwright Sabina England, who was also on the bill, perform for the first time. She is powerful, graceful, and utterly unique. It’s so inspiring to see how various artists transform and evolve the very mediums they work with. If you ever get the chance to see her, do it!