On Friday, July 8, comedian Aparna Nancherla released her debut comedy album Just Putting it Out There to the top spot on the iTunes new comedy album chart. Her album is the first release from label Secretly Canadian’s Bentzen Ball Records, a comedic imprint headed by comic Tig Notaro and named after a man who died while laughing.
Named by Variety as one of “10 Comics to Watch for 2016,” Nancherla is getting her own Comedy Central special this year too. She has been performing for a decade and is all over the comedy scene this year with appearances on Inside Amy Schumer and co-hosting the web series Womanhood. Her album is available on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, Spotify, and as a CD. Nancherla is touring following its release — for details on her upcoming shows visit http://aparnacomedy.com/shows.
The night before her album came out, Nancherla performed on Conan. Watch a clip from Conan below for a sample of what to expect from Just Putting it Out There.
It’s not the first time Nancherla has appeared on Conan (watch her 2013 appearance online). It’s also not the first time she has discussed her depression in her performances. It may not seem like a big deal to frankly discuss her lifelong depression among a variety of everyday life topics given her matter-of-fact, dry delivery and observational style, a style which strikes a chord with so many people on Twitter.
But it is a big deal.
By including discussion of her mental health in performances, Nancherla brings to the stage an important topic on which many South Asian Americans maintain an unhealthy silence, leading to stigma, discomfort and even suicide. Read more about some of the cultural reasons for this and some of the mental health statistics for South Asian Americans in Dr. Jyothsna S. Bhat’s “The Taboo of Mental Illness in the South Asian American Community” and Priya-Alika Elias’ “The Silence About Mental Health in South Asian Culture Is Dangerous”. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Bhat’s post:
A recent article in India West reported on interesting findings of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) that a higher percentage of South Asian Americans, particularly those between the ages of 15 and 24, had been found to exhibit depressive symptoms. The article also pointed out a higher rate of suicide among young South Asian American women than the general US population.
The article further suggested that factors such as family conflict and stress/anxiety may contribute to the greater rates of depression and/or suicide seen in this population. Unfortunately, according to the same APIAHF report, South Asian Americans have the lowest rate of utilization of mental health services. Naturally, this also contributes to a worsening of underlying illnesses. What are the reasons for this? The South Asian American community has struggled for many years to overcome the stigma and societal discomfort around mental illness.
Nancherla also worked on a comedy podcast about depression this year. In the Blue Woman Group, she and fellow comedian Jacqueline Novak discuss managing depression and their experiences with a big dose of humor.
The comedian also talks about depression, anxiety, and how it’s affected her family and stand-up career in a video she made for nonprofit Project UROK to help teens struggling with mental health issues. In the video (posted below) Nancherla says “the more you talk about it, the less it becomes a thing that’s like, oh, like shameful or something that people don’t want to hear about. It just becomes another part of you.”
And those words from her, in a nutshell, are why Just Putting it Out There is a big deal. By sharing about her depression on a public platform as just another part of her life, it opens the door for more of us to talk about mental health as just another part of our lives too.
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