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Aparna Nancherla: How depression led to stand-up comedy

Aparna Nancherla is one of the weirdest, most-beloved, and fastest-rising comedians in America. This is her introduction told through a PowerPoint presentation on her Netflix special:

“I am a comedian, writer, have a website. Those all hold up in court,” she says. “I am a daughter, sister, frenemy, enemy, Emmy, Oscar, kind of lost my train of thought at the end of that one. I am an anxious depressive, therapy regular, PMS enthusiast.”

Having recently starred on the first season of Comedy Central’s Corporate, hosted a depression-themed podcast, Blue Woman Group, and run a gut-busting Twitter account, Nancherla’s accolades are only growing.

Yet internally, she’s reeling.

The majority of Nancherla’s comedy is rooted in her experiences living with depression, anxiety, and disordered eating. Her ability to bring levity to such struggles makes her work profoundly relatable, and invaluable in the destigmatization of mental health. In the video above, I sit down with Nancherla, one of Quartz’s Visionaries, to learn how depression motivates her humor, why she carries cards from her college nurse, what’s inside her notebook, and why performing standup as a woman is an act of rebellion.

This story is part of How We’ll Win, a project exploring the fight for gender equality at work. Read more stories here.

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