True story: Aparna Nancherla opened her set on Comedy Central’s The Half Hour with, “When you drop pills on the floor, there’s no way to pick them up without looking like a human red flag,” and I paused the video to put the cap back on my Wellbutrin. It set the tone for the following thirty minutes: real ass life advice delivered in a charmingly flat affect.
Nancherla doesn’t reinvent the wheel—this is observational comedy. But there’s something special here, in the way the she so succinctly reveals the surreality of being alive in the year of our lord two thousand and sixteen. Is it the way that she specifies that she got cat called “last summer?” Is it her long bit on the evolution of clickbait listicles (“Sometimes it’s like ‘Two Birds!’”)? More likely it’s in the way she says things like there’s nothing weird about them, the same way I can casually drop “my therapist said,” into conversations with my peers like that’s a really chill thing to do. We live in interesting times, and it seems counterintuitive not to just say that, and be saying it all the time. To paraphrase Nancherla, I’m not sure how you could read a newspaper and come to the conclusion that everything is fine.
It’s not as if she’s filled with righteous indignation, but man, shit is fucking weird, am I right? It’s that balance, of expressing disbelief without ever seeming outraged, that keeps this from being corny or cheesy. This isn’t a call to action, but a call to take a look at this guy. It’s not to say that she isn’t political, but it feels conversational. It’s the platonic ideal of your friends’ group DM. In this short time, I felt like she was on my side, that she was illuminating all the tiny ways that life sucks that we don’t want to talk about. It’s just the way things are, sure, but at least you can laugh at it.
The latter half of her set recounts the worst date I think any human has been on, and it’s that casual, conversational quality that makes it work. How good does it feel to watch a joke that ends with “Patriarchy overload!” kill in a room? Really good. This set feels as good as the first time we all saw K.C. Green’s “This Is Fine,” comic. Finally, somebody’s saying it.