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The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


‘How Can You Cancel The Wind?’: Ziwe Fumudoh and Aparna Nancherla at The New Yorker Festival

The New Yorker’s Emma Allen interviews the comedians about their new memoirs, comedy, cancel culture and their shared hatred for social media
Comedians Aparna Narcherla and Ziwe Fumudoh spoke about vulnerability, social media and cancel culture at the 24th annual The New Yorker Festival in Chelsea.

Pop culture’s biggest and brightest musicians, journalists, comedians, authors, actors and filmmakers congregated in Chelsea from Oct. 6-8 at the 24th annual The New Yorker Festival, straddled between Webster Hall and the SVA Theatre. On the second day of the festival, Emma Allen, cartoonist for The New Yorker, interviewed comedians Aparna Nancherla and Ziwe Fumudoh at Webster Hall following the publications of their respective memoirs, “Unreliable Narrator: Me, Myself, and Imposter Syndrome and “Black Friend: Essays.” 

Allen opened up the conversation with the author/comedian duo by probing them to share their writing processes, specifically how they were able to stay motivated. Nancherla expressed that the material came to her easily because of her ongoing struggles with self-doubt and imposter syndrome in her day-to-day life; she highlighted that writing her book became a good way to materialize those struggles. Fumudoh gave herself ultimatums, telling herself, “you gotta write today or you’re in trouble,” or alternatively, “you’ll get a donut.” 

Allen then noted Nancherla and Fumudoh’s mentions of Brett Kavanaugh and the expectation to be soft-spoken as a woman in their books, shifting the conversation to their place as women of color in comedy. Fumudoh explained how she finds her perception to other people as “terrifying,” with which Nancherla agreed, stating that she is “perpetually waiting to be misunderstood.” Nancherla later brought the mood back up by dubbing Fumudoh as “the gotcha journalist of Brooklyn-based comedy,” a title that solicited a laugh from Fumudoh herself.

Between questions, Allen had prepared clips from Nancherla’s skits and both Fumudoh’s Instagram lives and her Showtime talk show “Ziwe” so that the audience could get a feel for the kind of humor that would be referenced in conversation. An excerpt used was from the episode of “Ziwe” that featured Nancherla, showing Fumudoh practicing her trademark “baiting” technique, in which she comically corners her guests into saying politically incorrect statements. 

On the topic of comedy, Allen pinned the two interviewees as people who are “doing comedy wrong,” deduced from the experiences shared in their memoirs about being entertainers who go against the grain in their content. When asked how they respond to that claim, Nancherla responded that she did not know how else to do comedy. This proved to be a problem for her when having to write skits for other people, as she often heard the critique that they sounded too “Aparna.” 

Fumudoh recounted her time in college interning at The Onion, a satirical media company and newspaper publication, where she felt that her comedic voice had been “washed out” to keep the voice of the newspaper consistent. Fumudoh then explained how she has kept her confidence by finding what she likes in other comedians and seeing it in herself. She concluded this segment by addressing the crowd as follows: “To all the Ziwe Jr’s out there, you’re enough.”

The material came to her easily because of her ongoing struggles with self-doubt and imposter syndrome in her day-to-day life.

Failure, specifically how to face failure, was a prominent topic returned in different iterations throughout the conversation. Fumudoh and Nancherla said their identities as women of color in the comedic realm allow them to lean on each other for advice on dealing with failure. 

Nancherla shared that she is learning to “lean into” failure, a trick that she picked up from Fumudoh’s book. Likewise, Fumudoh noted that she learned the importance of showing vulnerability, despite it being against her nature, from Nancherla’s memoir. She admitted that this was refreshing for her to read, since she perceived Nancherla as someone perfect prior to the book. 

When Allen brought up social media, Fumudoh and Nancherla both mentioned a deep running hatred for the role that certain platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter, have taken in recent years. Fumudoh further expressed that these apps used to be a playground for creativity in comedy but overall have become too intertwined with politics and career progress to be fun anymore. 

Nancherla said she is thankful that she does not have to rely on social media to maintain her career and can allow herself to step back from it without consequence. Fumudoh acknowledged that social media was what got her where she is and recognizes that it can be a useful tool to refine your voice in comedy — if used correctly.

Allen asked Nancherla and Fumudoh if they were afraid of cancel culture due to the raunchiness of their content. Nancherla simply stated that she is canceled by all Swifties following a 2017 tweet regarding Swift’s single “Look What You Made Me Do” and said she is still scared of them. 

Fumudoh brought up how Megyn Kelly had tried to cancel her for having a clip of her show played at a private school. She emphasized that she “tried” to cancel her since Fumudoh otherwise had no control over where her content was played. She earned roars from the audience by concluding that thought with this: “How can you cancel the wind?”

The duo has a natural ability to captivate audiences with their charm. Attendees of The New Yorker Festival were lucky enough to see these two minds play off of each other in real time and be able to balance an informative panel about vulnerability with humor.

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BRETT DALIS, Contributing Writer

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