Comedian Aparna Nancherla, 28,  with the stuffed animals she performed for as a child.

Comedian Aparna Nancherla, 28, with the stuffed animals she performed for as a child.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Nancherla's childhood room in McLean is filled with inspiration for her jokes. <br>
"As a teenager at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Nancherla was not, as she says, the  class clown, but rather the sardonic observer on the  sidelines wielding 'a very active inner monologue,' " <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/10/AR2010121005106.html ">writes Christina Ianzito.</a>

Nancherla's childhood room in McLean is filled with inspiration for her jokes.
"As a teenager at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Nancherla was not, as she says, the class clown, but rather the sardonic observer on the sidelines wielding 'a very active inner monologue,' " writes Christina Ianzito.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Comedians Seaton Smith, Erik Myers, Nancherla and Brandon Wardell go to Ri Ra in Arlington to perform standup at the bar's weekly comedy night.

Comedians Seaton Smith, Erik Myers, Nancherla and Brandon Wardell go to Ri Ra in Arlington to perform standup at the bar's weekly comedy night.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Nancherla waits to perform with, from left, Jason Saenz, Jeff Maurer and Curt Shackelford at Ri Ra. <br>
For the past few years, Nancherla has pushed herself to perform locally four or five nights a week -- a jumble of small shows and open mikes.

Nancherla waits to perform with, from left, Jason Saenz, Jeff Maurer and Curt Shackelford at Ri Ra.
For the past few years, Nancherla has pushed herself to perform locally four or five nights a week -- a jumble of small shows and open mikes.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

During a summer home from college, Nancherla had her first standup experience at a bar in McLean. <br><br>
"She'd been dropping by occasionally with a group of friends and began writing down a few ideas. Finally, at summer's end, on her 20th birthday -- despite being 'kind of terrified,' she says -- she got up and did a few bits about her job at a summer camp. People laughed. She marvels, 'I was really shocked --it went really well.'  She tried it (and liked it) again a few times at school, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/10/AR2010121005106.html "> Ianzito writes.</a>

During a summer home from college, Nancherla had her first standup experience at a bar in McLean.

"She'd been dropping by occasionally with a group of friends and began writing down a few ideas. Finally, at summer's end, on her 20th birthday -- despite being 'kind of terrified,' she says -- she got up and did a few bits about her job at a summer camp. People laughed. She marvels, 'I was really shocked --it went really well.' She tried it (and liked it) again a few times at school, Ianzito writes.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Aparna Nancherla dines at home with her supportive parents -- mother, Suchithra, and father, Ananth. <br><br>
Her mother, an endocrinologist who practices in Falls Church, remembers Aparna at age 7 or 8 saying, "I like to make people happy."

Aparna Nancherla dines at home with her supportive parents -- mother, Suchithra, and father, Ananth.

Her mother, an endocrinologist who practices in Falls Church, remembers Aparna at age 7 or 8 saying, "I like to make people happy."

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

One area of potential material that Nancherla considers off-limits is her Indian background and culture. She grew up eating traditional Indian food at home, and traveling with her India-born parents (both are physicians who speak their native language, Telugu, to each other) to southeastern India every other year. <br><br>But Nancherla, born and raised in the Washington area, says her ethnicity  "is not a strong identifier for me. I identify more with being a shy, quiet person."

One area of potential material that Nancherla considers off-limits is her Indian background and culture. She grew up eating traditional Indian food at home, and traveling with her India-born parents (both are physicians who speak their native language, Telugu, to each other) to southeastern India every other year.

But Nancherla, born and raised in the Washington area, says her ethnicity "is not a strong identifier for me. I identify more with being a shy, quiet person."

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Nancherla prepares backstage with boyfriend Hampton Yount, right, before an April improv performance at the Source theater in the District.<br>
The two met several years ago at a Topaz open mike night. "I walked right up to her and said, 'You're hysterical. I think you're great,' " he remembers.

Nancherla prepares backstage with boyfriend Hampton Yount, right, before an April improv performance at the Source theater in the District.
The two met several years ago at a Topaz open mike night. "I walked right up to her and said, 'You're hysterical. I think you're great,' " he remembers.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Nancherla prepares backstage before a performance at the Source theater in April.

Nancherla prepares backstage before a performance at the Source theater in April.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Amherst College, Nancherla moved back to her parents' house and took a comedic hiatus for a few years. She muddled through a series of unsatisfying journalism internships. Three years ago she got up the nerve to test herself again during an open mike night at Soho Tea & Coffee near Dupont Circle. A few other comics who were watching complimented her afterward. "I felt on top of the world," she says.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Amherst College, Nancherla moved back to her parents' house and took a comedic hiatus for a few years. She muddled through a series of unsatisfying journalism internships. Three years ago she got up the nerve to test herself again during an open mike night at Soho Tea & Coffee near Dupont Circle. A few other comics who were watching complimented her afterward. "I felt on top of the world," she says.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

The audience reacts at a sold-out comedy improv show hosted by Nancherla at the Source theater in April.

The audience reacts at a sold-out comedy improv show hosted by Nancherla at the Source theater in April.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Greg Tindale and Jules Duffy perform improv with Nancherla at the Source theater in  April. <br><br>
Two years ago, Nancherla  appeared in the audition round of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and had a few emcee jobs at the DC Improv, a gig that's a nice stepping stone for local comedians. With each small success and taste of the comic world beyond the Beltway -- she performed at 10 festivals around the country last year -- she became more resolved to quit her day job and make comedy a career.

Greg Tindale and Jules Duffy perform improv with Nancherla at the Source theater in April.

Two years ago, Nancherla appeared in the audition round of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and had a few emcee jobs at the DC Improv, a gig that's a nice stepping stone for local comedians. With each small success and taste of the comic world beyond the Beltway -- she performed at 10 festivals around the country last year -- she became more resolved to quit her day job and make comedy a career.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post

Many comedians who get started in Washington and want to take their comedy career to the next level decide they have to move to New York or Los Angeles, the industry towns where stars are made. Her boyfriend and fellow comedian, Hampton Yount, 26, left for Los Angeles in April. Six months later, Nancherla made the cross-country move herself.

Many comedians who get started in Washington and want to take their comedy career to the next level decide they have to move to New York or Los Angeles, the industry towns where stars are made. Her boyfriend and fellow comedian, Hampton Yount, 26, left for Los Angeles in April. Six months later, Nancherla made the cross-country move herself.

Rebecca Drobis-For The Washington Post