Arti Gollapudi is at her most unhinged. This she happily admits to herself and to the whole, entire internet so it’s not exactly a secret. In fact, besides producing, writing, and starring in a series of her own shows in NYC, which include the incomparable “Boogie on the Brink” and “Your Body, Yourself,” Arti has a whip smart internet presence that has people in her DMs asking for advice on grief while simultaneously wondering who she’s dating.
When I first met Arti, I was fangirling hard as I’d already read about her in The Huffington Post and wanted to tell her how much I appreciated, as a woman and an abuse survivor, what she was doing artistically. She had just spent the day high at MOMA with a mutual friend, and my outpouring of thanks was met with a confused, stoned “is this bitch for real?” kind of look which totally tracks. After seeing “Boogie on the Brink” months later, I was convinced: if comedy is an art form, then Arti has a paintbrush that is tye-dye and screaming.
After comparing natal charts, she sat down with me at a loud-ass hipster coffee shop in Bushwick to discuss everything from her upcoming book of poems, Boys I’ve Kissed and Hated, to how she makes grief and trauma exceptionally funny and relatable, to discussing pee farting in front of the people she’s romantically interested in.
Your shows are like none other. How would you describe an Arti Gollapudi show to someone who'd never seen one?
A lot of chaos. A lot of screaming. A lot of emotions. I am a cancer with a gemini moon so what else do you expect? It's a lot of me telling the audience secrets which is funny because I have a hard time emoting myself to people I am entangled with, yet for some reason I am perfectly fine getting up on stage and discussing pee farting in front of my crush.
How did you get into comedy? And how do you feel like your gender identity and queerness add to what you do?
So, I [had] a bit of a ride into comedy. I went to school for music, came to NYC to work in the "industry," got in a relationship that made me feel fully stuck, saved my coins, took an improv class and remembered I liked performing. It took another 6 months and [I] met my best friend, Ryan, who encouraged me to perform and I kind of began but never got into it or thought about it professionally until I decided to move in with him and our friend Julian. I dipped out of my abusive relationship while I took a deep dive into performing more stand up and weird bits.
I feel like I never fully came into queerness until I began grieving. My gender and queerness was something I held tightly to my chest until I had a snap moment [when] I kind of [had] to be honest with my needs and wants and my public identity. Once I was more public about things, I felt my writing and performance opened up.
Why do you think it's important to bring grief and trauma to the forefront of comedy?
I know I am not out here saving the rainforest or ending capitalism. I know it's not for everyone, but for those whom it is for, it matters to me that they know they aren't alone in having these experiences and feelings. Grief and trauma have internally ripped into me but have also recreated me. I think if you are able to go to a comedy show and find a sense of joy while a comedian discusses trauma and grief, that's perseverance.
Tell us a little about your upcoming book. How is it different from your first?
This book repurposes a title for my first zine called Boys I've Kissed & Hated
The initial project was about cataloging my sexual experiences -- before, during, and after abuse [and] rape. These poems don't discuss my abuse directly, but instead paint portraits of constant romantic and sexual failure that ended up being really healing and eye-opening experiences. My new book does the same but expands beyond romantic failure into dealing with grief. This book features longer narratives and opens up about my general anxiety and depression. And, at the bottom of it all, it’s also a funny book.
Why did you decide to write this book?
One thing that keeps me afloat is laughing at the dumb shit I constantly feel and do. I think the more I learn to laugh about these things, the more I can get through them. Writing this all down helps me communicate with people and reach out to people without having to be in a physical space. In times when I have felt most alone and most misunderstood, I have had books to read to help me feel less so. I just hope [that] maybe my writing can one day do the same.
What do you hope to use your platform for? What are your big plans for the future?
I hope my platform can create dialogue that can inspire action to create change, even on an interpersonal level. Maybe make people be a little nicer and think about how everyone is going through crazy shit. But also I hope people walk away, specifically from Boys I've Kissed & Hated, inspired to kiss strangers and stay out late with friends and have fun being a little messy even when people tell us we're too old to do so.
Arti will be having her wild, exclusively all-jammies book release party September 19th at Kickstarter in NYC. For updates on her show schedule, follow @artiparty on Instagram and Twitter. For her poetry, follow @artifartypoems on Instagram.
Dakota Smith is a poet, journalist, and right in the damn center of the Kinsey scale.
Follow her on Twitter: @Likethestates.