Nadia Pinder Thinks It Would Be Cool to Be an Ancient Phoenician

Nadia Pinder. Photo: Jess Hitt

Nadia Pinder (@MissNadiaPinder) is a Brooklyn-based comedian, storyteller, and small tie-dye business owner. You can watch her in Refinery29 RIOT videos, listen to her on comedy podcasts, and see her host and produce a monthly comedy talk show called Can I Ask You Something? at 61 Local in Downtown Brooklyn.

This week, Nadia and I talked IUDs, not getting into NYU, and that feeling you get when you tweet something good.

While texting someone that a little girl named Skyla, the same name as my IUD, lives next door to me, my iPhone sent me a very clear, very rude, message. I would like to take this opportunity to ask the ghost of Steve Jobs and his silicone minions to stop trying to get me to have a baby and to let me live out the last six months of not-pregnant-but-hormonally-speaking-insane days in peace.

How did you get into doing stand-up?
I took a storytelling class in college with James Braly, a winner of the Moth GrandSLAM, and he made us prepare five-minute stories for class workshops. I realized my funny stories, whether they were goofy or just used comedy to talk through more heavy content, felt better to perform, and honestly, I was given better grades for them. Then I watched Obvious Child, the essential millennial-gal coming-of-age-in-comedy film, and had the crazy idea to use one of my stories from college at an open mic.

Has Twitter been a good platform for your comedy? Has it changed your IRL comedy at all?
Twitter is its own world. It’s a platform that’s just like the world of stand-up — you have to work at it constantly, it mostly feels awful, but oh baby, when you have a good tweet, it feels so good. I think Twitter has made me think differently about comedy writing. I have to work harder for it than I do with anything on Instagram or IRL. You can’t type a five-minute story as a tweet, so it forces me to edit things down.

I’ll admit it, I was a supporting role in one musical and then thought I should apply to NYU. I did not get in. But now I am an adult woman and I must pay for the decisions I’ve made with every virtually empty show for $0 and drink ticket I’ve skipped a family function to do.

Tell us about your comedy talk show. What made you decide to start it?
Can I Ask You Something? is a monthly comedy talk show with a different theme every month. I dreamt this up with a dear friend, Emily Brandenstein (who I think should write comedy instead of being an incredible photographer, but that’s just me), after we saw a 2 Dope Queens filming at the Kings Theater in 2017. We were high off comedy and just spitballed the idea as we walked to the train. We wanted a show that moved quickly, let comedians do their thing, and didn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s what we got.

A performer gets their stage time and then gets interviewed about questions we made up about the show’s theme. Past themes include “Drake’s Discography,” “Middle School Ice Breakers,” and “Lyft Line Etiquette.” The questions are silly and drawn out of a jar so when things slow down in conversation, I can just say “Can I ask you something?” and keep it moving. Some of my favorite questions from the “Lyft Line Etiquette” show are “Is it ever okay to shush someone?” and “F Marry Kill: A Lyft, an Uber, that car service where you can’t talk on the phone.” Obviously, I’d fuck Uber.

For you personally, what has been the most difficult part about being in the comedy scene and doing stand-up in NYC? What has been the best? Do you see any room for change in the scene as a whole?
I think a difficult thing is that, while I try to stay happy, maintaining levelheadedness and not sometimes being outright sad or disappointed in the comedy scene is hard. I never want to resent comedy, and I have been in more than my fair share of racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist (literally the list does go on) rooms that make me dislike comedians and the comedy scene in general.

Balance is hard in comedy, as it is with anything. I want to do comedy for the rest of my life, and if that means I have to say no to certain opportunities or shows for my mental health, I’ll do it. I’m in this for the long haul. I don’t need to be famous to keep telling jokes, but I do need to tell jokes to survive. I think the best thing, though, is that I’ve found a community with more alternative Brooklyn comedians and I really love it. Seeing everyone doing comedy for the sake of it and not always because the room is packed or someone “important” is in the room. I want to always be surrounded by artists I respect and admire, and I’ve found that space.

This is a “What if you had a time machine?” icebreaker gone wrong. A teenage girl truly believed, totally sober and in the daylight hours, that in some alternative universe, I am not a black woman and that I, a suddenly nonethnic person with no opinions about slavery, could be the kind of person to say, “Yes, I would indeed love to live in the South before the Civil War. Those were the good ole days!” Sadly, I had to break it to her that I could not divorce myself from my identities for her little “time machine” thought experiment. I know! And can you believe that she’s a white woman? Of course you can!

So wait, which historic era would you travel back in time to?
There’s no period in time where slavery doesn’t exist and queer women are respected or listened to. But I think it would be cool to see ancient Phoenicians about 3,000 years ago discovering purple dye and making the friggen alphabet, truly just schooling the world like, “He got the fastest boats, the dopest letters, and look at my robe. Purple, son, Y’all ain’t never seen nothing like this before! You literally have not!”

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Nadia Pinder Would Like to Be an Ancient Phoenician