"Do you want the good news or the bad news?"
If someone were to ask us about something good to have happened this year, it would definitely be our discovery of pandemic comedy gold, Julie Nolke.
We all recognize her because of her YouTube solos on life during the pandemic, but those videos don't even begin to encompass the full extent of her talent, promise and potential as an artist, or even as a female influencer.
Around the time when each of us had just begun to grapple with 'new normals' in every aspect of our lives, Nolke created a now-famous, viral video explaining the pandemic to her past-self.
Lured at first by the promising title of her video, we began to play her sketch. Despite having some trepidation (because isn't that the feeling with which we approached everything this year?), we still remember silently hoping that Nolke would somehow become a voice for all that we were thinking and feeling at that moment. It is because she succeeded so well in this that we all breathed sighs of relief, broke into laughter, and went on to share it with the people we knew best. She was going through exactly the same thing as us. And that sense of connection felt like good news.
But Nolke did not stop there. She took on the role of a leader when she pointed out her own privilege to her past-self even as the Black Lives Matter movement raged on outside. She conjured a perpetually-drunk 'Mirror Julie' to give herself beautifully worded, sensitive and well thought out advice on why one need not actually strive for higher-than-normal productivity during a quarantine; as nearly everyone had come to somehow expect from themselves. Just like Mirror Nolke unexpectedly turned out to be just the friend that Real Julie needed, Nolke too ended up being the friend who turned up to say exactly what each of us needed.
In her comedy, Nolke routinely and expertly deals with a range of tough themes including anxiety, frustration, social pressure, insecurity, fads, the perils of social media, and political correctness. Nolke even redirects attention to her situation of suddenly finding a several millions-strong audience when Mirror Julie chastises Real Julie on "not giving her credit" for her growing success and popularity. She gets Mirror Julie laughing at the idea of Real Julie having a boyfriend, only to also show the different ways in which Mirror Julie is uncannily knowing, in the way that drunk and eccentric people can be sometimes. We watch the Real Julie struggling to have a conversation with a person of color. Then, in another video, we find Real Julie in an empty kitchen, giving in to a need to conform to current social standards of health and fitness when she puts herself on a juice cleanse, only to react in all the ways that so many of us probably would.
The point was that she was often alone in the private setting of her home with no one to see what she was doing, and yet she too was somehow dogged by social pressures like we were. And it would have felt all the more exhausting had Nolke not simply shown up to make us laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.
There was so much that was clearly bad which was going on in the world, but Nolke is notable for thankfully doing her bit to highlight the bad that was happening in the name of the good, i.e. toxic positivity, quarantine-edition.
Nolke is expert, but relatable. She is candid, but unique and refreshing in the treatment of her themes.
On combing through Nolke's work, one can see that several years of artistry, comedy and acting went into making Nolke an "overnight success."
She was funny, a good actor, a thinker, and an aware citizen long before the pandemic struck the world.
We only just discovered her. Just now. #goodnews