This month I chatted to over 30 female improvisers from all over the UK to celebrate the talent that we have – we also discuss some of the important debates surrounding this topic as well. Today I talk to an improviser that is one of the hosts at DuckDuckGoose night in Brixton as well as part of the brand new improv troupe Comediasians – Vanessa Tsu
Hello There! Tell us who you are and three random facts about yourself!
Hello! My name is Vanessa. I’ve been doing improv for around 5 years and day to day I work in construction. Three random facts about me are: I took an accordion lessons when I was a kid, I absolutely love watching art conservation/restoration, and my favourite animal is a guinea pig.
How did you get into improv?
It was the classic “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”. My friend joined his uni’s improv society and the more I saw him post about it, the more I wanted to join in. So I did.
What inspired you to start improv?
Actually, I’ll tell you what inspired me to come back to improv. I missed being in a space where you couldn’t make mistakes and you just got to have fun. It’s a very freeing feeling and a great confidence booster!
What troupes are you are a part of?
I’ve recently joined Comediasians. We’re a group made up of Asian improvisers, we’ve just started and I’m really excited to be a part of the team! I am also one of the hosts at DuckDuckGoose – find us every Monday from 8pm at the Effra Social in Brixton.
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
I really enjoy long form with a strong focus on relationships. I love when the improvisers can have you so invested in their characters that you’re holding your breath, waiting to see what they will do or say next.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
“Treat others better than you’d treat yourself.” this was said by Monica Gaga while we were introducing the jam to the audience. I just loved this so much because it’s a clever workaround to people who might say “I don’t mind if you do X to me”
Also, ” ‘do more’ doesn’t mean ‘go bigger’ “. It means whatever you’re doing, do more of it. If your character is hiding… Do more by cowering or running away! This helps a lot if you are in a scene with someone who is playing a very different character to you – it might feel a bit intimidating and make you wonder how you’ll match their energy: do more.
Do you find that being a female in an improv show that the suggestions you can get are traditional and stereotypical? How do you feel when you get given these?
I think it can depend on the audience but I’ve certainly had a few “hairdresser” suggestions. My initial reaction can be “really?” but it’s still an opportunity to do something fun and I don’t feel that I have to play to the stereotypes of the suggestion.
What have been some of your favourite moments on stage?
Ok, this is so silly but we were doing a scene where we were all biscuits in a biscuit tin and the plain digestive mentioned a chocolate digestive who was getting all the attention, so I came on as the chocolate digestive and had a GREAT time (if you know what I mean!).
What have been some of the worst and why?
My worst moments usually come from not joining in quickly enough so I feel like I haven’t made as much of a contribution as I could have.
For new improvisers, what would your key bit of advice be?
Get stuck in! Don’t worry about being “better” or “worse” than anyone. Have fun and say yes!
What are three things you want to focus on this season with your own improv?
Be less inhibited to play strong characters. Try to play from my heart as much as from my head. Do more! More stage time either in jams or in performances that come along.