The year 2020 has been a very unusual one and the fact that a lot of festivals have been postponed this summer we wanted to do things a bit different. Due to the fact we cannot use this time to interview and promote acts heading to the fringe, we thought we would use this time to celebrate all forms of comedy! So over the next month we are interviewing an array of acts with some fun questions so you can get to know them a little bit more! Today we talk to Bruce Tang, Jon Nguyen, Simon Gomes, Tulasi Das and Vanessa Tsu of Comediasians.
Hello there tell me all about your group!
SIMON: We’re Comediasians; we’re all Asians improv comedians!
JON: Comediasians is like family. It’s not only great improv but we’re also in a space to discuss personal issues frankly and safely. We also have a great time becoming Tik Tok and YouTube stars.
BRUCE: That’s end goal.
What are your favourite things about being in your troupe?
VANESSA: Hanging out and performing with other Asian players makes me feel more connected to my heritage but equally this isn’t what drives our shows.
BRUCE: Although, it is nice venting about Asian things without the family knowing! For real, it’s a lot of fun and I love the energy of everyone jumping onto stupid bits.
JON: The smiling and support we have for each other is what I enjoy mostly.
VANESSA: I also feel that we’re one of few BAME improv groups, and we’re doing a lot for visibility within the improv community.
SIMON: It’s real nice we understand the idiosyncrasies of growing up Asian and finding the humour of it. We all come from such a variety of backgrounds and families and everyone is super supportive. I find each person brings their whole selves into the room, always happy to embrace new ideas.
Describe each member of the improv acts by describing their characters by what animal they would be?
VANESSA: There are so many of us! Bruce is a gerbil. Yiannis would be a rabbit. Kelsey and Nikita are both cats, but different breeds. Stephen Lee is a guinea pig. Duncan is a boxer puppy. If I didn’t mention you, I’m sorry and I love you!
JON: For me we are all bees. We look amazing, work well together and if threatened we bare our backsides and lay down our lives.
What has been your favourite show so far?
SIMON: We had our first show out of London on the last weekend before lockdown. It was the first time performing out of London and in my favourite city in the world Bristol. We performed where I had my first drink as a student; protested tuition fees and celebrated results day. My best friends came to watch the show and it was such great energy. I look back on it regularly with fondness. We spent the whole day together bonding as a group. Jon even treated us to dinner.
JON: Yes, Bristol has been my favourite. It was a great show featuring dysfunctional teachers and turning up to inappropriate church events.
VANESSA: One night we were literally in two places at once. Some of us guested at Special Delivery with Do The Right Scene and some of us were with The Nursery for Thursday Night Lights.
BRUCE: Stand out to me was our first regular show at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. After months of work, we started the UK’s first variety night for Asian performers and it felt like an achievement.
How was your group founded?
JON: I am not sure. I think Bruce knows.
VANESSA: Bruce did it.
SIMON: A lot of hard work from Bruce.
Bruce: Aw thanks! I got the gang together when I realised how little Asian comedy shows there were in the UK. Best change is active change.
SIMON: Most of us met you performing improv around London; mainly at Do the Right Scene’s monthly night. We all had fun performing with each other and some were looking to form a group. Bruce worked his magic and the rest was history.
What is your favourite thing about performing improv?
JON: I enjoy finding the fun with my stage partner the most.
SIMON: Yes and losing myself in a make-believe world- like being a child. Everything else melts away, you just need to trust the group.
VANESSA: And there are no lines to learn! I am terrible at remembering lines but the greatest thing is that it’s all made up so you can’t fluff lines. Everything is deliberate and for a reason.Bruce: It’s damn fun.
What is the most important skill you have learnt and why?
BRUCE: 100% listening. Active listening, really paying attention to what people are saying, it’s just a good life skill.
JON: That failure is part of the act and just as important as perceived success.
SIMON: Pause. Take a breath in or the scene unfurls; pausing is crucial. Pausing helps us listen and trust instincts.
VANESSA: Being honest and saying how you feel. You don’t have to be quick, funny or clever, you can say how you feel and you’ve got something to work with. Equally, if you don’t know what to say, say that! It’s authentic!
What makes a good improv scene?
JON: Anything can make a good scene, but if you and your stage partner are having fun then the audience will too.
BRUCE: Definitely agree. Follow the funny. No one goes to an improv show to be miserable, no one performs improv to be miserable. If there’s a funny thing in a scene, follow it together as a group and see where it goes.
VANESSA: Having fun and being in the moment, supporting other and committing to a character..
TULASI: Yes, a good improv scene is all down to commitment. Whether that’s falling in love in a cheese shop or Stalin’s ghost reciting poetry to the man he’s fallen for, or any number of implausible or plausible scenarios- committing to it is the thing that makes it work. Tip: this advice is transferable to non-improv situations as well!
Describe your group for people who have not seen you live in 5 words beginning with the letter B?
JON: Brilliant Bold Banging Bewitching Blissful
VANESSA: Bold, beautiful, bootylicious, brilliant, bingo
TULASI: Broke busy Britain-based Beasts
Bruce: Brave Beautiful Baby Boy Bruce
You can only watch three other improv acts for the rest of your life – who would they be and why?
BRUCE: Do The Right Scene, ASSSCAT and Minority Report. 2 are great improv groups of diverse performers, the other is what inspired me to start improv.
JON: The Maydays were one of the first troupes I ever watched and they did much of my training. Derek’s Mojo have such a sense of fun and mischief that you can’t replicate unless you like each other as much as they do. The Just Us League are duo who make up new Marvel movies. I first saw them at Edinburgh and got their sense of humour right away.
VANESSA: Do The Right Scene are clever, fast paced and funny. To quote Derek’s Mojo, they are fierce, fast and feminist. The Bareback Kings are some of the nicest lads on the improv scene. Such a great act in drag and they’re just so skilled.
SIMON: The RH Experience are my favourite group; I love how they crack each other up after all this time. I love how The Dreamweaver Quartet got together. They have such a great energy with each other combining music and dreams. I just adore how Chris and Katie of Project 2 throws us into their sci fi world. I like the direction they are taking improv; they build their scenes with lots of care and beauty.
What has been the best suggestion you have been given by an audience?
TULASI: “You live in a town with a population of 2.5”
SIMON: Can anyone remember the suggestion we got at the Bethnal Green show?
BRUCE: I remember it involved dating and Love is Blind, which I was obsessed with at the time.
Dream location to perform a show and why?
Bruce: A big ass theatre.
JON: I would love to have our own stage somewhere in a big city. We’d be in control and have guests we want. It would be wheelchair accessible and open to online shows for all the world to see.
VANESSA: Given the current situation though, for me it’s literally any stage. In London specifically it’s the Comedy Store. It’s such an institution and where the UK’s best improvisers perform.
BRUCE: So a big ass theatre.
If people want to find out more about your group where can they go on the socials?
VANESSA: @comediasians on everything
BRUCE: Google it, please give us that sweet SEO
Finally, which improv group would you as a team love to do a collaboration with and why?
JON: I would love to collaborate with us Baby wants Candy. They’re a musical group who don’t take themselves too seriously and I would love us to have an Asian Chorus line.
BRUCE: Baby wants Candy are great! Some of them perform with ASSSCAT.
SIMON: North Coast for me, I think it would quite exciting to take our energy and their music skills and see what happens.