Improv

Celebrating Comediasians Month – INTERVIEW – Beginnings and Using Your Own Experiences

All this month we are celebrating the improv troupe Comediasians. There is fifteen members of the team (and ever increasing) so we thought it was the perfect time to sit down with the troupe and find out all about them and the shows they have been performing and what they have in store for the future. This week we talk everything from starting the troupe to the best reasons to start a troupe….


Hello Can you tell us a little bit about the improv team Comediasians? 

Juwel: We’re an improvised comedy troupe whose members are all of Asian descent. We’re excellent – our parents would permit nothing less. We’ve performed on stages across the UK, on livestreams across the world, and at our own nights.

How did you guys form? 

Juwel: Many of us were frequent guests of the all-Black British group Do The Right Scene at their monthly Special Delivery night. Having seen lots of Asians there, Bruce thought there were enough of us to form a group and fill that gap in the UK improv scene. I was delighted to hop aboard, and threw him the names of every Asian player I knew of in the London scene, and as others joined us from all sorts of other places, that turned out to be a surprisingly high number. 

How did you come up with the name of your troupe? 

Juwel: I don’t remember exactly, but it’s a janky portmanteau, which means it was probably Stephen Lee’s doing! I think it was hard to get us all to agree on it and no other name really turned us on, so Bruce went with it. I remember disliking it but as is the way with these things I’m fine with it now. 

Vanessa: We went through a lot of options before settling on this. I like the portmanteau and I like that it gets mispronounced sometimes. We can all relate to that!

What style of Improv do you do?

Kelsey:  We continue to experiment, but generally long form. 

Juwel: Mostly long-form, mostly comedic and scenic. Sometimes our in-house musician, Squid, underscores us.

What will make you different to other improv shows out there?

Kelsey:  With this team, I feel like the focus is more on the team members and less on having a specific form.  In a way, it’s good because the form constantly evolves and you never know what you’re going to see next from Comediasians. 

Nikita: Apart from showcasing all Asian talent, we often work with monologues to inspire our scenes. We also invite special guests to perform (such as musicians or stand-up comedians) and have an onstage discussion about their performance to inspire us before we jump into scenes. 

Juwel: We’re more likely than most to use our own experiences and thoughts to inspire our improv, such as in monologues and the Living Room. And since so many of those stories are particular to the Asian experience (or of the different subcontinents), that makes us more interesting than White Middle-Class Harold Bois.

What other improv groups are you a fan of and why?

Juwel: Somewhat Theatre – yes I am a member, but we’re excellent. At Improv Fest Ireland last year we saw the Dublin-based group Tiny, who delighted me more than in recent memory. Hawaii’s On The Spot were masters when they were here for Slapdash 2017, so were French group Cie La Carpe Haute in a previous year, so are Austin’s Parallelogramophonograph (!) when they visit. Shout out of course to Do The Right Scene; their Special Delivery night is like no other in London, in the best way.

what advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?

Bruce: Not advice, just that it’s friggin hard haha

Nikita: But also rewarding! 

Kelsey:  To give some real advice:  don’t give up, keep having consistent rehearsals, find opportunities to perform even if you’re not 100% “ready,” and it will happen. 

Juwel: Do it, and do it wholeheartedly. As improvisers, we can get excited and say yes to things before we’ve sized up our future selves’ ability or desire to make the time/effort/money commitment that forming an improv group can take, so I’d say check in on yourself and ask those things of yourself, to save everyone time and anguish. 

Vanessa: go for it! Plan how you want your team to operate (will you do it all as the founder, or will tasks be shared), plan regular rehearsals, get as many performances in as you can manage, keep reviewing your work and have fun!

What about extra advice for those wanting to focus on an improv style or format they are creating?

Kelsey:  Don’t be afraid to experiment with a couple different variations within the format and take the time to feedback among the group to see what you notice is going well or what hasn’t been achieved yet.  More minds are better than one. 

Juwel: Do it a lot. Better to do it fun than to do it right. If you need help, bring on a coach – many of us are available. 

Vanessa: Do more. Do lots of homework, practice and practical. If you have the ability, film yourself so you can watch it back. It’ll feel awkward at first but you’ll get used to it. Also, if funds allow, get a coach in. It’s great to have an extra set of eyes and they’ll give you some really good advice on how to nail what you’re doing. 

If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?

@comediasians everywhere, we also started Twitch which you can find at twitch.tv/comediasians

What are your aims for your troupe for the rest of the year?

Kelsey:  As far as I know, we’re hoping to be hosting more of our own shows and bringing in more guests.  Suppose it depends on how long we stay online and when we can be IRL… 

Juwel: To play with us more and get to know us all better. 

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