ColdTowne Theater is home to so many of Austin’s most adept (read: hilarious) improv troupes. Over the years we’ve seen some of these comedy teams turn their improv comedy from your typical improv show to something bigger. Y’all We Asian, Austin’s first and only all Asian-American comedy troupe has done that time and time again. With sold out main stage runs and packing the house monthly for “Last Friday Night,” at their monthly residency, Y’all We Asian is taking the Spider House Ballroom stage on Fridays and Saturdays in September to bring their signature shows to new audiences. We talked to YWA to hear a little more about their roots and experiences as the only Asian-American comedy troupe in Austin.
How did Y’all We Asian form?
YWA was formed from a showcase we put on for Asian American Heritage Month two years ago. The showcase was called “Y’all We Asian”, and it was a show that featured local Asian American artists in town. The event invite quickly grew from ~60 people that we invited, to 300+ people in mere hours. We ended up selling out the show in 2 days and that’s when we realized that there was a need and interest in shows like this in Austin. One of the performers of the show, Christine Hoang, suggested that we make YWA into a troupe, and we thought, why not? And that’s how the troupe was formed. – Yola Lu
Tell me how each of you got involved in improv and how each of you have gotten to where you are today. What struggles did you face along the way?
I had just moved to Austin after college and I was purposefully trying to do things that scared me because I felt like I hadn’t pursued that many of my own interests in college. I’d loved stand-up and improv comedy from afar for a long time, but I was so afraid of getting on stage. My friend took me to a few shows at ColdTowne and encouraged me to sign up for classes. Improv classes taught to trust in myself and my instincts and in the group to have my back. – Minda Wei
I was in a pretty low spot in my life at the end of 2014, and I stumbled upon a Groupon for half off an Improv 1 class at a theater in downtown Austin. I knew some folks from college who performed there and thought “why not?” I struggled most with feeling like I belonged; a combination of imposter syndrome and the fact I was an Asian queer spending most of my time surrounded primarily by straight white cis-men. Three years later, that theater I joined would suffer an upheaval in management that nearly tore our community apart. One wild revolution later, this Asian queer is now one of the 5 co-owners of Fallout Theater, a new theater borne from the community I had joined just a few years prior. -VS
I got involved with improv classes to work on my communication skills for my career. I was a very quiet person growing up and did not get a lot of the learning one can obtain from feedback of conversation. Letting my ideas flow out without thinking too much on them was something I struggled with quite a bit. I had only intended to get a brief taste of improv, but my friends encouraged me to complete the full course program at ColdTowne. Now I’m eager to continue developing my skills as a performer. – FI
I got started in improv in Seattle, but at the time, all that was taught in Seattle was short form. I wasn’t sure if it was for me and stopped taking classes. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin that I discovered long form improv. I actually bought a holiday special class for my boyfriend at the time as a gift, and when I saw his student showcase, I was so in awe that I immediately signed up for classes after. It’s completely changed my life in that I finally started building a community around me of talented and kind friends.- YL
How did you all come up with “Starring Y’all We Asian”?
Initially, we were brainstorming ideas surrounding Lunar New Year since our run started in February and our last run centered on the Asian summer vacation experience. ColdTowne was very generous in giving us an 8-week run, and we realized that it wouldn’t still make sense to be running a new year show in April. We were kicking around ideas, and Asian representation in Hollywood was a big topic in the last year, and something we had on our minds when we had won the BIP. We landed on character-driven so that we could explore the film leads and how our AsAm viewpoints would color their world. – MW
We also just thought it’d be fun to “yellow wash” a movie to flip the narrative, which was how we landed on this idea – YL
What is a random fact about some of your performers that we wouldn’t otherwise know?
There’s an ongoing joke about Kim’s 7 year old loofah that is literally falling apart that she still uses and keeps it together by tying it up with rope. I think she finally switched to some other thing that is more sanitary recently.
Also, one of our members, G-Su Paek recently got selected for the CBS Diversity Showcase! He’ll be moving to Los Angeles in the next week, so his last shows are actually this weekend if people want to see him before he departs. He got cast out of thousands of people who auditioned and we couldn’t be more proud of him.
Y’all We Asian performs regularly at ColdTowne, but don’t miss them this month on Fridays and Saturdays in September at Spider House Ballroom.