I turned 28 approximately five months ago. A lot of people say 28 is the year one starts to make moves in their careers: either move on up or move on forward to something else, something completely different. For me, I am still pursuing acting, the only difference now is, I’m solely focusing on comedy: improv, sketch, and stand up. Does it mean all the work I’ve done in the past five years disappear? No. It just feels very much like starting over because it’s a whole new world. I see it as another chance to keep making mistakes, connecting with new people, and keep trying.
This is not the first time I’m at the rodeo. I took improv classes at UCB in 2013, and I don’t know, for whatever reason, I stopped at 201. This was the level that introduced the concept of game, which is the core of a Harold structure. It was very, very different from 101, where we can do whatever we want and have fun. Here, we really have to think of analogous (same situation in different setting or circumstances) / time dash (much time has passed since first beat) scenes and I got in my head waaaaay too much. I also was really nervous because I had a semi-strict teacher, and all I thought about in the backline was how much I’m gonna fuck up if I walk out there. I don’t wanna fuck up. That was me in 2013, telling myself fucking up is bad. Fucking up is fuckin embarrassing. No one wants to fuck up because you look stupid. I didn’t want to look stupid, but yet I felt nervous and stupid the entire time. In sum, there was a lot of anxiety and not knowing where improv would lead me, and so, I stopped after 201 and decided to take acting head on instead.
I continued on acting classes at the Barrow Group Theatre and developed my solo show there. It was 2013 leading into 2014 and I was sooooo hungry to get better in acting. I knew how much I needed to learn and grow as an actor because I want to be as good as others in my acting conservatory (most of them have started at a young age, and I played catch up for a year and a half). I beat myself up every time I did a bad scene or missed my lines. I worked really hard, and after multiple scene study classes, I stopped to focus on the solo show. Much of late 2015 leading into all of 2016 was focused on the solo show. I always get antsy when I question myself: how come I’m not doing better or why haven’t I gotten “there” yet, wherever there might be. But now, as I’m writing this, I realized I did a lot in the past five years and I should stop questioning myself.
So why comedy? I discovered after presenting the solo show, that I am hooked into people’s laughter. I thought I was writing a drama (life is a drama), and people thought I was funny. The thing is: I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was just trying to be me—as Seth Barrish would put this: comedy derives from truth and pain; as long as you’re speaking your real truth, and it relates to the audience, a laugh will come. Never force shit. The times where I did force shit, people didn’t laugh. The times where I’m the most relaxed, people did. That feeling resonated with me so much, and I am taking this in for future shows. Comedy is a drug and I’m hooked.
I returned to UCB because I knew deep down, comedy is the thing that keeps me up. I returned this March, took 201 again because it’s been four years. I had a sinking feeling in 201 again, but I told myself this time around not to psych myself out. It didn’t get easier, but I got through it. I went onto 301 and that’s when I fell deep into it. I had an amazing teacher, and this was the first time I became an improv nerd, going to a lot of shows--especially Lloyd Night, and listening to the UCB podcast nonstop (especially during work at the government job). I started to imagine myself joining a house team (crazy, I know). Now I'm in 401, and even the thought of joining a house team is so close, yet so far away. Gotta keep practicing to become a great improviser -- then have a chance to get accepted into Advanced Study, then see if there's an audition, then audition, then see if you're accepted or not. If you don't, you gotta wait a whole year to audition again. It's a whole lot of practicing the skill, trying your best, and waiting around. It’s all about process. It's a process and it's all about perseverance, man!
Another life update: I know I posted this on Instagram / Facebook during the summer--I officially left Asian CineVIsion/AAIFF after being with the organization for many, many years. I realized how old I was getting, and if I keep hanging on to AAIFF, I’ll always give myself an excuse to support the community and not pursue my own dreams. I also felt like it was time for someone younger to take over, and for me to really step back and tackle acting/comedy head on. I'm not getting any younger. It was painful thinking of leaving/actually leaving. I cried a lot. I guess that's what growing up is all about? Painful growing up, I tell ya!
Another another life update: I did two final shows in nyc, and even seconds before walking out into the show the first night, I had a sinking feeling. Why am I doing this again? Then my internal voice was like shut up and do this! The first night was great, but felt weird. No one laughed. Then the second night, a lightbulb turned on and the energy and love from the crowd was insane! Everybody was listening intently and I fed off their positivity and warmth. It was so bittersweet to do the show and that last night filled my heart with so much love and hope. At first, I planned to make this into a movie, but a few folks (including my Smithie sisters) convinced me to do a webseries instead. I’m writing it now so watch out world!
Another another another life update: I joined the Union Square Hospitality Group's new concept restaurant: Intersect by Lexus. It's a three story cafe-restaurant/bar-events space in the Meatpacking District, set to open in January 2018. Meanwhile, they placed me at North End Grill for the time being and I'm learning so much about service and different positions within the restaurant. I learn something new everyday when I go in, and I feel hungry learning more, so cheers to this new, fresh start.
I feel like every time I write here, something new has happened or is gonna happen. I guess this is what 28 is about: a lot of what if’s and still figuring it out.
It’s the the artist struggle, hustle. Never stop hustling.