Yes But Why ep 207 Mithra Vankipuram on creating safe spaces for each other

In this episode of Yes But Why, we talk to performer and scientist, Mithra Vankipuram.


Mithra Vankipuram is a performer and improv instructor from the Bay Area. She is the Producer-in-Chief at The San Francisco Improv Festival as well as a Senior Research Scientist at HP Labs. She is a community builder in the San Francisco improv scene. She is also the Chair of HP’s Palo Alto Women’s Impact Network. Mithra believes in evolving the cultural growth of her science/technology workplace by leading initiatives to empower women and minorities.

In our conversation, Mithra shares her philosophy on being your most authentic self. We talk about how to use improv in the real world for making friends and for dealing with awkward situations. Mithra shares stories of her own journey as an actor. We talk about navigating emotions onstage and off. We discuss integrating the yes and philosophy of improv into your daily life.

Support Mithra by supporting the San Francisco improv scene and The San Francisco Improv Festival as soon as you possibly can.

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(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 3/2/2020)



HOST  00:01

Hello, yes, but why listeners? This is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 207 of Yes, but why podcast featuring a conversation about philosophy with performer and scientist Mithra bunkie Purim. But first a bit about our sponsor this episode of yes but why podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audible trial comm forward slash Yes, but why? So I plugged in San Francisco to the search bar on Audible, because I noticed that a lot of my recent guests have been from San Francisco. And what do I find the demigods of San Francisco series which looks mighty sexy. There’s a lot to offer on Audible. You never know what you might need to listen to. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player. Download your free audio book today at audible Calm forward slash Yes But why? This week’s guest is Mithra, doggy Purim producer in chief at the San Francisco improv festival, as well as senior research scientist at HP Labs. And our conversation with her talked about her dedication to empowering women and minorities. We discussed our love of improv, and Mithra gave great advice on how to integrate the yes and philosophy of improv into daily life. I now present to you Yes, but why Episode 207 Mithra bunkie Purim on creating safe spaces for each other. Enjoy. I’m Amy Jordan, and this is yes


but why podcast? Yeah

GUEST  02:08

I guess I’ve spent so much of time in the US that I’ve forgotten all of my timeline. So I’ll tell you a little bit about where I come from. I’m from Chennai, India, it’s in South India. And that’s where I did my schooling. And I did my undergraduate in computer science and engineering. I don’t think you can get more nerdy than that. And I came out to the US in 2006, to pursue graduate school. So I spent another six years in graduate school and in 2012, I moved from Arizona, where I went to school at ASU and Arizona State University and I moved to California for my job. So 2012 was when I started looking into, hey, I’ve just moved to this new place, and graduate school be friends behind. And I moved to this new state where I don’t know anybody. How do I connect? How do I find friends? How do I make friends, to me that was holy is very interesting to explore because making friends was so easy when you’re a child because you’re kind of just logged in with a cohort of people. And it continued through school and through undergraduate because it’s just people put into this pressure cooker bubble together. But when I came out for my first job to California, making friends suddenly seemed a lot harder, and you can’t quite make the same level of intimate relationship. trips that you have in school. with folks at work, it’s just not the same thing. So when I started doing improv, it was primarily to make friends. Now as simple as that. But what I found, yeah, and it’s a great way to make friends I think.


Typically, you know,


when I came out here, there were a lot of meetups for 20 somethings new to the Bay Area. Oh, yeah, by the way, that’s where I’m at right now in the Bay Area in the San Francisco Bay Area, or they were in groups like 30, something meetups and all of those meetups pretty much were a lot of folks looking to date, and it wasn’t quite the friendship vibe I was looking for. So I started looking into activities that might bring together people. What I liked most about improv as opposed to acting classes was that it’s just so easy to get plugged into a community really fast. Because all you have to do is show up, be excited and enthusiastic and not an asshole.


That’s pretty much all


make friends really. And so that was an absolutely wonderful experience. It took me about a year of training after I’d graduated from this wonderful school in San Francisco and games improv, to understand what yes really means. And I’ve spoken to many improvisers and a lot of people think, oh, I’ve graduated. You know, this is the first time I’ve taken this curriculum from the school. I’ve got everything. Sometimes it takes a lot of money. For some people to kind of truly understand it, and for me personally, it was about a year and a half of training past all of the classes a year and a half worth of classes I took to get it.

HOST  06:20

You know, can I just say that realistically, I don’t think anybody who just performs gets it at all. Oh, boy, did I just drop a bomb? What I mean? What I mean is, personally, anecdotally, I didn’t really truly understand improv until I taught it. Until I taught it for multiple years. Like, I took all the classes I was supposed to take graduated a program. I started teaching at that school pretty much immediately after graduating, but I don’t think I really knew what I was doing. Teaching I was just regurgitating what I had been told for maybe a year and a half until I really started to take ownership over what I was telling them and how they were receiving it. And once I was the community leader, that I could see how what how the syllabus itself affected people, I would totally adjust the way that I taught level one because in my opinion, I was the orientation to welcome them as a community. And in fact, that was the argument I always gave to people when they tried to skip level one I said, but we need to indoctrinate you to the community and I don’t mean indoctrinate in some sort of culty way but I don’t know,


kind of come on improv as a culture. We all know it. It sounds like a cult. Like any level one class probably has chanting coming out of it.


Right. I’m always trying to get some chanting, for sure. Yeah.

HOST  07:55

But you know, like, there’s a certain level of like, like with each school. There’s a vibe. There’s a thing that’s most important to them and their teaching. And so they’re gonna focus on that thing that they’re excited about. So maybe maybe the school that you went to, like yes and wasn’t the thing that they were like super into focusing on. They didn’t think they figured that part was alright. You You don’t need to worry about that too much. You’ll get it, but we want to focus on something else right


now, quite fat, being able to implement Yes, am I theoretically got it. But to put it in practice, to add value to the scene to take information and let it inform my character or let it provide a gift to my field part. Or for it to be a gift to move the emotions of the scene through It’s not that the school wasn’t teaching all of that. I just think that people grow at different rates. And for me, it took a little bit more time to kind of let it settle in, into my body into my bones, and help me provide gifts to myself and my and my feet partner. And I think a lot of people think that they should have this skill as soon as they graduate, but it takes time to develop and, and, you know, yeah.

HOST  09:44

I mean, I took a workshop. I was no I was teaching. Let’s be honest here on this story. I was teaching a workshop. It was a week long thing. And we had guests people come in to teach little bits and I had been Teaching for eight years at that point, and there was a teacher that came in and just exploded my brain about the level of like, openness you have to have with your Yes. And I had never thought of it that way until this teacher walks in. Now this guy named Aaron Walther comes in and truly leans in, gets the gets the students to truly lean in to this idea of like, everything is right. Even if somebody says something, and it throws the whole scene off in a way that you don’t like,


who can

HOST  10:37

go with it. That’s what’s happening. Now. You have to go with the flow. You can’t resist it, because resistance means nothing, the scenes moving forward, and if you don’t go with it, that’s your problem. But you’ve got to be like with the journey, even if it’s not the way you wanted it to go, or if the joke doesn’t play the way you feel, or you think this thing was the game and they Thought that thing was a game. Doesn’t matter. Keep it going flow word flow. And I was like, it was like a light bulb over my head. And I had been teaching for years. Like I said, this was like my ninth year, being in improv doing improv every day of my life. And I was like, oh my god. Yeah. Like Not that I had been like, yeah, it’s cool to negate stuff, sometimes, but just the full like, if in the middle of a scene about the bank robbery, you and your friend are talking and then someone swings in and you’re like, Come on, guys. Let’s just be the butterflies we truly are and fly off. Then you’re a butterfly, and you can fly and get out there like what? You know, so I don’t know.


I do have something to say about that, which is that I learned a couple of tricks to buy me time. That worked for me. I love physicality. So a lot of the time one of the big problems burgers and somebody in Dallas me have slake butterflies. You know, I buy myself time with physicality while I’m letting my brain catch up because that’s always the last thing to catch up for me and I’ll just pretend to be a butterfly and continue doing whatever it is that I’m doing and eventually when my brain catches up, I might be able to say funny things like we are now you know, stealing stacks of pollen or, you know, any butterfly related maybe Tunney or, and so on and so forth. But physicality for me has always been my go to and, you know, the thing is, when you’re going through all many different schools that have think they’re either going to be strong and wordplay, or they’re going to be strong with emotions, or strong with physicality, and develop all of these skills at the same time and you have your go to skill that you know, You can rely on. For me, that was physical work. And I wish somebody had the trick, but it wouldn’t have helped because I think people have to create their own set of tricks and see how things land within their system and what’s the easiest way for them to respond?

HOST  13:23

Yeah, I mean, that’s the other thing that’s crazy about improv Not only is it like 1000 different theories told by 1000 different people, but now we are all individuals soaking it up. And it’s like, we’re soaking it up in our own individual ways with our own background and our own, you know, situation going into it. You know, it’s like we were talking earlier about this idea of being your whole self. And I think I’m not only am I like super glad that culture in America, hopefully other places, but right now cultural in America is at least a liberal culture. I guess. is pushing very much towards let people be their whole selves, whoever they are, no matter what it is just let them be their whole selves, right. And that’s wonderful. And I wish that there was almost a bit more of that in improv, like we’re talking about, there’s something holding us back. There’s a competition that we’re trying to have. There’s a like, I’m good, I’m better, I could be better, when in reality, it’s like being able to do these scenes allows you to be your whole self. Like being able to do improv and let yourself open be open to these people that you’re in the truth with, allows you to break down the walls and like gives you the safe space to really be who you are. And once you are eight, you are able to function from your whole self. The choices you can make as an improviser are just like so much


more me so much greater. I will add one thing which is that there’s always something that goes In your head, hey, wouldn’t it just be easier? If I used the name Joe? Instead of Krishnan? You know, it’s just a easier choice. Because then my partner’s is not going to, you know, react, I’m not going to have to do the work to deflect or I don’t have to prepare the audience is going to be on the same page. And I think that’s exactly. If you think about why immigrants assimilate. It’s also for that exact same reason. His life just gets easier. And and, and I think we need to be very missin and be aware of how much you’re willing that each person is willing to assimilate and that threshold is different for different people. But at some point, I felt like You know, there’s a creative space, and we should be able to make those choices. And there will be days when I have the energy for it, where I might push those boundaries. But there might be days when I don’t have the energy for it. And both those are just fine. As long as you’re showing up. In fact, you just show up. That’s good enough. I’ve had folks say, it’s so wonderful to see an Indian woman on stage. I feel like I could do improv. That’s good enough. If you want to go beyond that, and add it into your act that he does better, but sometimes, but it takes energy, right, and it takes courage and we’re not all superheroes all the time. So bringing your whole self to improv or to work or to life. It’s knowing that, you know, you’re by showing up, you’re already doing 95% anything you do on top of that. Thank you. We appreciate you, I appreciate you. And I hope you appreciate that you were willing to put in that extra 5%. beyond what people asked.

HOST  17:11

It’s so hard that the onus is essentially on, you know, the sort of new person in the situation to like, make it okay for everybody to deal with it. It’s like, No, just stop, you know, like that, that you’re right. Like, not everybody wants to put in the effort of it every day.


Like, exhausting. It’s exhausting because one thing I have to constantly remind myself of is, I’m a very passionate person about improv about work about, about women about LGBTQ plus community about the environment about animal conservation and the greenhouse gases, Corona virus. But as human beings we do not have infinite amount of energies and the to pick and choose and, you know, earlier you were talking about, you know, longevity in improv. And you know, I had the same friend Ashley feebles. She’s amazing. She told me improv is like waves, you know, you’re just riding those waves. Sometimes you’re going to have a lot of energy, you’re going to be doing a lot of shows. And there’ll be other times where you’re lower creative juices because we have lives to deal with, right? But the beautiful thing about improv very much like life is as long as you’re showing up, and it’s at the back of your mind. That’s good enough and


just wait for the wave to rise back up, so to speak.

HOST  18:50

Yeah, yeah, it’s true. I feel that artistically for sure. As far as the the plight of other communities were discussing that have to, like change their name to make it easier for like, you know, Trevor to understand them, you know that but but for people just trying to like, you know, have energy for the things they love and also do life totally. I mean, like, I, I when I had my baby, I have a two year old right and when I had my baby, there was all sorts of paperwork issues with the insurance, my insurance, like just didn’t love doing their paperwork. And, and so I constantly had to like call people and do all this work and like, keep records of who I was talking to and like, make sure that we’re filling out the proper paperwork and like a ridiculous amount of work that I shouldn’t have had to do. And as I was doing it and taking notes and doing all the work, I was like, Can you imagine if I didn’t have just happened to have the time to do this. Like, like if I didn’t have if I didn’t, like wasn’t working freelance and I didn’t say like, Okay, well, I have five hours today. So let’s call that company and get them working. Like some people have to deal with terrible things all the time and they don’t have time for that. They gotta go to their work. They gotta like, take care of their kids. They don’t have time for this extra bullshit. You know what I mean? Like, there’s just no, you know, I My heart goes out to anybody who is like, just so overwhelmed with the life part that they don’t get the opportunity to have the fun part that is improv like to have an outlet that you can go to like, I’m glad you have it. I’m glad I have it. improv is something that like deeply improves my life, especially when the like, slog of paying bills and trying to find work is killing me. Right.


But you know what, that’s the beautiful thing is I don’t see improv. As just performance, you raid performance to theater. artists who paint you know, there might be a structured way and approach it. But there’s improvisation in that art form musicians, jazz musicians are improvising all the time. Sometimes, you know, even in terms of interacting with, with people or your friends, it’s I don’t, I don’t, I don’t see it as being restricted to a single domain. And I want to live in a world where I hope no matter what people are doing, that they’re practicing some form of improvisation. I think that’s a I think the most flexible people in the world are able to do that.

HOST  21:53

I definitely think that improv is a life skill that everyone should have that like everyone in every industry should try it, if only just to open their mind just a tiny bit, so that they could, you know, solve some problem in a creative way that they maybe wouldn’t have been able to do like in their real life. You know, like, Oh, I figured out how to, you know, fix this drain not because I know how to do it, but because I had the willingness to ask around or look it up or try, you know, like, there’s so much that improv gives you as far as like, sort of the confidence to try things you wouldn’t the sort of openness to talk to people that maybe wouldn’t have talked to otherwise. And then, you know, also just being comfortable in your own skin. I mean, I find that that I’ve seen people change immensely. When they take improv classes, you know, they’ll be very shy and then by the end, they’re like, they’re like a major leader of the community. So I mean, it’s It’s can be life changing in a really amazing way.


Absolutely. I do a little bit of art, sometimes I use improv in that realm. The other day I was fiddling around with my guitar. I don’t play very well, but I can play a couple of barre chords and I made up a song for my cat. You know, it’s, I’m not at a show I’m not performing. But it doesn’t mean I don’t use it. And you know, another great stories where improv does come into the picture is cooking rates sometimes come back home, open my fridge, and I’m like, Alright, what’s in there? And I make work, you know. And so, even at work, it’s it’s translating what I’ve thought, long and hard about how do we get people to yfm each other in life, and I find That is when my friendships, it has been as simple as asking a question when my friend makes this statement, I know you’re not supposed to do that in improv, but you know, being curious about my friend and what she’s talking about instead of just, you know, switching the topic or talking about myself for example, at work, I’ve found that you know, when somebody provides a point of view, then you may not agree with taking the time to consider their point of view and see that through and add value to it even though you don’t agree with it is an in first of all makes you a great team player at work. But also it shows a sign of respect and it’s basically improv. Yeah, right. So I’ve put a I tried to integrate the sand philosophy in almost everything. But the hardest thing I think of sometimes just hard to yes and myself when you’re not in the right headspace. Yeah,

HOST  25:11

yeah, but I like to think like your friend said that, you know, we have what what’s going on in your life comes in waves, you know not and it’s not always you know the waves even the waves of sadness for instance, like when I’m having a downtime. I’ll just try to go you know this will be over soon enough just keep making it through, like doesn’t matter Oh, real sad about that it’s okay. Just


have a very interesting story about that where I, where I changed my own relationship with I would say jealousy for example is whenever I previously felt any negative emotions that we’re secure typically, I would shove it down right so you’re not supposed to think Like this myth, this is wrong. And what I shifted in the past couple of years was, instead of shutting it down or judging my own feelings, I take a moment to just sit with them and acknowledge them and say, Okay, let’s talk through this. You’re feeling these feelings, but take a moment to, yes, that emotion. And let’s figure out what’s behind it. And I found that that was so helpful in my personal life to just grow as an end visual has greatly impacted friendships, I have relationships I have with my family. And, you know, it helped me understand myself more.

HOST  26:50

Plus, from an acting point of view, you can now acknowledge the sort of like multi layers of emotions that exist. You, so then your characters can have multi layers of emotions. I find that very hard, you know, because I teach a lot of level one so it’s kind of like just be happy just happiness. Yeah, and later improv like, it’s like cool do like six emotions at once if you can, like package them, because really, we’re all feeling tons of things at once. You just have to communicate them in a way that makes sense, right? So I have used all of my own issues like all of my own like, emotions, as an act acting exercise, right? So I used to teach this act, this emotion acting exercise where I like made them all do monologues to the wall to it to focus on an emotion and try to heighten that emotion. It’s like if you’re happy you’re like kind of pleased to like totally ecstatic by the end. And I want you to build a build a build up, build up, build it and you don’t have to, no one has to hear what you’re saying. Just say stuff and think Happy, happy, happy, happy all the way to the top or things Like angry, angry, angry, angry all the way to the top, see, and then tell me how it feels in your body physically. And we would talk about which part of their body like buzzed when they got happier buzz when they got angry. And I was like, Great, now you can focus your acting into that part. So like I when I get angry, my jaw tightens. So now when I’m on stage, I can just tighten my jaw. And it gets me into the mind space of anger. And I’m not saying this in a like, Stanislavski kind of way. Like, I’m not like, Listen, I’ve channeled this like no, no, I just mean like, now that I know that Amy reacts to anger in this way. I can then tell my scene partners. PS when I do this with my face, that means I’m expressing to you that I’m angry. And it also helps me later in real life when I got angry, and I would feel it in my body and a voice My head would go Hmm, I think you’re angry because your jaws tight. You should probably not say whatever you’re thinking right now out loud. Yes,


absolutely. I think the point you’re trying to make is about the the flexibility you gain in what you project. Right? projection as being like what how others see you, you develop that third eye to know what other people are seeing on stage. It comes in handy because you’re more in control of if I want to be angry this I know how to get there. And I know that the audience is seeing what I’m demonstrating. In real life. I found that it helps me check in. Like if I’m at my workplace, and I’m getting angry. I know I’m getting angry. I felt like improv and doing the work I’ve done with improv has given me A lot more control over what I project. Because it’s not that what I was feeling was not right. It was I’m just working environment where girl trying to just do the best job and might not be appropriate and you get to change a little bit of how you respond. And I think it’s just a sign of maturity becoming an adult learning to work with people, different people, different strokes, you know, and being


in person to be around.


How do you feel about in general authenticity in communication?


What do you mean?


Often, um, one thing I’ve always wondered is


with that much of flexibility in how you project You know, the question that in my mind is that I always wonder is Metro you still authentic to Metro because this is not Improv Theater. This is real life.

HOST  31:12

Oh, you mean like in the day to day like how authentically I mean, I don’t know


I, I don’t

HOST  31:18

know that I can be any other way though to be, though To be honest, like, I noticed this in my child. I am sort of empath empathic, emotionally with like stories. So like, if I’m watching a play or a movie, I’m like, deeply involved in their journey and I’ll completely forget my own life while I’m in on this journey, you know, it, I guess, provided they do their jobs. I get sucked in and then I’m like, feel the the deep, deep emotions. But you know, they’re not my emotions, but I’m still crying. You know, like, nothing’s happening to me. But I’m still feeling the emotion. Now. When I’m on stage. The I think the difference is between improv where you’re trying to do comedy and improv where you’re not. So like, a lot of I know a lot of schools are not trying to do comedy, but most of my experience and all of my teaching has been in comedy. So like, in as far as authenticity goes in performance, I’d say not so much. You know what I mean? comedy is overblown and bigger than life. And like, I mean, if I, in my level one classes I always teach like, improv characters are terrible people are you are going to be mean to someone in this room, in a scene, and that’s alright. Because the we’ll find a way to make that funny. Like, this person’s never going to learn that the door doesn’t open that way. They’re gonna keep trying. And we’re gonna learn a lesson I said comedy characters don’t. The scene doesn’t end when they go. Oh, I figured it out. No, no, they just hit themselves in the face more Like they’re not it’s comedy it’s not authentic sort of like improv drama now are you is the improv that you do dramatic or not reliant on comedy.


I the school I trained in was, was all about comedy. And you know whenever I tried to do emotion based work it it did get a little dramatic but I found what I was keenly interested in is understanding this spectrum between comedy and drama and being flexible to play in any realm. I don’t know why maybe I used to play cricket, which is a popular sport very much like NFL in the US, but they have a term which is all rounder so person has a bat spurs. That’s woman and a A bowler and can keep can do wicked keeping for example. So I like the idea of flexibility and the rule I figured out for myself. And of course, shouldn’t be too surprising, I think few, many folks have said this also, is when there’s a contrast between, you know, words and physicality, or words an emotion, anywhere, there’s a strong contrast, it leans more towards comedy. And when when the emotions match the words when the when the physicality matches the emotions and the words he leans closer to drama. So for me, it’s if I’m playing to a comedic audience than I’m playing with contrast, if I’m playing to a more serious audience, and if I wanted to do just a very serious show, I play more on the site of similarity. So I Don’t think of it as I had a lot. I had to think about it for a long time. What makes things funny? And what makes things does it funny and La fuses? This is what works for me. And I am going to have the caveat. There were many people who told me Yeah, comedy lies in contrast. So I’m definitely not the person that gave it. But it took a while for


us to so yeah, it’s Yeah, it’s a I think it’s classic for sure.


Yeah, it’s a classic so it but it took a while to kind of develop developed that flexibility. It takes practice and, you know, you theoretically understand it, but it meant that I was trying to do comedy shows, but I would also come up with sets, solo sets where, oh my god, nobody’s gonna think this is funny. I think there’s less I haven’t seen theatrical like, drama. improv. I think the closest we do is like maybe a grounded scene and a deep con. Hmm. That might be you know, very real emotions. But I think with the I used to do musical improv and my favorites, we’re doing a scene that’s not funny. But in musical improv, you can go to those places.

HOST  36:28

Yeah, the vibes a little different with the musical improv you’re Yeah, the the contrast is is, you know, built out of the music less. People don’t really sing. You know?


No. And there was a sketch writing class I took with killing my lobster and Shawn Oh, and was one of the teachers and, you know, I wrote a very, very sad, sad, musical improv sketch. It was about all I want to celebrate Somewhere, the song from my fair lady, but it was a musical parody. And it was had immigrant, a student Indian student on an h1 visa. And at that time, I think, Trump, I don’t know who was the president, but that was basically people were losing their recess and must have been trumped because ice was around. And when I wrote that sketch, I was very worried about how it would be perceived by everyone, including the instructor, because it dealt with a problem that you’ve almost never talked about. Not in a comedic writing session. And the most beautiful thing that happened was the instructor, Shawn Owens, he just said, wow. And he said Mithra there’s always room for one sided sketch in a whole show. And if you’re going to go there, here are some ways to just plunge that knife even deeper into your audience’s hearts.

HOST  38:11



Yeah. And I was very happy. And more than that surprised by a wonderful example of somebody just embracing that difference and I felt very safe to be able to take more risks with writing or improv. I think teachers have a huge role that they play is, when you’re early on as a student, you’re so looking to the teachers to not for approval, but to set the norm. So I went when my teacher said they love this Catch, there’s room for it, make it sadder. I felt like I could bring more of myself funny or otherwise.

HOST  39:12

That’s so great. I’m so glad that you have, you know the community that you do. Now, you know, I did do a mild amount of research on you before I called you. I noticed that you are also in the position to help a lot of new improvisers, you’re working on a lot of different festivals. And I saw in one that you had multiple times been the volunteer coordinator. I mean, that’s


so like, yeah, that’s one of the community building.


So that’s one of the most surprising things that ever happened is a couple of years ago, when I just finished school had this idea that, you know, the only way to help or be part of the community was to like perform And be in a house team and, and do all of this stuff and and just over time I just followed what I like doing. And it started off where I volunteered to be a door person at sketch fest and I the volunteering has always been part of my DNA. So when whenever festivals came around and somebody was like, oh, we’re looking for help it started off with very small volunteering gigs, just helping with the tickets, but the more you do that, and you show up and people can count on you to show up. You know, they start reaching out to you saying, Hey, we were putting together Jill is amazing to like man who is the executive producer of improviser fest. She’s amazing at rallying women in the community to put together this festival. She reached out and she was like, hey, do you want to help review a video or you know Part of the production and I joined on as, as like volunteer coordination. I think I’ll do that. But the more I started working with one, one festival, then you know, you just develop relationships. And last year, I had been volunteering for a few years with San Francisco improv festival. Again, small things, I checked in people at the door, I would volunteer for shop, you know, as a ticket collector. Then after two years, they said, Hey, do you want to help us plan a party and be like our party person? So I did that for a year. And the next year, they said, Hey, do you want to review videos for us? And and then you show up at the meetings and they’re just excited to have you and then last year, they said, You know, I could? Yeah, they invited me to be a producer and Chief, where I get to see the whole thing happen. So yeah, And I get a lot of joy from working with production. More than even I would see, I like performing equal equal amounts, but it’s just another way to community to contribute to the community. But hate started with me showing up to do any job.

HOST  42:25

You know, it makes me think of what we were talking about earlier about, like taking a level one and like, sort of like working your way up, even if it’s like a new school or something like that. Like the fact that you were willing to do whatever job they needed you to do. And you helped out with the little things you weren’t like, I’m better than that. You like did this and helped and like that’s how people like how do I get to run a festival? You do that? Yeah, help.


Yeah. I can also say that for any of the listeners who are looking to have long careers in tech or otherwise are generally in life. It’s, it’s, at least in my own personal jobs. Sometimes I joke around saying I’m the labs tech task rabbit. Basically, if something needs to get done, I just say, Hey, I don’t care whether you know, the weather map qualified or show up and get it done. And people appreciate people who are willing to do just about any job. Yeah,

HOST  43:30

totally. I love that. That’s my favorite thing. My husband and I were just talking about that we were talking about how there’s this like, terrible thing in the world where people think that they’re better than certain jobs and they’re like, No, you’re not. You’re not better than that job. That job needs to be done. So you can do it. You’re looking for a job. Look, there’s one right there. Like people think that they’re, you know, better than something when in reality like that. I’m better than this is Like roadblock that’s holding them from getting to the high level that they want to achieve. It’s like, great. You got to walk up the mountain though. Nobody’s you can’t fly. So you can’t get to the top of the mountain without walking up. So get walk. Right. It’s like, it’s just really amazing. And like, I appreciate you telling the story in the way that you did. Because like, yes, of course, the first thing that happened that when I looked you up was you know, producer and Chief, San Francisco and professor. Wow, awesome. Great. And then it’s like as I continue to volunteer coordinator, and that’s rough, it was like this and that this and that. I was like, wow, all these different jobs. And some of them the hardest of all, like, and you’re like, yep, I’ll do it. What’s that talking to 1000 strangers who have questions of the last me the same thing over and over Get it? Like you’re just like on top of it and like taking care of people. Like it’s it’s awesome. You know, you’re clearly an important part of the community.


It’s a small important part. I think one of the,


what I would say is this. I think, having said that, I like doing production work. I have taught a couple of level one drop in classes, for example. And I was exhausted. By the end, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is like, performing for three hours. So, you know, I have a lot of respect for all the people who put time to teach classes in the community. I have a lot of respect for people who are owning the theaters dealing with the pressures of keeping a school up and running. I have a lot of respect for the performers who show up. I really don’t think any one of these ways to participate is better. Because it takes energy. And you know, I found a way that works with, you know, my life and but like, you know, I also know that I don’t have energy for others, so I’m just really appreciative of every person in the community, because without it, we wouldn’t have fun.


Man, you just so smooth and easy going I love it. We’re like, but the truth is, we’re all great.


That’s awesome. I’m so glad.

HOST  46:31

I’m glad that, you know, your community is such that you know, you feel supported and, and you’ve got got to do all these different things and you like doing them and you get the opportunity to do them. Like, I’ve talked to a lot of different people in a lot of different cities across the world. And sometimes it’s like, it’s me and my friend Leroy and we do improv in the bar and two people come and we have the best day of our lives and it’s like, great, but you know, you There’s so much going on around you and that you’re able to like, you know, perform and do production and yet and also like take it into your, your like day job life as well. And like even just like, the philosophy discussion we’ve had in this in this conversation has been amazing. Like I’m like,


Yeah, absolutely. Like,

HOST  47:21

I’ve always thought it was my whole life but just talking to you is like, just really opened it up for me for sure. So


the the main thing that I think about is, a lot of people say, Oh, you do improv, it should apply and it should improve your life. But nobody has really created it concrete examples of how to do it. So sometimes that’s something I think about because that’s a lot of, you know, what I do for my job is, is test hypotheses, do experiments on my own life, do an experiment and what does it mean to him? So when I do that at work, I think did that go well, was that he offending harder After the other interaction goals, so it’s that’s how my brain works, right? How does comedy work have is drama work? It’s it’s some but my point of view is can I get it down to kind of way to teach people? So one of the big areas I’m passionate about is how do we get allies to show up and support each other and it’s something very small, but in my signature, and my work email, I not only have my name, but I also have preferred pronouns, even though it’s it conforms with what I outwardly represent. figured you know, if I share him that maybe somebody else was not so comfortable sees that this is the new norm and they would want to share Yeah, right. So it’s, it’s and this is something that did The Human Rights Committee from the head had suggested that people do to create a more inclusive environment. So it’s just like how do we find these little ways to create safe spaces for each other? To Yes, and each other Sarah formula, and I’m happy to share anything that’s worked in my life if it helps anyone else.

HOST  49:25

You should write a book, like experiment books about how you figured out how to use yes and and stuff in real life. Because I bet you, you’re right. Like, we’re always I mean, the other teachers were like,


Hey, man, now you got the skill.

HOST  49:42

You can use it in the real world, but like, I don’t really talk to anybody other than my husband and theater people. So that’s all like, that’s not really a difficult crowd to be using, you know, improv with. But, you know, going into these jobs, you know, maybe the industry is not so friendly, let’s say and, you know, you got to deal with a lot of back and forth. Maybe there’s a lot of collaboration in your work, but people are not good at it. Like how do you truly use improv as a way to improve every part of your life? That I would read that book as I’m saying,


that is awesome. Because one small thing that I put a change in my life, and it’s extremely small, but very powerful. I was reading this article about how between friends or couples or anything like that, they found that in most people who stayed together, whenever one partner said something, the other partner would turn their body towards them. And in about 50% of couples who divorced whenever somebody said something, they move their body away from


I think about that for a second.

HOST  50:58

Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna keep that went towards him over and over now trying to get that going. Wow. Yeah. So


so when I decided, Okay, what is he finding you’re at a very small level looks like is when it’s just a small group I created for myself when somebody says something, turn your body towards them, it will make them feel acknowledged. It’s a very small Yes. And I’m paying attention to you not just like listening and being on my phone or something like that or saying Aha, but turning your body towards them is yes and

HOST  51:38

wow. Told Yes. I love it. So good. I’m telling you part of me wants to cut this out of the episode just so you can write the book and make a million I know how much those improv books make. But yeah, that’s, that is a great tip. That was a great tip for like life. Like legitimately real, how to improve your situation like how to improve your relationship with your co workers, or anybody maybe, maybe it’s happening in your improv troupe like, why aren’t we connecting physically turn towards them. Maybe that could help. That is so smart. I love it


at the top of the scene that you should say make eye contact, just one form of turning towards right.


Or they say check in with each other. Yeah, man. All right, goodness.

HOST  52:31

mithras. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I know. We didn’t talk that much about like, you know, your life experience in the specific details of your history. But I feel like we got so deeply into like cultural ideas and like how improv communities develop interesting topics, and I really appreciate you being here with me. Thank you for having me. Me. I had a lot of fun. Thanks for listening to yes but why podcast? Check out all our episodes on yes but why podcast calm or check out all the content on our network at Universal as HC Universal Network calm

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