204. Y'all We Asian w/ Yola Lu

Asian in Austin - Season 2 Episode 4 - Y'all We Asian w/ Yola Lu
[00:00:00] Sandra Pham: Hey y'all, I'm Sandra Pham.

[00:00:02] Minh Vu: And I'm Minh Vu. Welcome to Asian in Austin
Sandra, have you, well, I know this answer actually. We started watching "Jury Duty", we watched like the first episode earlier this year, and I just really appreciated the like concept. I thought it was so funny. It was like very heartwarming. And just silly and goofy and kind of like all the characters that they had in the show made it really realistic but also over the top as well too. It's yeah this is like not real but it could be. It's like that edge right? I'm curious what you thought about the show and like what other comedic funny things that kind of get you in a good mood?

[00:01:11] Sandra Pham: Yeah, I do think I really liked Jury Duty.
I think it's outlandish and ridiculous, but I mean a heartwarming kind of silly show. Somebody that's just oblivious to the way the jury process works. I don't know how much of it is real, but yeah, I do far appreciate comedy above any other genre. It's just like, how can you not enjoy comedy, right? who doesn't love to laugh, but I'm definitely a 90s kid.
So I grew up with the cheese ball -Yes, I'm sorry. I am a fan of "Friends". I put it on. Do I watch it and I think this is not that funny? Yeah, but it's just nostalgic. "Sister, Sister", "Full House," you know, like all the super cheeseball comedy stuff is totally my jam and I'm sure kids of this generation is like "oh my god, like this is so corny." but I love it.

[00:02:05] Minh Vu: Yeah, and I'm trying to think too, because this month we have a comedian as our special guest. When I think about stand up comics too, I never really watched a lot of stand up comedians or any of that type of comedy until, I do remember there was like a reality show called "Last Comic Standing" or something like that.
And I remember watching "Last Comic Standing" and I remember watching with our family and like Dat Phan was a huge moment in our-- we like would watch every week and we were like cheering for him and that was when I was like "oh wow like maybe, I do stand up comedy," I just --It never resonated with me before or what have you, what about you, do you like stand up comedy?

[00:02:51] Sandra Pham: Yes, like it is one of my all time favorite activities. My dream day always is to go to a comedy club. What's interesting though is I feel like... Comedy shows up so differently. Personally, I think I'm a really dry and sarcastic person. If you know me, you know this, right? Like I'm, I'm pretty dry, but the comedy that I enjoy, so stand up comedy, I enjoy really kind of more dark humor.
"Tough topics" type of comedy and then TV shows I like the cheesy cornball stuff. So I think I appreciate comedy in all of its form, which is interesting. And I am a huge fan of TikTok because I think everyone is hilarious.

[00:03:32] Minh Vu: Well, and then now I'm going to be like. Well, Vine back in-- like Vine, pioneer of the like short form seconds, long comedy and all that type of stuff, which I thought also created a lot of like creative people and showcased a lot of funny people who otherwise didn't get a platform.
But yeah, I'm really excited about who we're going to be talking to this month. Yola co founded an all Asian American improv troupe called Y'all We Asian and yeah, we'll learn a little bit more about her story and her journey with being a comedian and actress. Yeah, I can share a little bit more about her bio here and then we can maybe get into the interview.

Yola Lu is a comedian and actress based out of Austin, Texas. She's the co founder of Y'all We Asian, Austin's first and only all Asian American improv troupe. She also is the 2022 Austin Chronicle "Best Actress" winner and is currently in post production of her short film "Patsy". You can see her perform with all her female identifying improv troupe "Garage" every Thursday at the Fallout Theater and with Y'all We Asian every first Friday of the month also at Fallout Theater.

She also hosts a monthly stand up show called "Oops! All Headliners" which is every last Saturday of the month at Coldtowne Theater. I will just name that as part of our interview with her, there are topics related to miscarriage and depression. So just want to give our listeners a heads up there before we get into the interview.

All right, let's get into it.

Hey, Yola, welcome to Asian in Austin. Thank you for being here with us.

[00:05:17] Yola Lu: Yes, thank you for having me. I'm so excited.

[00:05:19] Minh Vu: Yeah, before we kind of get into a little bit more about your background in comedy and all that type of stuff, I'm wondering if you can share with our listeners your ethnicities, your pronouns, and any other identities or aspects of your background that you'd like to share with us.

[00:05:36] Yola Lu: Yeah, I feel very straightforward with my identity. I'm Taiwanese American. I was born and raised here, born in Los Angeles and then moved to Seattle when I was pretty young and then my pronouns are she, her, hers. And I think that's honestly it for my background.

[00:05:54] Minh Vu: Yeah. No, that's great. Thanks for sharing that with us.
How's your year gone so far? How have you been spending your time?

[00:06:00] Yola Lu: It has been going, honestly, really great. Like it's been, it's been a really great year. Here it's been really busy and I say that especially just coming from Asian American Heritage Month like kind of closing up like I don't know what it is, but it's like that month is just the busiest craziest month ever all the time.

And then right before that I was actually in Seattle taking care of my mom for a month so I kind of-- it was super slow when I moved back to Seattle because I wasn't really doing much comedy and everything, and I didn't really have, my extracurriculars going on after work, so it was really just go to work, take care of my mom, go to work, take care of my mom, and then that was mostly it, and then, so.

I think that's why I also feel a little bit more recharged and everything, even though I got back on like May 13th or something. And then it was just like, bam, right into everything like the Y'all We Asian showcase and then my shows and then a bunch of shows outside of Austin. One of the reasons for that is just because like I performed a few times in Dallas.

And San Antonio and everything and that's because like they were trying to do some Asian American shows here. I think I might be the only other besides like for Ashley Sharma here in Austin and Lani Cuomo. I might be the only East Asian female comedian in Texas right now actually. And then so that's why people ask me to go to their cities to help perform because they don't have that representation there.

So that's why it's been a little bit even extra busy for me because they're like trying to get some diversity on the light ups and stuff like that. And then so they'll pull me into some of these shows and stuff. And we don't have a ton of Asian comics in Austin to that do stand up. And then so I like also pull people from Dallas and Houston to come and do shows for me. And then so it's kind of like we started building this community and then just pulling each other and helping each other. Even though it's like a three hour drive to do like a 10, 15 minute set, we still want to help each other out and stuff.

[00:08:11] Minh Vu: That's amazing. How does like naming being one of the few or only East Asian female comedians in Texas, is like, how does that impact you when you like go on stage or do some of these gigs? Is that something that you think about or that's a big thing, you know?

[00:08:28] Yola Lu: Right. Like I was on a show really recently in Dallas and there was like nine comics on and then I was like the only female on that lineup. So I do recognize that I am the only female.

So sometimes like I will make a joke when I go up on stage and be like, "Hi, I'm the diversity for the lineup tonight." But sometimes there's like extra pressure, not even just being Asian but being the only female on the lineup and stuff like that because a lot of people think like women aren't funny It's just like a stereotype or whatever and then so it's like always my thing to try to be as funny as possible because I don't want to feed into the stereotype and I've been doing it for a long time.

So I think I know a little bit better of how to like do jokes and things like that now, but I'm always like a lot happier when there's more than just one woman on the lineup and everything because then it's not just all on me, you know?

[00:09:24] Minh Vu: Yeah, that concept of kind of an undue burden to be the representation and leading the charge.

It's representing, such a large swath of people, right, whether it's being a woman or being Asian. There's no way for just you to, represent all, but I can imagine there's that pressure, especially in such, a... particularly male dominated industry a little bit, right? And trying to just put the best foot forward.

So hats off to you for navigating that experience. But also I, I want to also just share "meh, do your thing." That will speak for itself of what all the identities that you encapsulate and just who you are and then it'll trickle into the representation that I think people are might be looking for or what have you.

Yeah. Yeah, that's awesome though.

[00:10:20] Yola Lu: Yeah

[00:10:20] Sandra Pham: I'm really glad you kind of shared that take us into I'm sure as you were starting to look at career paths and your passions and things like that-- or maybe it was a motivator, but to be like, "I want to be the only female East Asian comedian in Texas." I'm sure that wasn't top of mind for you. What really were your motivations and like, how did you start a career?

[00:10:44] Yola Lu: So do you mean start a career in comedy?

[00:10:47] Sandra Pham: In comedy, pursuing acting, your movie as well. I mean, you wear many hats, but Yeah. What spurred the creativity to pursue these?

[00:10:56] Yola Lu: Yeah, so I started doing all of this about 12 years ago in 2011 is when I was graduating from college. And then for some reason I had this really weird idea in my head that once you started working, you weren't going to have a life. You couldn't do things outside of work anymore or something.

You couldn't really pursue your passions like you could like in college necessarily. And then so I had one more quarter before I was supposed.

And then I was like, I didn't do anything but internships and take on leadership roles because all I wanted to do was get a good job outside of school because my parents weren't always doing very well financially. I always, told myself that I didn't want to, be like that. I wanted to, have a steady job and everything.

So that's all I focused on when I was in college about, getting a job outside of school. And then, so, I think I read "The Alchemist", actually, was the book that I read that was like, "oh my gosh, I need to do something that like fulfills me and stuff." And then so I was like going through, I wrote down like a bucket list and inspired me to write a bucket list.

And then there was only like five items on that bucket list. And it was like, one of them was be in The Vagina Monologues. And then the other one was try standup comedy, be in a musical, go to Greece and then get my nose pierced. And then those were like the only things that I had, but I noticed that most of them were performance based.

And then, so I like didn't really know where that came from because I didn't do anything performance wise, like in school while I was in school. But when I was younger, I wrote a lot of plays by myself. I used to put on plays for my neighborhood and I would draw flyers and go to. My neighbor's doors, knock on them, hand them flyers and invite them to the show in my parents garage and stuff.

And I would cast my schoolmates and everything. And then I used to perform all the time for my temple when I was growing up also. And then I just kind of lost that as I got older. So that's kind of where I got my start. And then a standup comedy class was how I got into it because I just wanted to check a box basically and say that I did it.

And then we had our showcase and I was so nervous about the showcase. I like didn't eat for like almost three days because I thought it was going to throw up the entire time. And then, so I did the showcase and I rushed it. It was like one of the best. Shows that I've ever done. I mean, yes, at that point it was like the only show that I had done, but it was so, so good and I've never felt that feeling before in my life.
And then so I was just like, I want to continue this. And then I kind of dropped everything that I was doing career-wise, and then was like, I wanna pursue standup comedy. I mean, I do have a day job now and everything because you have to. Pay your bills somehow, but it totally changed the trajectory of my life.

To be honest, like everything changed after that day.

[00:14:02] Minh Vu: I want to hear because I think a lot of people when they hear when someone does something that feels really meaningful and really switches something for them, you described it as like you felt really good after that showcase. I wonder if you can share a little bit more about describing some of that feeling or what made it so different that you're like, Oh, I've not really felt this before.

[00:14:23] Yola Lu: Yeah, it was kind of crazy, was like, I've always been very soft spoken in school, like I never really felt like I could say my thoughts. I could make my friends laugh a lot and everything, but I never thought I could do this like in front of people with an audience. And it was just, I felt like for once I had a platform.

To say things that were important to me. At that time I was like going through so much heartbreak and everything too and it was like an opportunity for me to talk about what was hurting me. So it was almost like, I hate comparing oh doing stand up to like therapy or something because everybody should.
go to therapy if you need it. You should not use stand up comedy as like a substitution for it. go to real therapy. But I at the time was not going to therapy. So I really did use the stage as like a therapeutic mean of getting my feelings out and then just being able to like, Crafting a joke is like pretty hard to get people to laugh and everything like it's very hard and being able to actually write things that were in my head that I always thought were funny and then put it on paper was this absolute crazy pants thing that I never expected that I could have done and it was just like the laughs that night were just electrifying and then I literally used up so much adrenaline afterwards.

Like I almost passed out because I didn't eat for three days and everything. So I was like running on adrenaline the whole time. Yeah. That's kind of like what it kind of felt like. And I knew I had a really good set, but like everybody else did not have a good set. So that's how I could tell that I actually got like true laughter.

[00:16:09] Minh Vu: The other thing that I am curious about your story that you just shared is the neighborhood play that you did and maybe finally circled back around to when you started exploring stand up. But what was one of your first shows that you did in the neighborhood?

[00:16:23] Yola Lu: Yeah, so I don't know if you guys were ever into "Pokemon?"

But I was like obsessed with "Pokemon" and then so I started writing my own episodes of "Pokemon" and then putting them on when my teachers found out they actually took all the fourth grade classes together and we had those like sliding wall doors or something for the classrooms that would like create the different classrooms and so the teachers just opened up all of the rooms and then I got to perform my play with my like cast members Or I don't know, 80 kids or something, because like I told my teachers that we were like doing this at home and stuff like that.

And I was like producing it in my garage and stuff like that. And then so they were like, you guys do it for the class and everything. And then I just had no shame at that time. And then so it was just like, Oh, okay. Yeah. And then I know it was terrible. I know it was not good. It was like, I didn't know how to be like a director at that time and tell people how to act or do whatever.

So I just wrote my own episodes of things that I thought were like fun to watch and I wanted to see more of. I remember like one of the first shows I produced in my garage. It was a free show because I didn't know the concept of charging people money at the time. But it was a free show and it was like these two old Japanese grandparents in my neighborhood that showed up and then they brought me a box of like chocolates from Hawaii and stuff as Uh, little thank you and stuff and then they sat in the front row and I think they really liked it. At least like it was weird now thinking about it that they would come out to support me because I didn't know them at all. I just literally went knocking on every door I could and stuff, which probably says so much about how I do promotion nowadays too, because I do also send a lot of personalized messages to people, being like, "do you want to come to my show?" It's like that. It's interesting that I had that little promotional hustler spirit at such a young age also.

[00:18:34] Minh Vu: That's such a special story too. Yeah that your teachers encouraged you to share and created space for you to share this.

[00:18:44] Yola Lu: Yeah.

[00:18:44] Minh Vu: So I'm like imagining kids being "Pokemon" and just like that's their line is yeah, the "Pokemon" name over and over again, right? I kind of love that. I wish that was filmed somewhere. I feel like it would do so well on the internet probably

[00:19:01] Yola Lu: Probably would I don't know if it was ever filmed.
I don't think so

[00:19:05] Minh Vu: I love that you had that experience though and you were able to create that experience for other people and then also yeah It's sweet for those Japanese folks to come and support little neighborhood kid and yeah, bringing chocolates. I'm like, does that world exist anymore? I don't know.

But that's so nice. Yeah.

[00:19:24] Yola Lu: People wouldn't open their doors anymore. I think if you knocked on your door

[00:19:28] Minh Vu: Was this in seattle or?

[00:19:30] Yola Lu: I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle. So it was a city called Redmond. It's like basically Round Rock or Pflugerville here in Austin. Yeah. Cool. Austin. Yeah.

[00:19:40] Sandra Pham: What were your parents reactions when you were putting on these plays and knocking on doors and having strangers kind of come by as you're, you're putting up these plays?

[00:19:51] Yola Lu: Surprisingly, they never said anything about it. Maybe they did and I forgot, but I don't know if they knew that I was going to every door in the neighborhood. It was like a huge neighborhood, by the way. We had like hundreds of houses there. I don't think they knew that I was doing that. We used to have a mini temple in our house and we would have people like come over to do prayers and stuff like that.

So I think it was also just like they were kind of like maybe somewhat used to like having people just like randomly come over all the time. So they've always encouraged me actually to do what I want to do. Every class I wanted to take and stuff like I was just like, Oh, I want to try ballet or I want to take art classes like painting classes and stuff like I want to learn violin.

They would always allow me to try out these things because they wanted me to find what I liked. But I never stuck with anything ever in my life as much as I did with stand up. So I thought it was like an age thing. But so far, like I've tried even as a grown adult, like I've tried going back to like dance classes or I've taken like pottery classes and stuff like that.

And nothing just brings me the same kind of joy as stand up or comedy in general does it is finding what I am really into and then sticking to it and stuff so,

[00:21:17] Sandra Pham: Yeah, I love that. So as a kid, when you were developing these plays and putting them on, it sounds like you mentioned-- you kind of wrote things that you were interested in.
How do you find inspiration for the jokes in the standup that you do now? What really drives that? Is that tapping into personal experience? I know you also mentioned some people do use it as an outlet, right? And we recognize lots of comedians do that. What inspires you?

[00:21:45] Yola Lu: Yeah, so Sandra, I think you were at the "Oops All Headliners" show that I put on, so you kind of know a little bit about my material and stuff.

And then all my material is very true to life, and the reason for that is because like when I first started, I did try writing a lot of like observational humor, but because there's so many comedians and everything has been done before and stuff like that. I remember like a comedian pulled me aside and was like, "Hey, I've heard that kind of premise two times before."

"It's not really original." It's like somebody else in the scene already does something like that. And then I was just like, "Oh, okay." Writing like observational comedy. It's like other comics already probably do it and they're maybe doing a better job at it than I am anyway. So I decided right then and there that I was only going to write about my personal experiences because then nobody could really copy that and then I wouldn't get hold aside from somebody saying "Oh, somebody also thought that they were pregnant because they loved their dog so much" or something like that.

You know, so I haven't had anybody pull me aside saying that I've had a very similar premise to anybody ever since then, because I write so much about like my true life experiences, but there's also, like I said, it is also like therapeutic. Like I've started finally writing more about my divorce and my miscarriage and everything.

And then... part of it isn't necessarily for therapy per se, but it's more of, I don't think a lot of people really talk about stuff like that, especially like sometimes like with Asian women and like miscarriages. Like I know Ali Wong has touched on it in her standup set before one of her specials, but it's just like such a.

Especially like in Asian culture and divorce too is so taboo. For maybe about a year, my parents wouldn't tell any of their friends or anybody or our family that I was separated from my husband. And then every time people would ask "Oh, where's Yola's husband?" they would lie and say "Oh, he's back in San Antonio helping out his parents and he couldn't be here" and stuff like that.

And they just were like, so... I don't know if they were ashamed or embarrassed of it and stuff, but they just wouldn't. acknowledge that I was like getting a divorce to other people. And then when I made "Patsy", my short film, and it talks about like my miscarriage and my divorce and there too, my mom was mortified.

She was like, "I can't believe you're making a movie about this" and stuff like that. And then "I can't believe you're talking about all of these like topics" and She was like, "I don't think you should" because it was just like, I think she found it to be shocking that I was doing it, but it was also just like such a taboo subject to talk about.

But that's also why I wanted to talk about it because I wanted more people to feel less alone or that they could share about things that happen and my miscarriage was like really bad. I was pregnant up till the first trimester and we were actually going to announce that day that I was pregnant publicly and then it was that day that I had the miscarriage like the day that we were supposed to announce it publicly.

People don't talk about it very often. I didn't even know really what it was like. I thought it was just like you just woke up one day and you realize you had your period but you're actually giving birth in the miscarriage, like I was actually like in labor and passed something and it was probably the most painful thing I've ever experienced in my life.
It was very traumatic for me, but being able to talk about it and laugh about it on stage really has helped me a lot move past some of the hurt that I felt with it. And something about having, like, all of the audience, also kind of be in it with you just feels, comforting, almost, in a way.

[00:25:44] Minh Vu: Yeah. I think being able to share such vulnerable and personal things that happen to you can be healing in that way... way of also creating community with other people who might have been able been through a similar experience or had something like that happened to them. So, I think it's really commendable.

And I mean, yeah, it's hard stuff to share. So, brav-. I'm going to say, very brave. I feel like that might sometimes feel like a cliche of a statement, but I genuinely mean it because it's, I'm sure it was challenging at first, but it sounds like you've been in a space to be able to freely and comfortably talk about it.

[00:26:27] Yola Lu: Right I think when I first wrote some jokes about it, I don't necessarily do those jokes anymore about my miscarriage, but I remember I went backstage and I just bawled. I just started crying because it was my first time I ever mentioned publicly that I even had a miscarriage.

My close friends knew because it felt very lonely at the time because, like I said, the like we didn't announce the pregnancy and stuff. So nobody knew I was pregnant. So nobody knew I had a miscarriage and was going through all of this. And then so it was kind of like news for a lot of the communities that I perform in front of and stuff like that.
I like just didn't really fully know how to process it and how to share this like with my friends. It just felt like it was like you were like a failure in a way or something and then you like blame yourself for all these things that happen. And then you still wonder about, "Oh, if I didn't have the miscarriage, would it have saved my marriage if we had a kid instead?"

And all these things that you think about. Yeah. So for a while I stopped telling the miscarriage jokes because it was just like, it was hard for me. And then I finally was able to kind of like do it in a better way and the audience is very split sometimes from it. Like they either laugh really hard at the joke or they're just like, "Oh my gosh," like worried and upset for you and stuff. Yeah.

[00:27:56] Minh Vu: Yeah, I'm sure being able to see those two different reactions can be an experience of itself, too.

[00:28:02] Yola Lu: Right, yes.

[00:28:04] Sandra Pham: What I think is just incredible, I think, is healing looks differently for everyone, right? And you were able to kind of define or discover the way that brought you, I think some healing and some comfort in a very difficult matter that you are dealing with.

What is interesting... I think this is somewhat of a generalization, but I do feel like our folks are older-- our parents and things like that obviously came more from a generation where it's suffering in silence. These are not things that you openly share with others. Versus like the new generation. I mean, there we openly talk about going to therapy.
I openly talk about going to therapy. I could not imagine our parents ever admitting seeking any sort of mental health. So it's just so nice that we are more so shifting our abilities to have these, these really challenging conversations, but being open and vulnerable. So definitely applaud you for that because it's, it's not an easy thing.

[00:29:04] Yola Lu: Yeah, it's really weird because I could tell my mom a lot of things, but I don't think she even knows that I go to like therapy or see a psychiatrist and everything. Not that I'm like necessarily trying to hide it from her, but it's more of just I feel like she would ask a lot of questions about it.

And then maybe if she knew that I was like suffering from depression or something, she would just be like, I think I've mentioned it somewhat before that I was like feeling depressed. And she would just be like, Why? Why would you feel so depressed? You have a great job and you don't have to work outside in the sun like your dad and stuff like that and then you get to work from home just like all these things like she just thinks that everything is like very good because I also think that when she feels like we say that we have me and my sister like say that we have like depression or something I think they also kind of take on some of that guilt about it too wondering "What did we do as parents that caused you guys to turn out this way?"

So that's why I kind of like haven't really mentioned it too much to them because I didn't want them to feel bad and then Even though I think my parents suffer from things like that too, like depression and other probably unresolved trauma from their lives and stuff like that. But it's just I don't know how to say all of that in Chinese and have that kind of conversation with them.

Cause my Chinese is very limited and my parents don't speak anything but Chinese and stuff. So it's it's very hard to have these conversations with them.

[00:30:41] Sandra Pham: So Yola, obviously you had spent part of your childhood kind of in L. A. and Seattle. Now you're based in Austin. What kind of brought you to town and what's kept you here?

[00:30:51] Yola Lu: So I came to Austin, I actually started by taking one of those coding boot camps in Houston because I really wanted a shift in my career and I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I was like looking at coding boot camps and I found this one that was like, it was just starting up and they were offering the first cohort to pay only $1, 000 to go to the bootcamp and everything. And you just had to pay for your own lodging and everything.
And then, so I came to Houston thinking that I was only going to be here for the amount of time for the cohort and then go back home. But when I got to Houston, I realized something about the weather just felt really good, even though it was so hot and so humid. I think I suffered really badly from seasonal depression when I was in Seattle. And then I was just like, I just feel happier here for some reason. And then at that time, like 10, probably 10 years ago or something, there wasn't as big of a comedy scene in Houston as there is now.

So I was just like, I still want to do comedy. This is still my passion and everything. So I heard Austin was like an artsy-er city and everything. So I literally just took a Greyhound and then I came here and then I fell in love with the city and everybody was just so friendly. And then I was just like, okay, I'm going to move here.
And then I got my car shipped down. I didn't know a single person in Austin and I was so lonely and sad for the first year. Almost of my time here because I just didn't know anybody. I was just like drinking by myself at home every night and stuff. And what really started getting me stabilized here was like finding the improv scene and then the community in improv.

Because I even though like I do stand up like I didn't really find as much of a community in the stand up scene. I have found a little bit more of it now but like back then it was very white and it still is very white and for some reason it was just like really hard for me to fit in with these other white comedians for some reason.

I don't know why I don't understand why I feel that way. And then even though the improvisers were also like pretty white, they just like kind of included me in more things and then it wasn't until I built and co founded Y'all we Asian that I finally found a family that I could call a family in Austin and we see each other on a weekly basis and everything.
We all hang out together. We go to each other's things. We support each other. They were all at my wedding, things like that. And then. Now finding the community of the greater Asian community in the Texas standup scene has like really started feeling like having kind of a family even though everybody is like kind of spread out and stuff.

So I would say the community is really what has kept me here because I did think about moving to Los Angeles during the pandemic and then this is going to sound so crazy. I went to go see a psychic, and then she told me to move back to Austin, and then I had already packed up everything ready to go to LA, and everything and then she was like you're going to have more opportunities in Austin.

And I think she was correct about that. Like I do have more opportunities and more stage time and no more people here. And it's been very good for me since I've been here. And I feel very, very supported by my community of people. And I feel like I'm really also starting to build an audience for myself here too.

And now my parents want to move to Austin. So I might be here for a really long time.

[00:34:44] Sandra Pham: So obviously there's not much control you have over how the Austin comedy scene will shift and change over the years, but I'm curious when you think about your career 20, 30 years down the line, what do you want to be known for?

Do you want to be closely tied to shaping the Austin comedy scene? And I know you're dabbling also in filmmaking and lots of other creative forms, but I'd love to hear what are your aspirations for yourself?

[00:35:12] Yola Lu: Yeah, my dream ever since I've started doing comedy was always to build a community. A lot of it when I first started was like to try to build a community for like Asian American voices to have a platform to be able to use their voice and to speak and that's one of the reasons why for like y'all we Asian.

We do like jams, BIPOC jams and everything to try to get more Asian American people who've never done comedy or just like any ethnicity that isn't white who like want to do comedy, but they don't feel safe in some certain spaces and stuff like that. And so we want to give them this opportunity to try out improv and try being funny and give them like a quick course on doing comedy.

So. I hope that in 20 to 30 years, when I look back on all of this, that I could say that I created a space for like new voices to be discovered and learned. And we've always tried doing stuff like that. We've hosted like open mics before too, for the BIPOC community as well. And I always try to have a space where I make sure like everybody is properly paid, everybody is respected, and then that we could all.

Kind of be like a family together in a way to feel like you could reach out to me for anything that you need. And then I could reach out to you for anything as well. And then so I really would like to curate a space. I was actually talking to a friend recently and I kind of jokingly, but kind of was serious, that I was like saying that I would want to open up a comedy club in Seattle, but I wanted to open up like an improv theater, like something similar to like Coldtowne or Fallout because surprisingly Seattle doesn't have any thing like this at all, which is crazy to me to think about.

And then, so it makes me sad because you have all the potential talent that's there that is like untapped because they don't have a place to gather and do long form improv or learn how to put up their own shows and stuff like that. There's just not a space for people to grow. So then you feel like you have to move to the cities like L. A., New York, Austin, Chicago to do something like that. And then there's kind of like a talent drain. That's happening in these cities that don't have these clubs. And then, so, I was always thinking that I would like to, start a community there. Maybe if I ever decide that I hate doing what I'm doing and I want to, go and re expand myself, I would probably try to do something like that.

But people have tried in the past, creating a theater space, but they've either, run out of money or I think sometimes it's, not knowing how to write a theater and stuff like hurts them too. So, long answer short, I would like to be known for building a stronger community here in Austin is what I would like to be known for.

[00:38:13] Minh Vu: After starting Y'all We Asian and going through kind of this journey, what's your relationship to your ethnic background today? What does that mean to you?

[00:38:23] Yola Lu: That's kind of a hard question because I feel like when I was younger, I was like, embarrassed of being Asian. My school was like very white growing up in the suburbs and everything.

So I didn't have a lot of other Asian friends growing up. So I was like always around these what I consider like really pretty white kids and stuff like that. And I always wish that my parents knew how to speak English because it would make things so much easier and I wouldn't have to be translating for them all the time.

I was like embarrassed of that from my family and then it was like embarrassed of a lot of things. Like you hear a lot about the lunchbox dilemma or something where people always made fun of your food. I remember like sometimes I would just throw away my food or not eat it and stuff like that because I didn't want people to make fun of me again for like eating something strange at school.

But now being older, I appreciate my identity a lot more now. And I actually see it as being who I am now as a person and I try to incorporate as much of my identity with everything than I did before and that's also the same reason why I'm not just wanting to be a comedian but like an Asian American comedian and everything.

But I would definitely say that I'm more proud of who I am now than I was before, and I'm so glad because that was exhausting, just hating yourself for so long, you know, definitely.

[00:39:58] Minh Vu: Yeah, that's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that with us because that's a big reason why we do this podcast as well to just creating that space and community where we can all feel more empowered and just prideful of where we come from our stories and how that shapes us to who we are today, because I think the good and the bad.
It's like we would have been completely different people right if we didn't have those experiences and you. That's been a great source, maybe, for material for all the culmination of all those experiences. So, yeah, thank you for sharing that with us. Where can people find, find you? Where can people get involved with Y'all Be Asian? Do a little plug.

[00:40:40] Yola Lu: Yeah, you could find me on my Instagram at YOLAJLU, and I haven't updated my show calendar for a while, so you could find out more stuff on Instagram, because I keep that more up to date, but I do have a website called YOLALUCOMEDY. COM, and you could find out more about Y'all We Asian and all the events that we put on at our Instagram, which is just "yallweasian" no spaces or anything and we will regularly post if we're doing a BIPOC jam or if we're maybe gonna do like another open mic for people and then when we have like our showcase and things like that we advertise that in also our shows.

And then people should totally come out to our monthly shows that we have the first Friday of every month at the Fallout Theater because I do I have met a lot of like other Asians that are in Austin that just like maybe moved here or don't know how to find a community because like after the show we always go out for drinks afterwards and we invite anybody who was at the show to come out and have drinks with us and hang out with us and also try to be integrated a little bit into our family.

[00:41:48] Sandra Pham: Yep. Plus one, plus one. Support your local artists. Don't let the big, bad celebrities take over our town and our comedy club. So thank you so much, Yola, for spending time with us. Before we let you go, our favorite thing is to have a really quick, rapid round. First thing that comes to mind and some of these questions.
So the first one is, what is your favorite Asian restaurant in Austin?

[00:42:14] Yola Lu: Xian is probably my favorite restaurant. Xian, they have the hand pulled noodles there. Or China Family is also really good.

[00:42:22] Sandra Pham: Recently discovered that one. It's a hidden gem.

[00:42:25] Yola Lu: Yes, it's so good. They have two locations now, but yes, I love it so much.

[00:42:30] Sandra Pham: And what was your favorite asian snack growing up?

[00:42:33] Yola Lu: Rice crackers or those like little jelly cups, lychee cups or whatever that you like push out and stuff.

[00:42:40] Minh Vu: Yeah, they're in the container. It's like a little bear like a clear. I guess my mom still uses that container for Leftovers, I don't know, you know, eating these containers that aren't for Tupperware, but somehow it's in a fridge, and I'm like, okay, here we go,

[00:42:58] Yola Lu: yeah.

[00:42:59] Sandra Pham: No, but when they don't talk about those things, they're choking hazards. do you remember, trying to suck this thing out? Yes.

[00:43:06] Yola Lu: I think if I ever had kids, I probably would not. I think I would be one of those really crazy parents. I would probably cut the little jellies in like smaller bite sized pieces.

[00:43:16] Sandra Pham: Right. So, last question. What is your favorite Austin pastime? What are you doing when
you have free time?

[00:43:24] Yola Lu: I like to check out new restaurants and go to cocktail bars and try new cocktails that I'm not usually drinking, but I also just like to explore like new neighborhoods with my dog going on walks and stuff.

[00:43:37] Sandra Pham: What's your dog's name?

[00:43:38] Yola Lu: Chloe.

[00:43:39] Sandra Pham: Chloe. Well, thank you so much again, Yola. We, we love chatting with you. Thank you for being open and vulnerable and all the things and we will be cheering you on. Go check out Yola if you haven't. She's hilarious and thank you so much. Thank you.

[00:43:59] Minh Vu: Yola is such a beautiful soul and she being vulnerable and sharing more about her experiences with us and seeing how that shows up in her art and her comedy and how she is able to create community through Y'all We Asian. It's just all really inspiring stuff and I think one thing that stood out was towards the end when we were talking about being known as an Asian comedian or not, and what type of legacy she was looking for in addition to building community and a platform for others.

And yeah, I don't know, I think I go back and forth about that too. We obviously have an podcast centered around the Asian American experience. And there are times, too, when people will, tag me in some Asian related content, like my non Asian friends, and they're like, "Hey, did you see this? What do you think about this?"
And it's I get it, right? Because we've kind of carved out that, I do care about those experiences. And sometimes, though, I don't want that to be my only calling card. But, at the end of the day, too, I am who I am because of parts of my lived experience that's informed by, unfortunately, my identities and how I have to navigate the world with these identities of being Asian, being gay.

So yeah, I don't know. It's I don't want to erase that part of me either.

[00:45:29] Sandra Pham: Yeah, no, I think that's just like the part of intersectionality, right? It's multi identities that you carry with you, but it's not all encompassing. you're not just Asian. And I like having these conversations, especially with artists and those that put out work, because it's interesting.

We can say Asian Americans are having a moment in the creative arts today when it comes to film and comedians and music and things like that, you know, really getting elevated --Blackpink. I mean, you name it. But is it solely do you think these artists want to be known just because they are the Asian artists of the moment?

No, right? I think most would probably say I want to be recognized for the art form or the work that I'm putting out. So it's definitely a nuanced conversation, but I love having it with our guests because it is so interesting. I. Obviously for us, it's a big part of our identity, but I would hate to be known as the Asian girl or the Asian podcast.
It's a layer of who we are and the stories we hope to tell.

[00:46:30] Minh Vu: Yeah, I think that's a big part of it. It's, just like you said, it's a layer of us. It's not all encompassing of who we are. We have, we're multifaceted humans, everyone is. And yes, these are, may play major parts of our lived experience or helps inform some of our lived experience just because of the world we live in and the places that we have to navigate.

But at the end of the day, you're Sandra. I'm Minh and there's a lot more to that than just our identities. So yeah, absolutely.

[00:47:01] Sandra Pham: But what an awesome episode and incredible conversation we had again, Yola. Thanks so much for, for joining us and we hope y'all enjoy the episode.

[00:47:11] Minh Vu: Yeah, thanks y'all. Bye.
This project is supported in part by the City of Austin Economic Development Department.

204. Y'all We Asian w/ Yola Lu
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