If you throw a stone at an Austin Comedy project, there’s a better than average chance it’ll hit Cené (and cut it out with the stone throwing, huh Austin? It’s getting a little uncomfortable). She’s a member of the improv teams Damn, Gina, Kingz, and Loverboy, as well as the musical comedy show Love Me Tinder. Most recently, Cené co-starred in the pilot “Thanks For Having Us” that was featured as IndieWire’s project of the day. How then, did Cené find time to write and star in her own solo show, “What Are You?”? No one quite knows, though speculations abound.
You’ve got your hand in – like – a dozen projects not to mention a day job. How do you juggle it all?
Cené: Haha! I ask myself that question every single day. I’m not naturally an organized, type-A person, but my schedule has forced me to learn a lot of those skills, which helps me keep my head above water. I’m constantly looking for the edge of the pool though, so I’ll let you know when I find it. As far as projects go I honestly try to find projects that I know are #1 Going To Be Fun and #2 Going to Challenge Me in some way. However, my biggest problem is finding the time to do them all.
Writing a one woman show – what’s your process like? What changes did you have to make, going from group collaboration?
Cené: The first (and best) thing I did was take the advice of Vanessa Gonzales and hired a director – Dave Buckman. I had worked with Dave before with Austin Translation and through my improv troupe Bad Font. I really have to give all of the credit to him because he really helped me develop, not only a plan of attack, but my voice as well. The transition into solo writing was (and still is) hard because I love having someone to bounce ideas off of. But, even though this is a solo show, it never felt like I was alone because Dave was there. I have mad respect for the people that can hole up in their apartment or a coffee shop and bang out a sketch on their own. I wish I could do that.
What’s great and what’s terrible about the Austin comedy scene?
Cené: What’s great about the Austin comedy scene is the sheer amount of support everyone gives to each other. We all go to see each other’s shows no matter which theater they’re playing at. We go to each other’s birthday parties. We braid each other’s hair and sing Kumbaya in the woods. Okay not really the last one, but I probably would if someone asked.
What shows have seen that blew your mind?
Cené: I already mentioned her before but Vanessa Gonzales has been a big influence for me. I saw her show “I Don’t Know Dating” at Spiderhouse and laughed so hard I cried. CRIED! I never cry! (JK I cry all the time) That was the first time I saw someone like me (a woman of color) do a one person sketch show live. EVER. So, naturally, I bought another ticket and saw it again.
Another person who still blows my GD mind is Ithamar Enriquez. I saw him perform his silent sketch show “Ithamar Has Nothing To Say” for the first time during the 2014 Austin Sketch Fest and became OBSESSED. I started looking for clowning classes but haven’t had much luck finding any in Austin, so if you have any leads let me know.
Do you have any fun “worst show” or “worst audience member” stories?
Cené: OMG YAS. During a Kingz show last year a woman in the audience started attempting to participate in our show, which is not uncommon. It happens. People get excited, but everyone hates it – us and the audience. So we kept politely (well improv politely = passive aggressively) trying to hint that audience participation was not part of the show, but she wasn’t getting it. Then she did get it, and SHE WAS PISSED! She started to gather up her things while proclaiming how she and her guest were “getting outta here!” and knocking over beer bottles. I swear that whole process of her grabbing her purse took like 3 minutes, which is forever when you only have an 18 minute set. As she was leaving she yelled something like, “I was trying to help you guys!” then she stormed out of the theater. Of course, she was sitting in the front row so she had to cross in front of the rest of the audience to do so. It sucked at the time but every time I think about it I start laughing.
Do you have any fun “best show” stories?
Cené: So many! The one I’m remembering right now is when Damn Gina played at The Hideout for Waffle Fest last year. There was a scene where two of us walked out on stage and, clearly, neither one of us had an idea for a premise. Out of nowhere, and in unison, everyone else started singing “Loving you is easy cause you’re beautiful” by Minnie Riperton from offstage. Both of us started laughing and just kept looking at each other while the rest of the group sang the song. Then as the song hit the crescendo everyone simultaneously just screamed the high note at the top of their lungs then the scene was edited. It was glorious.
Got any advice to someone starting out in live comedy?
Cené: People interested in trying comedy should know that #1 it’s not as scary as you think and #2, you’re funnier when you’re just being yourself. So go try new things and be you.
You can catch Cené‘s show “What Are You?” Wednesday May 25th, at 8:30pm at ColdTowne Theater along with Bad Example GET TICKETS HERE.