Ese Atawo discusses Blind Tiger Comedy’s POC night

The improv and comedy school intends to create a welcoming environment for newcomers of all backgrounds

With over three years of experience with Blind Tiger Comedy, Ese Atawo recently became a member of their faculty. (Photo courtesy of Ese Atawo)

By: Alex Bloom

Blind Tiger Comedy, founded by improv groups The Sunday Service and Hip.Bang! is a company that both teaches comedy and puts on shows. The company offers four full semesters of classes a year, with various areas of focus. As mentioned on their website, “Blind Tiger is committed to welcoming a diverse range of voices, perspectives, and people into our community.” The Peak spoke with new Blind Tiger  faculty member Ese Atawo about their upcoming POC night event, which is a class designed to be inclusive of people of colour, regardless of experience levels.

     Atawo and the other faculty at Blind Tiger were inspired during the 2017 Vancouver International Improv Festival. “We had a POC panel, and we had this amazing guy, John Gebretatose [from Blackout Comedy],” she explained. “Comedy has always been, within Vancouver — I’m going to make a bold statement — anglo-saxon, heterosexual, male. That’s always been the [main] viewpoint. It’s the same stories repeated over and over and over again, and because that’s become the norm, a lot of people are comfortable in that so they don’t want to test it or question it.” The POC night, as Ese explains, is a way to be more inclusive of a wider variety of perspectives in a city where that has not always been encouraged.  

     “I’ve seen and noticed the lack of diversity in my comedy upbringing — I’m from Toronto — Toronto less than [Vancouver], but [Gebretatose] and other people on the panel discussed the importance of diversity in comedy . . .” The international panel emphasized that this is an issue that applies all over and got Atawo and the other faculty members at Blind Tiger thinking about what they could do about the lack of diversity in Vancouver. “I think the POC night came about because we’ve all wanted it, but I guess we needed this panel to be like ‘I guess we should do something about it’”

     Atawo expanded on the importance of inclusion. “Again, because of a lack of representation, there’s no new voices, new stories to tell within Vancouver.” This is an issue that is clearly important to Blind Tiger: not only are they hosting a POC night, but they offer a diversity scholarship available for “people of colour, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, and differently abled people.”

     The initiative has been active since December. Although they are currently oversubscribed, scholarships will be available each semester; with $8,000 (or more) worth of scholarships available per year. As stated by Blind Tiger Comedy, there will be four “intro level” and four “non-intro level” scholarships offered per semester. To apply, there is a short four-question application form available on their website. Applicants will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

     In addition, Blind Tiger hosts a Women Trans Femme night “exclusively for those who identify as female, transgender, femme, genderqueer, trans-masculine, trans-feminine, or feel that their socialization or treatment as a woman, transperson, or femme has impeded their participation in improv.” The prominence of their anti-harassment policy and anti-harassment form on their website shows that they are committed to maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all their students and faculty.

This POC night will take place on February 2 from 7:15–8:15 p.m. at the Little Mountain Gallery (195 East 26th Avenue) and Blind Tiger Comedy notes that there will be a POC night offered “at least” every six months. For more information regarding class and show schedules, visit their website.