Blind Tiger Comedy’s initiatives are helping reduce barriers for BIPOC entering comedy

Actual, non-performative, diversity and inclusion

Improv pros and BTC's diversity coordinators Ronald Dario and Ese Atawo lead a comedy class. Courtesy of Blind Tiger Comedy

By: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer

Blind Tiger Comedy (BTC), a comedy school in Vancouver founded by members from highly regarded improv groups Hip.Bang! and The Sunday Service, recently announced its further commitment to creating space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or people of colour) performers in their courses. While BTC’s newer initiatives may appear to be following global trends on racial equality, it is important to note that the comedy school has always been active in increasing BIPOC representation and accessibility in their programs — an especially commendable feat considering how pricey acting and comedy courses typically range (on average $45 an hour if not more).

For those unfamiliar with the company’s past engagement in furthering equity in their programs, BTC has offered and continues to offer financial aid and diversity scholarships for people of colour, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, and differently-abled folks. They also host free one-hour drop-in improv classes every 3–6 months: POC Night hosted by Ese Atawo, and WTF (Women Trans Femme) Night. Involvement is open for people of all levels of experience. 

More recently, as a part of their continued diversity and inclusion efforts this summer, the Vancouver-based comedy school offered a beginner’s course reserved for BIPOC students new to BTC — a digital introduction to improv. The eight-week program includes a two and a half hour zoom session once a week with industry professional and instructor, Ronald Dario. The course is meant to delve into the basics of improv by providing students with proper terminology, scene etiquette, and the tools needed to advance improvisational skills beyond the online course. The typically three hundred dollar course also includes a final showcase after the course period, live-streamed online. 

BTC offered their introductory improv course exclusively to BIPOC, but also allowed the free-of-charge registration opportunity to experienced performers for whichever course they found the most fitting. This meant that any new BIPOC registrants were not limited to the exclusive introductory course, but could also enroll into any other program for free, regardless of the course level. Though the deadline to register for these courses has passed, the company encourages those interested to contact them — likely in case of any last minute dropouts. Additionally, BIPOC who have improv experience but have not taken classes at BTC are still able to peruse the list of upcoming classes offered on the BTC website and follow the instructions under the inclusion tab to check for eligibility and availability.

The efforts of BTC exemplify how other companies, organizations, and businesses can do their part to participate in racial justice, beyond just performative statements. In making the performing arts more accessible with initiatives like these, BTC is increasing BIPOC representation in the improv and comedy world — or at the very least, in the Lower Mainland comedy scene. 

Although their summer programs have begun, courses will continue to be offered in the fall. Anyone interested in enrolling with BTC in the future can sign up for their mailing list, or refer any registration-related questions to their general manager, Helen Camisa (helen@blindtigercomedy.ca). For information on upcoming events, they are also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.