UC Irvine Alum and Director Of Asian American Sketch Comedy Group No MSG Added

Photograph by Ralph Palumbo

UC Irvine alum Shinshin Yuder Tsai directs No MSG Added, an Asian American sketch comedy group performing Sep. 27 at Fullerton’s STAGEStheatre.

What is No MSG Added?

We had our first show in May. The idea to create an Asian American sketch group came from our head writer, Eric Vue. There’s a niche that needs to be filled in O.C. for sketch comedy. Like many minority or marginalized communities, we felt it would be a way of being seen and heard. And we were hoping to capitalize on the success of the film “Crazy Rich Asians.”

What’s your role?

I’m the director, though I also perform in some sketches. There are about 10 of us—actors, writers, or both. My job is to make sure everything is funny and organized. I take actors’ choices and tweak them so the jokes land a little harder.

Do you have a background in directing?

I got my degree in drama. After I graduated in 2016, I got the opportunity to direct my first show at the Long Beach Playhouse, and I realized I was more suited to looking at a scene from the outside.

Are the sketches related to the Asian American experience?

We told the writers: We’re giving you a vehicle to write whatever you want, whether it’s about the Asian American experience or not. Because even if you’re not writing specifically about that, what you write will be colored by the fact that you are Asian American. That doesn’t mean the audience has to be Asian American to relate to it. I think people are starting to understand that there’s an untapped source of stories from other cultures that have been ignored. At the same time, people of color are starting to understand their worth and refuse to stay silent.

See It!
Sept. 27 at STAGEStheatre, stagesoc.org

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