Megan Tucei: It's Good to Wait

February 2, 2020

Photo Credit

Grace Fletcher/Fletcher Photography

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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We are Seri­ous Jour­nal­ists here at Com­e­dy Wham, thus we are by and large not amenable to things like bribes. So when Megan Tucei, host of the show­case Playpen at Fall­out The­ater, and the much-buzzed-about late night show After­par­ty, shows up to her inter­view with delec­table home­made pas­ta, we’re sim­ply going assume it was left­overs she didn’t want to go to waste. (Of course, a bribe you can eat is a rather clever way of remov­ing the evidence.)

That kind of ges­ture is per­fect­ly in line with Tucei’s per­son­al­i­ty, gen­er­ous, mod­est, and also on the shy side. Peo­ple don’t con­sid­er peo­ple who do stand-up to be shy…but [the audi­ence doesn’t] talk back to me,” she jokes, that’s why I wouldn’t be good at improv.” It’s a trait that made her ear­ly life a bit dif­fi­cult, chang­ing schools as her fam­i­ly criss-crossed the coun­try from Texas to Cal­i­for­nia to Con­necti­cut. Shy­ness is also some­what of a con­tra­dic­tion for the col­lege major she chose: Communications. 

People don’t consider people who do stand-up to be shy...but [the audience doesn’t] talk back to me
Megan Tucei

Tucei’s choice of Film Stud­ies as minor turned out to be more pre­scient for the jour­ney that brought her to talk to us today, lead­ing her to find a love in screen­writ­ing, and pro­vid­ing one of the first out­lets for her bud­ding comedic ten­den­cies. One of her projects was a com­e­dy script, a sil­ly” entry script, up against actu­al movies (includ­ing a film about mis­car­riage). Despite the odd jux­ta­po­si­tion, her entry was nom­i­nat­ed for an award, and she went on to be rec­og­nized mul­ti­ple times in oth­er writ­ing endeavors.

The indus­try chal­lenges of pur­su­ing screen­writ­ing as a career, as they often do, proved dis­cour­ag­ing, as did Tucei’s fledg­ling attempt at com­e­dy class­es and open mics in near­by New York City, so she turned her eyes to Texas 4 years ago. Austin, right­ly so, prides itself on a vibrant scene while still being very wel­com­ing, and it fit Tucei’s needs per­fect­ly. It doesn’t hurt that it’s sig­nif­i­cant­ly cheap­er, and that Tucei had fam­i­ly to wel­come her here. 

That’s not to say ven­tur­ing into our bustling com­e­dy scene isn’t daunt­ing to a degree, but the expe­ri­ence was the right kind of crash course for Tucei to learn the skills like nav­i­gat­ing the open mic expe­ri­ence, and wel­com­ing per­form­ers to Playpen. Even learn­ing and shar­ing sim­ple guid­ance – like where the light”, that sig­nals that a per­former needs to wrap their set, will come from – pro­vides a com­fort and famil­iar­i­ty that takes one more wor­ry off the mind of some­one step­ping up to the mic in a new environment. 

This sense of cama­raderie and com­mu­ni­ty, both build­ing it and draw­ing from it, is a con­sis­tent theme for Tucei. It’s espe­cial­ly true for a scene that is fre­quent­ly per­ceived as heav­i­ly rep­re­sent­ed by males, she notes: Women in Austin com­e­dy are always look­ing out for each oth­er.” From the crew of friends she devel­oped start­ing out in the scene, to the new faces she wel­comes to Playpen, Tucei projects a desire to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble envi­ron­ment for per­form­ers and per­for­mances alike. 

I appre­ci­ate that [Playpen] is an even play­ing field,” Tucei says, designed to give every­one the chance to suc­ceed or fail on the mer­its of their man­dat­ed brand new mate­r­i­al, ver­sus their pre­vi­ous rep­u­ta­tions or sets. Before she took on host duties, she was already enam­oured with the way pre­vi­ous hosts Niki­ta Red­kar and Eliz­a­beth Spears warm­ly wel­comed her as a fledg­ling performer. 

Tucei’s his­to­ry in screen­writ­ing, expe­ri­ence with com­e­dy class­es, and rabid­ly obser­va­tion­al ten­den­cies when watch­ing oth­er per­form­ers, all formed the seed for her new show After­par­ty, Based on a drink­ing game from Tucei’s col­lege days, After­par­ty is a mul­ti-lay­ered expe­ri­ence. Comics per­form as on a reg­u­lar show­case, but the audi­ence has their own role, play­ing a game of track­ing per­form­ers’ on-stage man­ner­isms and tells. (Strict­ly speak­ing, Tucei can’t adver­tise it as a drink­ing game, but…it’s a game, and there’s drink­ing, so do with that what you will.) The comics know that something’s afoot, but they gen­er­al­ly don’t know what peo­ple are going to iden­ti­fy, keep­ing things unpre­dictable yet, again, on a lev­el play­ing field. Debut­ing as an exper­i­men­tal pop-up show at The Velvee­ta Room, thanks to a nod from Pat Dean at the unique idea, After­par­ty has gone on to become a month­ly recur­ring show at Fall­out Theater.

Playpen and After­par­ty are fan­tas­tic vehi­cles for oth­er per­form­ers, while being great plat­forms for Tucei to con­tin­ue devel­op­ing her own voice. She’s per­formed mul­ti­ple times in Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin, includ­ing mint­ing one of my favorite new phras­es, Jesus-lev­el wast­ed.” (Check it out in her 2019 set video on YouTube.) She’s refin­ing her strat­e­gy for her next appear­ance, with a focus on get­ting out of her head and hav­ing fun in the com­pe­ti­tion. If you aren’t hav­ing a good time, [the audi­ence] cer­tain­ly isn’t hav­ing a good time,” she notes.

I think that a lot of people get started with comedy and they want things immediately
Megan Tucei

Tucei has also set a goal of head­lin­ing a show in 2020. The lure of writ­ing con­tin­ues to call her, and she hopes to start com­mit­ting more time to it. Devel­op­ment and iter­a­tion are key tenets in her com­e­dy phi­los­o­phy. I think that a lot of peo­ple get start­ed with com­e­dy and they want things imme­di­ate­ly,” she says, but I’ve always sort of just wait­ed… I would rather be more than ready for an oppor­tu­ni­ty than to do it too soon.” After­par­ty was an idea 2 years in incu­ba­tion before it came into being, and Tucei’s good things come to those who wait” atti­tude means that we’ll def­i­nite­ly see more from her in the future. 

Like Tucei, we’ll just have to be patient, and be ready for the new good things when they arrive. 

Catch Megan Tucei around Austin at show­cas­es, open mics, and at her host­ed shows:

Fol­low Megan:

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Megan Tucei