Megan Tucei: It's Good to Wait

February 2, 2020

Photo Credit

Grace Fletcher/Fletcher Photography

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

Listen

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:

MORE ABOUT
Megan Tucei