Yola Lu Forges Her Own Path

August 21, 2022

Photo Credit

Dave Creaney


Valerie Lopez


Sara Cline


Two roads diverged in a yel­low wood, and Robert Frost took the path less trav­eled by. Mean­while, local come­di­an Yola Lu took a machete in her hands and hacked out a third path all on her own.

See, after hit­ting a lull in get­ting booked, Lu asked her­self: Why not take things into her own hands? If I’m not get­ting booked,” she explains of her rea­son­ing, I should try to write my own sto­ry and film it, so that I could actu­al­ly put myself out there and play the roles that I actu­al­ly want to play.” And that’s exact­ly what she is doing.

Cur­rent­ly, Lu is work­ing on pro­duc­ing (and star­ring in!) a new web series. And though Lu saw con­sid­er­able suc­cess in her last series Uncom­fort­able,” she has decid­ed­ly gone in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion. Where­as Uncom­fort­able” func­tioned as a series of vignettes, Lu’s new series con­sists of a lin­ear sto­ry­line, nar­rat­ed by her own stand-up. It’s also much more per­son­al. Based on her own expe­ri­ences dat­ing in Seat­tle after the end of her mar­riage, the series show­cas­es the char­ac­ters that Lu met along the way who pulled her into sticky sit­u­a­tions — aid­ed and abet­ted, unfor­tu­nate­ly, by Lu’s own dif­fi­cul­ty in say­ing no to people.

The thread kind of through­out [is] that, like, I get into all these sit­u­a­tions because I can’t seem to say no to people.”

I should try to write my own story and film it, so that I could actually put myself out there and play the roles that I actually want to play.
Yola Lu

The less trav­eled path can get a bit lone­ly though, and Lu admits that her trail­blaz­ing has left her feel­ing a bit estranged. While her old friends are hav­ing babies — talk­ing in the group chat about C‑sections and epidu­rals — Lu is using her retire­ment mon­ey to fund her own baby: her film project. Indeed, where­as her last show con­sist­ed of a three-per­son crew, this one is qua­dru­pling the budget.

Just as Lu gets deeply per­son­al in her web series, so, too, did she in our inter­view, dis­cussing her divorce, a PTSD diag­no­sis, and learn­ing about rad­i­cal accep­tance. As the series will explore, Lu jumped head­first into the online dat­ing world imme­di­ate­ly after her breakup. “… I did­n’t real­ize, like, how much I real­ly relied on anoth­er per­son, like, just being around all the time,” she reflects. Of course, hind­sight and ther­a­py have since revealed to her that she had been avoid­ing her own emo­tions and tru­ly pro­cess­ing her divorce.

But Lu is cer­tain­ly not shy­ing away from con­fronting tough past expe­ri­ences now — instead, she has put her trau­mas into film and stand-up. The result? More and more peo­ple come up to Lu after her sets express­ing admi­ra­tion for the relata­bil­i­ty of her mate­r­i­al. “… Being able to feel like I could con­nect with peo­ple on more of a per­son­al lev­el is kind of nice,” Lu says.

The sense of com­pe­ti­tion and the con­stant rejec­tion in the act­ing indus­try has also not been easy for Lu — espe­cial­ly in Austin, where most audi­tions are for com­mer­cials. Lu has doubt­ed her own casta­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly know­ing oth­er fel­low Asian per­form­ers who have tak­en up mar­tial arts, kick­box­ing, and stunt train­ing in an attempt to land more oppor­tu­ni­ties. Lu con­fess­es she has even felt inter­nal pres­sure to lose weight before film­ing her web series, but then she reminds her­self of the impor­tance of authen­tic­i­ty and body rep­re­sen­ta­tion on screen. It’s hard,” Lu empha­sizes. I’ve been try­ing to just fig­ure out, like, How do I want to por­tray myself in the series?’ As like an hon­est woman? Or like some­body who had to starve her­self for like months to do this?”

I feel like I have started finding my group of people … but it took me … a long time.
Yola Lu

But how did Lu first get into com­e­dy? Inter­est­ing­ly enough, part of Lu’s ini­tial inspi­ra­tion for get­ting into com­e­dy comes from her reli­gious par­ents — specif­i­cal­ly, from watch­ing their ser­mons. Both my mom and my dad — espe­cial­ly my dad — would give, like, lit­tle speech­es. He would always make the audi­ence laugh a lot,” she explains, and that was always some­thing that I found [myself] to be very proud [of].”

Lu recalls the time she first decid­ed to sign up for a stand-up class. Her boyfriend at the time gave push­back. He was like, No. Every­body already thinks you’re such a weirdo,’” Lu rec­ol­lects. He was very ter­ri­fied of me embar­rass­ing myself.” When Lu’s class show­case rolled around, he, of course, ate his words. Lu killed it onstage, and the (for­tu­nate­ly now ex-) boyfriend was left with his tail between his legs: He apol­o­gized for doubt­ing her and encour­aged her to con­tin­ue pur­su­ing com­e­dy. Soon after, Lu start­ed hit­ting open mics, and even though she bombed her first one, she nonethe­less expe­ri­enced an epiphany. After I was done with that set, like, my entire life tra­jec­to­ry changed.” She knew she want­ed to pur­sue stand-up (even if it left her so busy for a while that she was sleep­ing in her car at the office).

Still, Lu’s social anx­i­ety has often left her feel­ing alien­at­ed from com­e­dy scenes; she felt intim­i­dat­ed by the peo­ple around her and won­dered where she fit in — if any­where at all. I feel like I have start­ed find­ing my group of peo­ple,” she mus­es, “… but it took me … a long time.” Two big sources of com­mu­ni­ty for Lu, in par­tic­u­lar, are her improv troupe, Y’all We Asian, and her home the­ater at ColdTowne.

Lu admits that improv isn’t near­ly as much of a pas­sion for her as stand-up or act­ing, but she loves her troupe and the sense of com­mu­ni­ty with­in it. My improv troupe is, like, the clos­est thing that I have to a com­e­dy fam­i­ly here,” she asserts. The troupe has seen a lot of suc­cess: land­ing cor­po­rate gigs, sell­ing out pre-sales, and win­ning awards. Some­times it takes a while to get into this, like, flow state of [improv], where you feel so com­fort­able mak­ing moves and doing all these things,” Lu remarks. And it’s just so hard to find that flow state, but when I do find it, then I find it to be super fun.”

Ulti­mate­ly, Lu is opti­mistic about the future. I feel like things are com­ing … like doors are start­ing to slow­ly open for me,” Lu states, “… even though my path might not look the same as every­body else’s path …” Two roads diverged in a yel­low wood, and Yola Lu took the one less trav­eled by. And that has made all the difference.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear these words and more from Yola

Fol­low Yola

Yola can be seen and heard:

  • Oh Wow! Night Time! — 1st and 3rd Sat­ur­days 9pm at Vio­let Crown Clubhouse
  • Y’all We Asian — 1st Fri­days 8pm at Fall­out Theater 
  • Uncom­fort­able — Web Series avail­able on Youtube 
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Yola Lu