"This is super cheesy and I say it before every improv show, but this has never been done before and will never happen again. Just go up there and have fun. If you really wanna do it, just do it.
Just make sure you surround yourself with people you care about and truly have your back. That’s what I found with Damn Gina. We have each other’s backs no matter what like crazy."
As QTPOC we are constantly policed when it comes to our identity. I would like for you to have this time to introduce and express yourself in anyway you’d like.
Honestly, I feel like I haven’t been asked before. It has kind of been just assumed. My name is Xaria Shaton Coleman. 24 years old. Originally born in California but we moved here as a child. I’ve been here since 9.
Growing up in Round Rock was kind of country, like our neighbors had horses. I remember in high school being asked a few times, are you gay? I played basketball and there were a few girls who were out. I would always say no, blah, blah, blah. Cause religion and all this stuff, and I was just scared.
I would definitely identify as bisexual. Attracted to men and women. I just started dating my first girlfriend a little over a year ago. So bisexual. Pretty much it. To me it’s weird. Whenever I have conversations with people, I always say everyone’s a little gay right? We’re all on this spectrum.
When I was in high school and not coming out due to religion and stuff, there was one girl who was super out more on the masculine side. She was super cool and everybody loved her. Super funny too. I didn’t hate her. I was jealous. I wished I could do that. I was terrible. Use slurs and be mean. I was super sad.
Oh. Sad Girl. Not like in a terrible, terrible way. Just like how kids used slurs when they shouldn’t. I’ve worked with kids and have corrected them.
I was NOT a nice girl.
Defense mechanism. Puberty. It’s a lot.
Still learning. Perpetually sad boy here :D
I’m wondering. I’m driving into Austin and notice all the white people here in this blue dot. What is the strain of liberalism here? Gentrification. People mean well, but I’m confused.
It’s such a headache on top of other headaches. I’m lucky that I have really cool white and cis-gender friends, but even still, they try to be helpful but they’ll never fully understand if you’re not part of that demographic. For me and probably lots of people you’ve interviewed, being queer, black, and a woman…
Haha yeah, 3 strikes. It’s a lot. Uggghh..I gotta get out of here. I was talking to somebody about this the other day. Living in Texas and forgetting like...I’ll see videos and clips of things happening all over the country. Crazy stuff happening, especially in the south. Living in this bubble, I sometimes have to step out and realize this is the South. If I go 20 minutes north, we’re still in Texas.
There is so much racism. Backward-ass racism. The biggest one is white feminism, which is the most popular. Let’s be progressive and stuff. Wait...I wasn’t thinking about you. I guess we can help you out.
I’ll wear my pink hat and safety pin, and not go to any other march.
Yeah. I have some friends who actually go out to Planned Parenthood, marches, and become involved. Some do #bossbabesATX and have meetups where they promote female businesses, queer women, POC. It’s really great. So there are things like that, but it seems as if for every one progressive thing there is, there’s still this handful of 20 women who are backwards. Progressive quote unquote.
How does that affect your improv work? What is your audience like? I can’t seem to wrap my mind around that.
Everyone is super supportive. Like Kingz is not really. It is funny to me. It started off as a bet. There was a thread of women who wanted to do a sports thing which turned into a male thing. Can we do this? Of course we can. Why not?
So recently, since a couple of members have left, we have talking about men to come in and do drag. In Kingz we are talking about women in the way they should be in male characters. Respect these women. It’s very meta, a commentary of sexuality and misogyny and everything.
Damn Gina, ever since we started, has been super supportive. I even asked around to the veteran improvisers, those who have been in Austin for a while. I asked if there was ever an all black female troupe?
They were like, no.
Wait! What?!? This is kind of progressive backwards thing. I was shocked yet not. We are this blue dot that is supposed to be so liberal. It was just so weird to me. In that moment I woke up a little more. This is nuts. Everyone is talking about diversity but yeah. After us, our friend, Sugar, Water, Purple is the first all-black male troupe in Austin. It started happening around that time where we noticed the demographic growing. Not just black people. All races. The theatres are helping a lot. We get asked often to do shows.
We’ve been out to LA and will be in New York again this year. I will have moved there by then. We’ve been to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and performed a bunch here, had our own main show. It depends on each show. It has been really weird being recognized around town. People are like, “Hey, it’s Damn Gina!” We’re like..what?
I saw you on the Daily Texan and all these other newspapers. I’m in the presence of a celebrity!!!
I need to collect all this stuff. The Daily Texan, The Austin Chronicle website. A couple of us were in another paper. People’s podcasts and projects and stuff. I need to collect all of this for my archive. I’m a local celebrity.
You’re the real deal. Better recognize!
Yeah you guys!
Congrats on your move to NY by the way! Huge decision. Is Damn Gina moving with you? Tell me more about it.
Oh man! Damn Gina is a monster. I’ve been trying to move to New York for a while now, but like I said, I’ve been here for two years and saving up. I wanna be in a bigger city. Unfortunately, Austin isn’t as diverse but there is a lot of talent. The POC comedians are amazing!
I need another city to be seen, and to at least try and pursue comedy in some form. Damn Gina though, we started off with 4 members. Myself, Tauri, Cene Hale, Ronnita Miller.
Maggie Maye who is a real celebrity, she just moved to LA. She wasn’t originally in it. Because she had just come back from doing stand up for Conan, we thought Maggie had no time for us. We were like, you should guest with us and see how it goes! I knew she was funny and we already loved her. And she played with us a couple of times. We loved her and asked her to join the troupe. Yay!
Cene Hale is in Amsterdam right now with Boom Chicago and performs every single night doing improv and sketches. I will be in New York. The fate of Damn Gina is a mystery but we’ll keep going in some form. We’re like family. I plan to go onto Tauri’s house for Easter Sunday and we’ve had Christmas. Hang out there all the time with her babies. We’ll see what happens. We’ll be in New York for Del Close marathon right before July 4th weekend I believe. (June 23rd-25th 2017) That and then a show in May before I leave.
I’ll send my younger brother to attend the one in New York! You must meet him too :D
Oh yeah! I’m trying to get contacts. My comedy friends are my friends. I didn’t go to college. I’ve been working with the YMCA since 17. Everyone I know and love is in comedy pretty much. So I’m like, it’ll be weird not knowing people. I’m sure I’ll have stuff to do. My girlfriend is coming up there too.
If you want a surplus of artist and designer friends, hit me up!
Yes! Like we were saying about diversity, all my friends are cool, but most are white since it’s Austin. And since I’m a comedian, there is that stereotype of comedians being socially awkward or anxious. For me, it’s true. I don’t go out often to meet people really. So yes, come to me. I’ll try to be normal.
I’m like kind of normal.
Haha yes. With a couple of drinks I’ll be pretty normal.
I’m wondering, when did you pick up comedy?
I guess it’s pretty interesting to me. I always wanted to do theatre and stuff in school. I did theatre and loved it, but my family said I needed to do basketball. The theatre kids were like...like I said, it’s scary hiding and being “normal.” I ended up being with the theatre kids, and so when I got out, I loved comedy and always wanted to do it.
My boss at the time at the YMCA had a show called Mortified. There’s a show on IFC where they interview celebrities and they have a Netflix documentary of people reading their journals from when they were a kid. Amazing! She invited me to the show and I told her I always wanted to do comedy. She googled comedy in Austin for me and ColdTowne was the first place that popped up. Cool! Free class. I’ll do it. The level 1 teacher ended up being her friend. They were both producers on Mortified but didn’t know. A weird coincidence.
I was 19 and had braces. I was terrible. Adult braces are the worst. People asked if I was 21 since it was BYOB. I was like, yeah, sure. When I turned 20 I told them. If I was 19, they would have been turned off by the idea of a teenager. I did not realize how old people were. Everyone was in their mid-20s and up. I was just this weird kid who wanted be on stage. I’ve been hanging out and doing comedy for five years now.
Wow, you’ve skyrocketed in just 5 years. Congrats! It seems like you’re plugged in with everything.
I definitely could be doing more but it has been a lot of fun. I’m ready. Gotta get to New York.
Is there a comedy dream?
For me, it’s changed a lot. I used to be, “Oh, I’m gonna be on SNL.” For a lot of comedians, it is the Mecca of comedy. Then it turned to acting and stuff. And then a little while ago, someone was talking about ideas I had. They insisted I needed to write it down. I wasn’t confident in my writing but they told me no one else was going to write it for you. You need to do this for yourself and get people on your team. Oh no! You’re right!
I need to write. Ugh. I’m so lazy. I could see myself writing. Maybe dip my toe in stand up a bit. It scares me but people believe in me, so I’ll try it. I would like to have my own show. The older I’ve gotten, and the more socially awkward and self conscious I’ve gotten, the more I’m like, I don’t wanna be famous. Especially with the way the world is with social media, I just wanna chill, make people laugh, and have fun. Being on stage and acting is just fun! Being silly, being with my friends, and getting paid without a 9-5 is the dream right there.
I’ve been thinking about comedy’s effectiveness when it comes to being a vehicle for talking about social issues. I’ve also been thinking about how it allows complacency to be perpetuated since the audience just needs to sit, clap, and laugh to be involved. They can just easily leave and not deal with these issues after the show’s over. Proactive only in that moment.
What is your philosophy when it comes to comedy and social change?
That has also changed a lot for me over the years. When I first started, I was not super blue, but not super politically correct or conscious. Doing racist voices, like not, I think the term is chin up not out, being smart about your comedy. If you’re gonna do a racist character, it better be for something, not just being racist yourself. People are super sensitive about things. Do it for a reason. It’s weird. It’s hard. It depends on the audience. People can take things the wrong way. For me though, I can get away with it more than a white dude in plaid and glasses. I’m more just silly. I try to stay away from being political. If it comes up, I’ll try to make a smart choice. Sometimes it doesn’t work out though. I’m not smart enough, I just go the silly route not the smart route. There are some great performers.
I need to start reading more. All these college educated people can pull all these references and stuff. That’s the biggest thing to me. People reference something and it gets a huge laugh. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I go eh…
Sometimes it is!
So glad Adrienne Dawes introduced me to you.
Adrienne is super cool. Everyone is super supportive but she is like our number one fan.
Yeah, I keep updated on her stuff through Instagram and it seems like awesome work. Doper than Dope was a huge success here. We need people like her. Support these POCs!
One of my friends, Chris Lopez, wanted to know what it’s been like breaking into the comedy world of Austin as a queer Black women. Have there been blatant obstacles?
It’s been different because I’ve been discovering myself the past few years as a 24 year old. I didn’t really ever come out of the closet. It was just like, I’m dating a girl now. People just see me as lesbian since they've never seen me with a guy before. I notice now that if I get offered a role, in scenes they’ll make me attracted to a woman, endow me as a lesbian, or a man even. Obstacles? I feel like I put them up, like not wanting to play a man or not wanting to do certain things because I didn’t wanna be typecasted. Which happens.
Obstacles. If we were in a different city, I think it would be even harder but Coldtowne is super supportive. Tough one. I mean really just not trying to go off on people with backwards views. There’s a difference between supporting diversity and being like we need a black friend.
Be my token!
Yeah, choose between those things. It’s been rough, especially when they’re your friends or nice whatever. Let me think...I don’t know. I think I mostly put it on myself. Trying not to be typecasted in the hardest. It depends on the project and what I’m being asked to do.
What makes you happy?
Being on stage makes me happy. One of the rules from Level 1 is to have fun. It kind of is like that. I’m in the advanced classes at Coldtowne now. It’s pretty intense the first couple of levels for sure. They helped out with my improv but I was also too analytical and got into my tools too much. I would try to remember all these tools during my shows and have the worst runs. But when I remembered to just have fun, this is comedy, those are the most fun. What I wanna do all night. Just having fun! Hanging out with my girlfriend. Pretty much it. My life.
What is your girlfriend’s name btw?
Her name is Jamie.
Awwww yay to love.
She’s pretty cool. When I do comedy, she thinks I’m a rockstar.
Does she dabble on the stage?
No, she would never. A great singer though.
Is she moving to New York to start her singing career?
No, she has different goals. She is all about comedy and makes it to nearly every show though.
Silly question I ask is if you have a favorite drag queen?!?
My favorite is Jinkx Monsoon. Bob the Drag Queen is up there too. Jinkx really made an impression on me. I would wanna hang out with her all the time. She was like an improviser. They’re all really funny but she’s silly and goofy.
Please come to Austin and be weird with me. I also like to sleep a lot as well. By choice.
I’d like to add that to the list of things I do for fun as well. Sleeping and dreaming.
I’m finally getting 6-7 hours compared to my toxic 4-6 in undergrad. This is what I’m supposed to be feeling! I get your desire for sleep.
What is one question you wish people asked you more often?
Ummm..Hmmm...Honestly, questions are hard for me. I usually try to tune out and consider myself a pretty chill person. I don’t really like questions. Is that weird to say during an interview?
I would say, don’t ask me, but ask QTPOC what they can do, and how to not be an asshole. What can I do to make the world a better place for you? My answer to that would be, go read a book. Go outside. See something, say something.
Have there been recent books or albums that have saved your well-being?
Kendrick dropped DAMN yesterday and I listened to all of it. Have you heard about the conspiracy behind it?
Apparently, DAMN is the red version of the album. There’s gonna be another one dropped tomorrow. The day it dropped, they were like, if you look closely, he is in front of a red brick wall. But on Spotify, he is in front of a blue brick way. Since he makes a lot of allusions to him being Jesus in the album, they’re thinking this album he died and he’s red. Making allusions to the Matrix with the red and blue pill. The blue album will be called Nation.
Damn Nation! Omg Kendrick!
If this doesn’t happen, he is going to wish he did! There are some really good points online.
Like I said, I should definitely be reading more. I listen to a lot of music. I like to have my headphones on to clear my mind.
I turned on the radio the other day and went, what happened to music? I’ve been listening to Sampha and other artists on Spotify nonstop.
Haha what happened? I have Spotify and that is the only paid service I use. I can’t not have music. I recently listened to the radio and it’s the same crap. I can’t listen to these people.
Katy Perry is back? She needs to leave.
It makes me feel old too. I’m only 24 but I super don’t relate to younger people and my peers. I listen to Kendrick Lamar but I don’t listen to a lot of pop music.
That’s why I can’t do Top 40 clubs. I just don’t know.
My girlfriend had a birthday party recently and they had karaoke which was fun. They had me make a playlist, and I am very serious about playlists. This music is good and we barely listened to it.
That is an investment of time and craft!
I just went to My Songs but yeah, it was! This one is going to be good. I’m going to curate this.
What was on it?
There was some Thundercat, always some old schools. Crush on You, a few Beyonce songs, Kaytranada, some Baby Bash, gotta have My Neck My Back by Khia, couple of Drake songs. Who else? What’s that one guy?...of course some Rihanna.
I listened to the entire Anti album on the way here and am still in love.
It’s so good. There are only a few slow songs that took me awhile to get on.
Have you heard of XXX Testastion? He’s crazy. He’s 19 and is pulling up because of his big mouth. These are kids but he’s blowing up in the underground scene. I recently got into Korean Rap. Me and my roommates do a podcast, and we did an episode on North Korea. We started talking about Korean stuff and got into Rap. Some of it is Japanese Rap. It’s a whole mixture of Japanese and Korean. But this guy Keith Ape, and he was apparently here for SXSW 2015. Really hyped. They have American rappers get on their stuff ASAP and stuffs on remixes but I have some of that.
Good! I love the globalization of music! Wait..you have a podcast?
Yeah, we haven’t put the episodes out yet but it’s called That’s Messed Up. It’s super fun. We choose a topic and throughout the week we do research. Meredith will do an educational portion and she’ll quiz me and Bryan, a little competition. Bryan will do a deep dive where he digs into one instance. And then I’ll do a listicle. For our episode on North Korea, we covered some Korean History, lots of stuff I would have never known. Bryan talked about somebody who escaped North Korea. I did something like top 10 reasons why I wouldn’t go to North Korea or something. Oh, top 10 things to do in North Korea haha. Not too many things to do.
I can not wait. Is there a drop date?
The day I leave. We have a few episodes but it takes a while to edit. Hopefully June.
You should definitely check out Before Anything Else. My friend Micah E. Clain runs it with his buddy Eli and their most recent episode talks about divesting pink dick. SO good. Hit me up when you go to New York. You’ll love him!
When we went last year to Del Close Marathon, I was introduced to tons of my friend’s friends and we immediately started talking about drag. My people! It was so much fun. I have fun here but it’s a different kind of fun for sure. What do I do? I’m so weird.
What advice do you have for aspiring comics/improvs?
Number one, have fun! I would say it’s a rollercoaster. I went into it going I’ll love it forever, but I’ve had times where I’ve questioned if I wanna do this. Just been down on myself. You just have to step out and look where you are. Even if you wanna take it seriously like I do, this is one night of your life. This is super cheesy and I say it before every show, but this has never been done before and will never happen again. Just go up there and have fun.
If you really wanna do it, just do it. Just make sure you surround yourself with people you care about and truly have your back. That’s what I found with Damn Gina. We have each other’s backs no matter what like crazy. Tauri and Cene are always video messaging and we’re always checking in with each other.
Yeah, that’s hard. Just have fun! That’s what it’s always been to me. Don’t be too hard on yourself, which is funny to say since I’m still so hard on myself.
I need to incorporate that more into my life.
The best note I’ve ever gotten was just FUCK IT!
That helps me and gets me the attitude. When I was younger, I didn’t have all this pressure I’ve put onto myself. I had the spirit of I’ve been silly my whole life and I’m going to take chances. Being weird and self conscious has affected my comedy, but when I get to that mindset 5 years ago while being smart, those are the best shows.
Does comedy run in your family? Has your family seen you perform?
My mother wanted to do stand up. Maggie, who’s in Damn Gina as well who runs the Monday Open Mic, I’ve told her to jump on that. My mom thinks she’s hilarious, and she is. Very silly. Makes silly faces.
I remember when I was young I would make silly voices, and it wasn’t until I was a teenager...I was very nervous. Me and my mother just have a mom daughter relationship to the whole teenage angst thing for the longest time. I would eventually do voices in front of her and she would say my dad used to do voices like that. I was like, WHAT?!?
They got divorced when I was really young so I didn’t know. Apparently he did theatre too for a little bit and wanted to do acting. They’re both just really silly people. My brothers are funny too. We’re all artists in our own ways. My little brother is a really good artist. He can draw and he’s amazing. I tell him to keep it up. My older brother likes doing music stuff. He has a child now. My sweet baby nephew.
Everyone is our family is funny. My grandfather is hilarious. Quiet but would crack us up when he opened his mouth. My favorite gift was when I was 18, we would always go to Marie Callender’s. My brother was flexing and showing off his muscles. She was telling him he grandpa used to be Big Daddy with big muscles. He said, what are you talking about? He flexed and started doing a little dance and everything. Super cute. One of my favorite memories of him.
My family is pretty cool.
What can we do to support you as an artist?
Let’s see. Keep up with me when I go to NY. I’ll probably be on social media a bunch (instagram: xduhhhh). Like and share. I wanna say for performers, if you have any doubts or questions, ask about it. There have been people who have asked if it’s ok to touch me. Be aware and question what you’d be comfortable with. Not everyone is. Ask. I feel super supported already by those around me. Just keep up!
What advice do you have for your younger self and the future generation of QTPOC folks?
For my younger self, I would say don’t be too hard on yourself. Work harder.
Is that possible?
Haha. Have fun. For the future QTPOCs, I would say keep up the good work, seriously. Well for those right now. For any marginalized groups, remember where you came from and appreciate that. Be true to yourself. If you have nothing else at the end of the day, at least you have that. Which hopefully you have more. I think if you are yourself, then good things will come. That’s what I’ve tried to do and I have a pretty good life.
Thank you so much for all of that. Being vulnerable and opening up.
I’m a weirdo. This is pretty cool.