Black comedy improv troupe "Cant' Tell Us Nothing" is leading the way in comedy diversity.
Image Source: CTUN website
Houston, Texas is known for many things: NASA's Space Center, the Astros baseball team, and an impressive theatre scene, to name a few. But one thing that many people may not know about Houston is that it is home to one of the top Black improv troupes in the country, known as "Can't Tell Us Nothing" (CTUN).
CTUN was founded in 2015 by four Houston natives: Tandiwe Kone, Jon Myles, Amechi Ngwe, and Antoine W.B. With backgrounds in theatre, comedy, and music, the quartet came together with the goal of creating a unique brand of comedy that was centered around the Black experience. They aimed to create a space where Black voices and perspectives could be celebrated and amplified, while also providing a platform for underrepresented voices in the Houston improv community.
Since their inception, CTUN has become a staple in the Houston improv scene, performing regularly at popular venues like Station Theater, The Secret Group, and ComedySportz Houston. Their shows are a blend of short-form and long-form improv, with themes and suggestions often coming from the audience. What sets CTUN apart from other improv troupes is their ability to seamlessly weave social commentary and satire into their performances, without sacrificing the humor.
One of CTUN's signature formats is their "Cant Tell Us Nothing" show, which explores themes and issues related to Black culture and identity. In these shows, CTUN uses improv as a tool for exploring the complexities and nuances of the Black experience, and challenging common stereotypes and misconceptions. They tackle everything from police brutality to code-switching to Black hair, all while keeping the audience laughing and engaged.
But CTUN's impact extends far beyond their performances on stage. They are committed to using their platform to uplift and support other Black artists and performers in Houston. They frequently collaborate with other local troupes, host workshops and classes for aspiring improv performers, and even created a podcast called "The Podcast Can't Tell Us Nothing: " where they discuss various topics related to Black culture and share their own personal experiences to create an Improvise sketch show.
In 2020, CTUN received national recognition when they were featured on “Improv 4 HumansPodcat '' Featuring Matt Besser, founder of Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in LA & NY.The segment highlighted CTUN's ability to use humor to address serious social issues, and the impact that they have had on the Houston community.
Can't Tell Us Nothing is proof that comedy can be a powerful tool for social change. By using improv as a means of exploring and celebrating Black culture, they are paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse improv community, both in Houston and beyond.
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