On some nights, reading the energy of a room comes easy for Franco Nguyen.
It’s one of the skills the Toronto comedian has picked up doing live stand-up comedy and performing as part of a four-man sketch troupe, TallBoyz II Men.
“If I do a show where it’s four white guys performing and then I step on, immediately the energy changes,” says the son of immigrants, who left Vietnam for Canada.
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“So the energy is like, ‘Oh — Oh, interesting. OK, we’re not used to this.’ So that can work in both ways. They can judge me harder — ‘Well this guy better be funny’. The risk vs. reward changes.”
It’s an energy Nguyen, 30, has learned not only to navigate but address in his performances.
“This is the challenge of being a person of colour or an underrepresented person: If you address it, you have to address it in a way that’s original.”
And with that challenge comes a decision performers of colour have must make regarding their audiences, according to the Second City grad.
“It sucks but you may be the only diverse person the audience will interact with probably that week, for sure that day and maybe in their lifetime. So whether you like it or not, you’re representing because you are the only one.”