Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on September 2010

Where are you from, and how did you end up in Tokyo?
I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, and came to Japan 16 years ago to study Japanese for a few years—but then I met my partner of 15 years, Jun Imai, at an improv show we both performed in. This motivated me to find a career that would keep me happy while staying here, and a fellow improviser introduced me to the narration business. I immediately fell in love with the work, and it kind of took off for me. Insert “Big in Japan” joke here…

What kinds of opportunities does Japan offer for English-language narrators?
Most of my work is for promo videos for Japanese corporations, which are quite interesting in their variety and specificity, and I also narrate TV shows and documentaries for NHK International. That’s me in the elevator to the Special Observatory in Tokyo Tower, and on the shinkansen platforms from Osaka on west, saying “The train bound for Nara…” NHK also has an English education anime program called Little Charo, and a number of Tokyo Comedy Store members including myself are performers in the show.

How did you get involved with the Tokyo Comedy Store?
A friend of mine was organizing a new comedy show in 1994, and asked me to be in the improv group. I had just arrived in Japan that year and was happy to be able to perform in English for my fellow expats. Interestingly, my friend had no idea of my performance background—I had been on the speech team in high school and university, competing in state and national tournaments. He just thought I had the right personality type to do improv.

Can improv training help people in their everyday lives?
I think improv training helps people become better listeners and recognize when they are being negative. It also shows how we make assumptions about what others are thinking that aren’t true, and generally makes you more attuned to others and less focused on yourself in conversation. It’s fun to see someone gain confidence in their own type of creativity and come out of their shell.

For information about Tokyo Comedy Store’s shows and improv classes, see www.tokyocomedy.com.