How this Comedy Duo is using their Experiences to Collectively Inspire Others
At first glance, Linzy Beltran and Kim Tran of comedy collective Glam Fam may appear to share little in common. Look just below the surface and an unbreakable bond soon becomes apparent. They both have a knack for comedy, they both are young women of color, and they both are daughters of immigrants. Beltran is the daughter of parents who escaped the Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980s, while Tran was born to parents who fled to the United States at the end of the 1960s Vietnam War. Both felt trapped between two worlds and two identities growing up—that of trying to be the perfect first-generation daughter while trying to find a place of belonging in an already assimilated United States. It wasn’t until a chance encounter at a comedy improv class where they joined forces to form their own troupe to help express the personal stories they’ve longed to share while finally embracing their love and talent for comedy.
“I was always really silly. I would get in trouble in school for talking too much and then someone said, ‘You should go into improv’” Beltran said.
She would perform at her cousins’ quinceaneras, albeit not comedy, and even bring a whole production to life in front of her bedroom mirror in spite of having no audience.
“I do remember when my cousins would come over and I would make them play “Laura”, this talk show kind of like “Maury”, but not as ‘you are the father,’” Beltran said, as Tran burst into laughter during their interview with The Mujerista.
Though not sold on comedy improv the first time, Beltran decided to take a women’s empowerment workshop attended by many like-minded aspiring female comedians in the Austin, Texas area. As fate would have it, Tran was also enrolled in the class and both women realized the potential they had if they formed their own comedy troupe.
“I remember doing a scene with Kim and thinking, ‘Oh my god, this clicks,’” Beltran said. “It was the first time I felt I had that connection with someone.”
She reached out to Tran to see if interest in a collaboration was mutual. Beltran thought she had nothing to lose by trying to make a career in comedy especially considering the sacrifices her family made to arrive in the United States so she could have the freedom to pursue her dreams.
Both women joke that comedy is not what their parents had in mind for their daughters. Tran, for example, pursued pre-medicine in college before venturing into comedy.
“I realized it wasn’t really what I was passionate about,” Tran said. “I remember people being like, ‘This is my dream in life,’ and I had never felt that with what I was studying or anything in general.”
But while watching comedy Tran started to consider the people behind the camera, the radio or the stage—those who write comedy and help bring it to life.
She researched the resumes of comedy writers and quickly grew convinced she should try comedy improv if she hoped to follow in their footsteps.
Growing up, she didn’t realize comedy was even an option. Both their mothers have asked them if comedy offers health insurance.
But even if comedy may have seemed an impractical choice -- both women still have day jobs to support their comedic efforts -- it was inevitable for this duo. Beltran describes hearing laughter from the crowd while performing on stage feels like a jolt. It gives her a sense of approval and connection with other people like nothing else can.
“I get paid in the love of smiles and validation…” Beltran said, in between laughs with Tran.
Both women have a strong bond likened to that of close cousins or best friends. They can complete each other’s thoughts and tease one another without worrying about offending the other. That doesn’t mean they don’t argue sometimes but it’s that natural ability to talk through their challenges and solve them together that makes their troupe so special.
They also have common childhood experiences—like their mothers telling them wearing tampons would make them lose their virginity, or being overly-worried about any weight gain.
“One experience I think I had been repressed about is my sexuality…” Beltran said. “No sex talk,” Tran added.
Beltran argued with her mother over the merits of taking birth control. Meanwhile, Tran used her acne to back up the need to take birth control. Once she grew older and the acne subsided, however, her mother started questioning whether she still needed to take the medication. She even tried convincing her daughter she should get off birth control because her “butt [was] getting bigger.”
“I said, ‘No, it’s because I haven’t exercised…’” Tran laughed.
Finding and embracing their own sexuality became the duo’s source material.
They joke about these experiences during their performances and have found the audience often relates.
Their women’s workshop instructor shared tangible tactics they use on stage to ensure their voices are heard as comedians, as daughters of immigrants and women of color.
The duo is preparing for the May 11 showing of Feelin’ Myself, their self-described “festive and raunchy” comedy variety show debut. The production is inspired by their “immigrant mamas, their sass and their pussies of color.” It’s directed by Jesus Valles, produced by Bonica Ayala and part of Austin Sketch Fest. Tickets are available here.
“It’s about this awakening of our sexuality and that expression…” Beltran said.
“It’s like my and Linzy breaking free and just being ourselves but also sort of a protest (of sheltered upbringing).” Tran added.
Though this is the latest showing of the Glam Fam variety show debut, Beltran and Tran have already made names for themselves in Austin’s comedy scene. Beltran is part of Latinauts, an improvised telenovela set in outer space, created by Prima Doñas, an all-Latinx comedy improv team that aims to put a positive twist on negative stereotypes of brown people. Tran is a member of Ya’ll We Asian, an Austin-based Asian variety show and improv troupe, that sells out shows and is working to diversify the comedy industry. Both groups have garnered awards and recognition for their groundbreaking work.
“We both realized our identity is what will inform our comedy. I think that’s what made us realize this is really important to us and what we want to do.” Tran said.
Beltran said Glam Fam shows that while people can come from different countries, languages and cultures, human themes like mother-child relationships, sexuality and scolding are shared experiences.
“It’s like we’re cousins from another culture.” Beltran said, teasing she can’t picture herself living with Tran. The women formed their group back in 2015 and have a few sketches under their belt.
Beltran recalls how her college roommate related to her experience helping her parents accept she was sexually active. The other young woman wasn’t of color but she came from a conservative religious background.
“It’s just growing up in Texas and how they taught sex ed” Beltran said. “Abstinence-only” Tran added.
“Our whole show is relatable. It’s not just about sexuality. It’s also about dumb stuff” Tran said.
This includes silliness and pop culture references like sketches where they play high school principals who rap, what famed Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo is like when she is having a bad day, and what happens when a multilingual flight attendant translates words verbatim. Musical and video elements are also added into the mix.
Each woman performs a profound personal sketch. In Tran’s case, it’s telling her parents she’s no longer a virgin. Beltran stages an email exchange with a much older man who made a pass on her without her realizing it.
Glam Fam is aware that while the comedy scene is changing to include more diverse audiences, progress still needs to be made to reflect the country’s evolving demographics.
“I think there has been a rise in women in comedy in general. I feel like I’m inspired by Broad City, the women of PEN15, and obviously women like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who are doing it in a general sense,” Tran said. “The improv community in Austin is very open and welcoming and that women’s improv class was meant to be empowering. I was like, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I.’”
Tickets to Glam Fam’s Feelin’ Myself Comedy Show are available here. The comedy variety show premieres on Saturday, May 11th at 7:00 PM CDT in the ColdTowne Theater in Austin, Texas, with a following taking place on Friday, May 24th (featuring Gutter–a pack theater sketch team from Los Angeles starring several ColdTowne Theater Alumnus).
If you’re interested, grab your tickets Now.