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Can you explain the Roles for Initiative fundraiser for those who haven’t heard of it? Roles for Initiative is a charity improv comedy show combined with a tabletop role playing game, usually Dungeons and Dragons. If you do not know what either of those things are, that’s OK. We’re telling a long story. A long, funny story. We incorporate elements of tabletop RPGs, like dice, to bring the audience into it and make it interactive. And in the end we raise money for TELL!

How long has the Roles for Initiative show been going on? I’ve been doing Roles since 2016. We took a break for a few years because of COVID-19, but then we resumed when the Tokyo Comedy Bar opened up.

How did you discover improv? I had done improv in Dallas, where I’m from. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I didn’t know I was going to be a performer of any kind. It was when I joined an improv workshop here in Tokyo and I really fell in love with it.

How would you say improv could support someone’s mental health? Speaking only for myself, it has made me look at life differently. It made me look at myself differently. Improv is a team sport. It taught me the importance of listening to other people and being accepting of myself. It’s very easy for me to get sucked into the whirlpool that exists in my own head. This has given me a better perspective on what’s outside. It’s not for everybody, but it was really good for me.

What led you to combine an improv show with mental health causes? I knew I wanted to do a show for charity. TELL was recommended to me by a friend, and I was like, “Oh, yeah, of course”, because I had used the TELL Lifeline in the past and TELL is local. Mental health is an issue that I care about. Suicide prevention is an issue I care about. It’s good to be open about it and acknowledge that it’s a thing that exists.

What have you learned in that time that would help others start their own fundraisers? I’ve had a lot of folks help me out to try and make this cool thing happen. It’s hard to do stuff in isolation. I’ve learned that if you want to make something happen it’s great to get a crew of like-minded people together. You don’t even have to find them all at once. You can just do what you can now. I struggle with wanting things to be perfect the first time, and not everything has to be perfect. You improve it along the way. Maybe you’ll never perfect it, and that’s also kind of cool.

I would like to send a shout-out to Roles’ cast members Babs Capilos and Luke Happle, our sound guy Stage Boy Jack, the Tokyo Comedy Bar’s owners, and the many others who have come through and helped over the years.