The cornerstone of any good comedy is honesty, and getting to the truth has been an ongoing process for comedian, improv artist and show curator Coko Galore.
From a young age, Coko was interested in pursuing a career in performing arts, but comedy wasn’t something she considered until she discovered Second City, the world-renowned comedy institution that launched the careers of legends like John Candy and Catherine O’Hara. With a new devotion to understanding the art of improv, Coko also found a source of confidence and inspiration that has helped her foster a new approach to a career as a performer.
Now in her late 30s, Coko is hitting her stride as a creative innovator. Believing that honesty is paramount to her craft, Coko shares her recipe for a successful life, an ingredient list that includes learning how to be less obsessed with perfection, setting healthy self-expectations, and implementing a self-care routine that allows her to replenish her energy.
I hadn’t thought about pursuing comedy or thought of myself as a comedian until one of my acting teachers suggested I try improv. I was part of a program at the Second City that hosted a weekly show called Wheel of Improv — students could decide to perform or be part of the audience, and it was a fantastic way to learn by doing because the house was packed every week. Someone from the Second City touring company or main stage would be there to host the show, so it was a chance to work alongside excellence as well up-and-comers.
In improv, you learn that there is no such thing as “perfect” in a performance, and for someone like me, a shy kid who was anxious about failing and who was hung up on perfection, it was freeing to let go of some of those habits. My new measure of a successful performance became about asking myself, “Was I present on stage tonight? Was there truth in my performance?” It was more important to be involved, to engage honestly with the work and with the audience, than it was to have a sold-out show or be perfect. This new understanding of success and failure changed not only the way I thought about performing, but also how I lived my life.
I would still say that I’m a workaholic, though. I work a lot and work hard. When you’re an artist, you are using so much of yourself in your work that you need to learn how to replenish the well. Because if I’m tapped out, I’m not going on stage with anything. If I’m burnt out, my stand-up or storytelling will feel almost robotic. When I am at my best, it’s because I’ve taken the time to rest and take care of myself.
At this point in my life I am good friends with weed. That wasn’t always the case — when I was younger and didn’t know myself as much, I didn’t feel comfortable or in control. Now that I have a good relationship with myself, I have one with weed as well.
A big shift for me was realizing that smoking joints or pipes wasn’t the way I should be consuming, because I don’t have great respiratory system — I had to take very shallow puffs and it was never quite right for me. Then, maybe two years ago, I discovered this really beautiful vape pen. It changed everything. A few puffs a day from my pen, especially at the end of the day, can help me relax and unwind from my work in an almost literal sense. Sometimes I don’t know how much I need that when I’ve been going at full blast, full energy. Sometimes it’s an everyday thing, but there are also periods when I don’t partake. I like that cannabis is there for me when I want it. I like that I am in tune with what I need. That’s a good feeling.
I wish I could say I’m an expert at knowing what I need to replenish, but the truth is that it’s often something that sneaks up on me. Personal-care is a complicated equation, let’s not lie! Last year after I was done a big show I decided to go on a solo vacation to an island resort. It’d be great to congratulate myself because it seems like a healthy thing to do, but the truth is that I literally slept the entire trip. I slept on the beach. I slept in the room. When I went on a day trip out of the resort I slept in the car all the way there and back. You know, it was a waste of money! But the body will tell you. The body knows what it needs and there’s not any point in fighting it. There are days my body says, “Bitch, you’re not going out today.” I have learned to say, “Okay, no problem.” You get older and you collect these little lessons. You pay attention. With time and reflection, the equation becomes easier to solve.
Anasimone George (@theanasimone) is my work wife, and all her comedy is rooted in realness. She is the producer of SHADE and we co-produce GEMS & GOLD.
Kirsten Rasmussen (@kikirazzle) is a sketch and improv comic, and she also does stand-up. She’s huge into character work, but her characters are always grounded and based in truth, showing the vulnerability and fragility of the human ego.
Daphney Joseph (@tatee_9) is my improv partner (Coko & Daphney) and she also does storytelling and stand-up. She is a hilarious woman with positive vibes.