COLD TOFU was founded in 1981 by Marilyn Tokuda and Denice Kumagai who joined forces with Judy Momii and Irma Escamilla to start the nation's first and longest running Asian American improv and comedy troupe. During a time when comedy was not a viable path for Asian American performers, these four founding members wanted to provide opportunities for Asian American actors to perform and explore comedy. Stocked with six-packs and chips, the core group met regularly at each other’s homes exploring new territory – Asian American comedy. Though touted as being the first Asian American improv group, COLD TOFU's roots are multi-cultural. Early members include Amy Hill, Phil LaMarr, Jerry Tondo, Jim MacNerland, Geoff Rivas, and Robert Covarrubias.
The group built its foundation by working with noted directors and coaches such as Stephen Book (founder of Improvisational Acting Technique, and co-worker of Viola Spolin), Gary Austin (creator of THE GROUNDLINGS), and Andy Goldberg (director of OFF THE WALL at The Improv).
Marilyn Tokuda and Denice Kumagai led COLD TOFU and shared the role of Artistic Director. In 1993, Robert Covarrubias and Helen Ota took over as co-Artistic Directors and served the organization until 2000 when Helen Ota would continue to serve as the sole Artistic Director. In 2013, Jully Lee was appointed the position.
COLD TOFU CORE ALUMNI
Helen H. Ota (AD Emeritus)
Michael C. Palma (Associate AD)*
Marilyn Tokuda (AD Emeritus)
Robert Covarrubias (AD Emeritus)
Denice Kumagai (AD Emeritus)
Jully Lee (Artistic Director)*
*Denotes active member
ASSOCIATE AND guest performers
June Kyoko Lu