Fran Ayala is no nincompoop!

Fran is a feminist stand-up comedian known for her raunchy, physical style and is currently based in Manila, Philippines. She has performed in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. Fran co-founded Bitches in Stitches, Hong Kong’s first all-femme stand-up comedy troupe. In two years, the group sold out 30 consecutive shows and won nine awards from Comedy HK.

What were you like as a teen? 
I was A LOT as a teenager – hypersensitive and struggling with emotional regulation (due to an undiagnosed mental illness) while I wrote these god-awful poems and doodled some mediocre boy’s name next to mine in my diary. I didn’t have any plans to get into comedy or stand-up at that time. I think I wanted to be a film director.
Did you have an un-sexy starter job?
When I first moved to Hong Kong from Los Angeles in my mid-20s, I worked as a cater-waitress, and as a receptionist at a waxing salon and passed out flyers at conventions just to make ends meet. All these temp jobs kept me focused on achieving my goal of building a life and career for myself in Hong Kong.
What’s your biggest comedy achievement
I would say that it’s co-founding Bitches in Stitches, Hong Kong’s first all-femme stand-up comedy troupe. That group essentially became my start-up and we achieved a lot together during my two-year tenure at its helm – we sold out 30 consecutive shows and doubled the number of paid female comics in the local English stand-up scene.
When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it? 
Honestly, I loved the validation when I killed it. I started doing stand-up because I had just ended a 7-year relationship and was feeling really insecure at that time. Later on, I stuck with it because I loved that I was writing for myself again after years of just writing for work. Stand-up is a challenging medium because you have a limited timeframe to win over an audience and surprise them with a payoff that makes them laugh.
Have you ever dealt with trolls? 
Yes. Bitches in Stitches had a social troll or two who would post some very hateful, misogynistic, and transphobic comments (one of our founding members is a trans woman) on our Instagram feeds.
I work in marketing and have had experience dealing with trolls for my clients, but this was the first time I’d ever dealt with them personally. It was hurtful, but instead of deleting the comment or reacting immediately, the girls and I reported the comment and I reached out to them privately and asked for a conversation. They never responded and Instagram deleted the hate speech. I find that calling people “in” instead of calling them out is the best way to mitigate situations like this.
I have had hecklers, but not many. I’m not great at improv so I have a handful of responses prepared in case it happens.
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian? 
You don’t need to ask a bunch of men to decide whether or not you deserve to get on that stage. Build your own.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
Nobody knows what you’re going to say next, so keep going.
Worst comedy advice you ever got? 
Keep going to open mics until the same men who never book you are finally convinced you’re funny enough.
How has being funny helped you in your life? 
I’m really good with people. In my line of work, you have to deal with stakeholders from all over the world and with all sorts of personalities. Stand-up comedy has helped me manage all these different conversations and different “audiences”.
What specific things do you think a novice comic should do to shape their voice?
Perform five minutes (even if you have to read off a piece of paper) in front of a small group of friends. If you don’t have five minutes written down, then talk about yourself and what you like to do. Afterward, ask everyone to write down three things they remember/found compelling about what you said. Common themes and topics will pop up–these should paint a clear picture of which direction to head towards.
Do you have a writing routine?
I write down bullet points about a funny situation and then structure them in the typical PREMISE-SET UP-PUNCHLINE format. Then I rewrite it while bearing other comedic mechanisms in mind (Absurdity, contrast, misdirection, benign violation, etc.).
What is your go-to movie?
13 Going On 30!
What single word always cracks you up?
Nincompoop. Haha.