Teresa Lo on the Power of the Truth—and Support
Teresa Lo always wanted to be a comedian, but the thought of being on stage used to terrify her. “I didn’t really like the idea of people looking at me or of me revealing things about myself,” Lo explained. Lo, ’07 History, makes her living as a freelance journalist, and when a client of hers folded in 2018, she found herself with more time on her hands.
“And I thought, you know what, I’m just going to do what I want to do,” Lo said. So she signed up for a stand-up class and eventually made her way to the stage as a comic. Her experience as a writer helped her there—Lo’s journalism has appeared everywhere from BuzzFeed to The Hollywood Reporter to Yahoo! and her bestselling fiction series The Red Lantern Scandals was optioned by 20th Century Fox for adaptation into a television series. “I had experience as a writer, so I was able to write jokes, but I was so nervous that I would just stare at the floor,” Lo said. “It took me some time to gain the confidence."
After her undergraduate degree at KU, Lo studied film at the University of Southern California. While she originally headed to Los Angeles to make it in the movie business, Lo soon found herself missing opportunities that her classmates seemed to be getting. “They sell you an idea that you’re going to be the next so-and-so,” Lo said. “I learned many lessons while I was in film school, but one of them was that this system is mostly made for people who already have connections and already have a lot of money.”
While Lo did not have the head start some of her peers did, she did have the tenacity to begin writing on her own terms, from freelance work to comedy. As a standup, she moved from class to open mic nights to shows. “Comedy gave me that ability to finally just be myself,” Lo said. Lo also talked about how finding her confidence helped her navigate uncomfortable situations. “I used to get really offended when people were sexist or racist to me, but instead of fighting back, I just internalized it,” Lo said. “Now if people confront me, they realize that I will not be quiet anymore. And it’s incredibly freeing.”
Now a teacher of the same comedy class where she once started developing her stand-up, Lo works hard to make the class a safe and supportive space—one that felt much like the Honors Program did for her at KU: “When you're very young, it's good to be in an environment with people who will help you grow,” Lo said. “And that’s what I had at KU. I met most of my friends through the Honors Program, and one reason I connected so well with Honors students was that we were all driven and excited to be learning but also supportive."
Above all, Lo wants truth in the stories she hears and tells—across journalism and comedy. “I’m obsessed with honesty. I feel like we can learn so much from people’s stories, but a lot of people won’t tell you the truth. The whole thing about journalism is for the most part, you keep digging until you get to the truth. And same with comedy: nobody wants to hear broad generalizations, they want to hear your truth, even if it’s controversial.”
Find more of Teresa Lo’s writing and comedy at her website.