Hi my name is Guillaume Plassan, and I am a Senior Research and Development Engineer in Synopsys, based in Grenoble, France. I help to develop software for microelectronics CAD tools. I love being able to mix up the fields of software and hardware, while using advanced research techniques to develop new tools. I was born and lived in the Bordeaux region of France for most of my life, and then I came to Grenoble to study microelectronics and stayed there for my PhD. I love living in Grenoble because of the beautiful mountains and how easy it is to bike around or go hiking.
In my spare time, I practice improv comedy. I train once a week with my improv team here in Grenoble. We perform twice a month at various places around France. My love for comedy and creativity came from my parents. I have always been surrounded by the arts since I was child – my father is a jazz musician, and my mother is a choreographer. They instilled in me a love for creativity, among other things. I started classical theatre 9 years ago because of them, and I discovered improv comedy in engineering school. From then on, I was hooked.
The first time I performed was not actually for improv, but it was great anyway. I was just doing some intermediary skits with friends at a city show. The audience liked us, and I started to feel the immense joy of being on stage. This caused me to want to continue to perform comedy over classical theatre.
Any life story can be the subject of comedy. With my team, we improvise whole plays of an hour and half with one single story where everything is coherent and you can see the relationships between characters evolving. Crime, road trip, music hall, drama… there are many types of comedy to play with. Listening is a large part of it. Being able to communicate, and trying to understand the other person’s goals will help you to find a solution that matches with yours. Not unlike my work in tech!
Many people, both in and out of the tech world, do not seem funny because they are not extroverted. This does not mean they are not funny. You need to create a comfort zone where they can express themselves. That is how I discovered the funniest people who I know (and they are in tech).
The largest show we did was a short skit in front of 800 people. I usually play in front of 50-150 people, so this was a quite a step up. Working the smaller shows is a lot more intimate. I like the proximity of the public, which is really valuable in improv. I have considered working in comedy as a full-time career, but I love my job in tech, and it is much less of a struggle to survive. The best advice I have ever been given is to do whatever you want in your life, but do it because you like it, and do it while you still can. Following this advice led me to doing both tech and comedy, since I love both.
With improv comedy, there are so many disaster stories! The biggest disaster I had was when we did a play about a funeral. We began to see people not laughing and leaving the room. There were used to us doing comedy, and they were not prepared for something so serious. However, the second time we did this type of improv, it was correctly communicated, and the audience really enjoyed it (some said they were so touched they almost cried). Life is about taking controlled risks, and accepting the outcomes. Sometimes they play out well… other times they do not.