Weed and comedy have gone together since the very beginning of, well… life. From Pineapple Express to Cheech and Chong, comedians have been using pot as a punchline for quite some time now. And with inclusivity being one of the most important traits defining of both the comedy and cannabis worlds, it’s always great to see women delivering us hilarious content.
Thus, we wanted to sit down with the executive producer, creator and co-director, Nicole Maxali, to find out more about her upcoming cannabis comedy “Good Vibes.”
The series, premiering July 30th at the 42nd Asian American International Film Festival, follows four San Francisco Bay Area cannabis female aficionados rooted in their sisterhood, their Filipino communities, and their love for cannabis. Mentored by Mama Tee, a Latinx woman, the lifelong gal pals are on a woke, weed and wisdom-filled mission to find out if their 30s can really be the new 20s.
EMG: It’s no secret that cannabis and comedy go together like peanut butter and jelly, but what got you into the game?
NM: I began doing stand up comedy in 2007 in San Francisco. During that time, I got to open for comic geniuses like Hasan Minaj and Dave Chappelle. I utilized cannabis to help me with my social and performance anxiety. I also used it during my joke writing process. My professional journey into the cannabis industry began with my employment by a creative agency and bi-annual publication, Mary. I aligned with Mary‘s mission statement of changing negative impressions of cannabis users and cultivating community and togetherness. This, in turn, inspired me to write a show about women of color in the SF Bay Area cannabis industry.
EMG: What was the inspiration behind “Good Vibes”?
NM: Not only was I inspired by the leaders and activists within the cannabis communities who pushed for equality and de-stigmatization, I was also inspired to write an Asian American female driven cannabis series because I feel that representation matters. While I credit how Crazy Rich Asians proved to Hollywood executives that Asian American stories are worth telling, not all Asians are wealthy or the model minority stereotype that exists in our communities. Filipino Americans from the Bay Area, especially, bring a different kind of flavor to the mix.
EMG: What’s the weed scene in San Fran, where the show takes place?
NM: Before I moved to New York seven years ago, San Francisco had the biggest and best medical marijuana scene in the U.S. The Bay Area has always been progressive when it comes to cannabis. It was culturally embraced and the SFPD wasn’t weaponizing the use of cannabis as much as other big cities in America. There were no stop and frisk laws in the Bay Area. It was also a magical time when culture, community and the art scene in San Francisco was flourishing. Now it’s almost completely different. Tech companies and gentrification have changed the scene. You can order adult use cannabis on your phone and have it delivered to you. In my opinion, the convenience is there but the connection to community and culture is lacking.
Yet, now more and more women are leading the cannabis Bay Area scene and staking their claim in a previously male dominated industry. That’s how amazing this plant and the Bay Area are. My friend and cannabis activist, Nina Parks, is one of many women of color fighting for social equity in the emergent cannabis industry. She also helped to shape “Cannabis Equity Programs” in San Francisco. It’s women like Nina that are currently shaping the SF cannabis scene and I’m all for it!
EMG: How much of the storyline is based on your own experiences?
NM: Each character is a version of myself. I would say Max definitely represents my defiant, carefree attitude and constant hustle mode in my 20s. Star is more of my spiritual, community focused and “woke” side. Jazmine is an embodiment of succumbing to social conditioning and navigating life in my early 30s. Mama Tee is based on my own godmother who has always been a pillar of support and is my mother’s best friend. So all of it is based on my own life experiences. Each script or project I’ve written derives from truth and is an expression of my life as a third generation Filipina American raised in the SF Bay Area. This is why I think so many people connect to my writing because it comes from a real place.
EMG: What does it mean to you to be able to portray, and shine a light on women in the industry?
NM: As I mentioned before, REPRESENTATION MATTERS. Whether it’s American media or the cannabis industry, women of color in both spaces get to have their stories told and take up space. So having this series supported by my team of producers and then officially selected by The Asian American International Film Festival is a huge deal! It means so much to me that the world is finally ready to see our stories.
I remember watching shows on TV that were set in San Francisco or The Bay Area or within the cannabis industry and they hardly ever featured women of color. This to me was never my reality living in San Francisco. The Bay Area has always been diverse and the communities that I thrived in had people of all ethnic backgrounds. Even with the success of “Fresh off the Boat” and “Crazy Rich Asians” this type of representation on TV is still missing and something that gets to be shown more in American media. Especially in the time and era we live in. Our stories matter and WE get to write and share them.
EMG: What has been the most rewarding part of creating the show? How about the most difficult?
NM: The most difficult part was believing in myself and my writing. I had the idea for this series 15 years ago. But I got too bogged down on negative narratives of “I’m not good enough” or debilitating effects of imposter syndrome. So for a long time I just sat on the idea and didn’t even try writing or producing a script. But with the help of my Director, Joslyn Rose Lyons, and my team of producers from Colorful Media and Karivara Films, I quickly began to see how really capable I was as a writer, a producer and as a first time co-director. This project has allowed me to see that my stories are worth telling and that I can manifest anything with the right attitude and mindset.
The most rewarding part is having the team that came together and worked on this pilot. Everything aligned from getting support from amazing producers and director, to finding the perfect cast, to getting some talented crew and a location in Oakland that worked within our bare bones budget. All of the talent, director, producers and crew donated their time, resources and energy because they believed in me and the project. This pilot wouldn’t have happened if my team hadn’t come together and shown up to support. This pilot really is the epitome of the Bay Area community and Bay love coming together for one goal. And I hella appreciate it.
If you’re interested in attending the NYC premiere at Regal Essex Crossing & RPX, click here for tickets.