meet the team
director of performance
Claire combines decades of experience as a seasoned actor, arts business development leader, and improv teacher to deliver Speechless’ public speaking training and produce their signature comedic Speechless Live show around the globe. She delivers Improv Thinking training to companies and groups as well as coaching top executives. She is passionate about spreading the empathetic and inclusive power of comedy by curating diversity on stage and in the audience. Claire has trained, performed, and produced her own original work at top theaters and comedy centers including the Upright Citizens Brigade, iO West, The Groundlings, American Conservatory Theater, and We Players. She is a proud graduate of Stanford University and lover of karaoke, farmers markets, and poodle mixes.
director of revenue
Vivek Venugopal is an improviser, comedian, actor and musician. He has a background in technology and non-profit fundraising. Armed with a Computer Science degree from Grinnell College in Iowa, he started his professional career as a web developer and programmer in Chicago. He moved on to work as a fundraiser in Chicago and San Francisco, and then took on sales roles in tech companies. He discovered Speechless quite by accident and has not been able to look away since. He performs improv with American Immigrants and serves on non-profit boards trying to save democracy. At Speechless, Vivek is responsible for all things related to driving revenue for the company, including Sales and Marketing. His responsibilities include creating and maintaining a sales infrastructure and helping define marketing strategy and priorities.
director of learning
Kimberly MacLean is a teacher, actor, singer, director, and writer. With her M.Ed in Best Practices she spent 15 years running high school theater programs specializing in social justice and Project Based Learning. Kim works as an adjunct professor at California College of the Arts and is the improv teacher at American Conservatory Theater STC program. She joined the BATS Improv mainstage in 2008 and can be seen performing as one part of Hamilton & MacLean with the amazing Rachel Hamilton and as Tina in the feature film “All The Others Were Practice”. At Speechless, Kimberly is a driving force in the curricular design and methodologies applied in our Learning Experiences. Her passions include a desire to level the playing field for everyone in the room and to amplify new voices, especially those of women and previously underrepresented communities.
chief executive officer & co-founder
Sammy has a BFA and MFA in Acting and over 15 years as a professional actor, comedian, and instructor. He has performed at theaters, comedy clubs, and corporate events all over the world and has been seen in dozens of TV and web commercials. He has taught acting, writing, improvisation, and stand up comedy at several colleges and companies and has done narrative design and copywriting at various Silicon Valley firms. He is happy that Speechless allows him to funnel all of his improv experience and personal passions into one comedy fueled company.
Fontana Butterfield is a professional actor, improvisor and teacher. She is a proud member of the acting unions SAG/Aftra and Actor’s Equity, has a BA in Theater from SFSU, and trained extensively in the Meisner technique at Laura Henry Studio in LA. Fontana further trained at the world renowned intensive at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. MA. She teaches at Academy of Art University and American Conservatory Theatre and performs across the country with the Bay Area based all-women improv trio, The Right Now. Recent theater acting credits include works at Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, Z Space and Shotgun Players. With Speechless, Fontana coaches individuals to amplify their unique voice and transform their presentations. She leads group trainings to find common ground, and to instill creativity and joy in the workplace.
Natalie is the Head of Global Programs for Women Techmakers - Google's program for women in technology. WTM provides visibility, community, and resources for women across all phases of their career. She manages a high-performing global team that has grown Women Techmakers from a 1/year event into a scalable program that engages 100,000 women per year in 190 countries. Prior to Google Natalie developed Ephemerisle - "a floating festival of politics, community, and art" as the Arts and Culture Manager at The Seasteading Institute.
Jamie Wright has been involved with the world of improvisation since 1999. First as a bartender, then in pioneering the use of live video and digital shorts, working with future Emmy- and Oscar-winning improvisors at the improvisational & sketch comedy revue Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. Since moving back to his native Bay Area in 2006, Jamie has jumped into improvisation here as an actor, producer and director, and has been executive producer of the San Francisco Improv Festival since 2009. He has worked with Speechless in one way or another since it's inception as a force in improvisationally-based training for professionals. Ask him about his favorite bar recipes from his time in Amsterdam and he'll pour you a small, tulip-shaped glass of Heineken.
charles limb, md
scientist in residence
Dr. Charles Limb is the Francis A. Sooy Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the Chief of the Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at University of California, San Francisco. He is the Director of the Douglas Grant Cochlear Implant Center at UCSF and he is the Medical Director of Cochlear Implantation at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Oakland. He also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Neurosurgery. His work has received international attention and has been featured by National Public Radio, TED, National Geographic, the New York Times, PBS, CNN, Scientific American, the BBC, the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, the Sundance Film Festival, the American Museum of Natural History, and others.
chief creative officer & co-founder
Anthony Veneziale is a producer, writer, director, musician, teacher and actor. He is an original producer of the In the Heights workshops which went on to Broadway and of PBS’ relaunch of The Electric Company. He has appeared in films such as Che and Hereafter, as well as TV shows such as All My Children, Looking and Sex and the City. Anthony is one of the founding fathers of Freestyle Love Supreme along with Lin-Manuel Miranda, now airing on SeeSo. You can see two of his TEDx talks here and here.
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our core values
A sense of humor and an attitude of playful positivity is essential to who we are and what we do. We aim to embody and share the connective power of comedy.
We believe in making others look and feel good. We debate ideas, assume best intent, and listen deeply to understand, not to be understood. We all make mistakes, and these are points of growth not punishment.
An individual's value is realized when she knows her ideas are heard, valued, and considered in decision-making. We thrive best in empowered environments where communication and creativity are fueled by group support and trust.
We are a stronger whole when individuals are welcomed to bring their unique perspective and truthful voice to the table. We aim to support and amplify that voice. Striving for equity and diversity is key to elevating our humanity.
With deep knowledge and science-based expertise as our foundation, we take bold and informed creative risks to create value for the world. We embrace and learn from failure and change along the way.