Art Maker Pam Victor | Improv comedian — the art of being funny on cue

  • Pam Victor records a monthly podcast, "Conversations with Funny Feminists." Kevin Gutting/ Gazette Staff

  • Pam Victor records a monthly podcast, "Conversations with Funny Feminists." Kevin Gutting/ Gazette Staff

  • Pam Victor, left, records a monthly podcast, “Conversations with Funny Feminists,” assisted by Joan Holliday. Kevin Gutting/Gazette Staff

  • Pam Victor records a monthly podcast, "Conversations with Funny Feminists." Kevin Gutting/ Gazette Staff

  • Pam Victor, left, records a monthly podcast, “Conversations with Funny Feminists,” assisted by Joan Holliday. Kevin Gutting/Gazette Staff

Published: 8/11/2016 2:23:16 PM

How hard can it be to stand onstage, or in front of a microphone in a recording studio, and be spontaneously witty?

Ask Pam Victor, president of Happier Valley Comedy and the only Massachusetts resident outside of Boston (to her knowledge) who makes a living as an improvisational comedian.

The latest endeavor for Victor, 49, of Pelham, is a monthly podcast, “Conversations with Funny Feminists,” created, she says, in reaction to recent sexual harassment scandals that have surfaced in major improv and scripted theaters in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“ ‘Conversations with Funny Feminists’ keeps the discussion going in an effort to provide opportunities for healing, growth and the evolution of the treatment of women in comedy,” she says.

Hampshire Life: What is your creative process like?

Pam Victor: People are surprised at how much training goes into becoming an improv comedian. I've been studying improvisation for about 14 years. It takes a remarkable amount of practice to "make it up on the spot." So my creative process involves regular rehearsals and continuing my education through workshops, books and articles, geeking out with other improvisers, and listening to other podcasts. Then we get up onstage and trust that we'll put all that training to good use.

H.L.: Does your work start with a “Eureka!”moment?

P.V.: Sure. Then I work off of that moment for awhile — until I think I've forgotten how to improvise again — until the next "Eureka!" moment comes along. Improvisation is a practice — we work on these big life skills, such as being in the moment, non­judgment, paying attention acutely, acceptance, agreement and joyfully jumping into the unknown. I never feel like, "Oh yeah. I've nailed acceptance. I can check that off the to-do list."

H.L.: How do you know you're on the right track?

P.V.: In a show, if my scene partner is happy and I'm happy, we're on the right track. If I get to say, "That's what she said" at least once, I'm on the right track. With the “Conversations with Funny Feminists,” I'm on the right track if all those things happen and the 30 minutes fly by, we've laughed a lot and my brain hurts from the mind expansion.

H.L.: What do you do when you get stuck?

P.V.: Cry. Feel like crap for a while. Contemplate giving up. That's the first 24 hours. Then I get back up and try again. The podcast is an effort to help other female comedians and people who work with them who feel stuck and want to make comedy a more inclusive art form. In a lot of ways, the comedy world is in the "get back up, wipe off your pants, and try again" phase as far as inclusiveness goes.

H.L.: How do you know when the work is done?

P.V.: In an improv show, when the audience claps. In the podcast, when engineer and radio personality Joan Holliday stops recording. Then I feel accomplished for about an hour before it's time to start working on the next show.

H.L.: What did you do today that relates to your art?

P.V.: Everything! Every moment, every breath, every interaction relates to improvisation. I spent six hours in front of the computer doing office work: answering emails, doing publicity, posting on social media, balancing the books (I had to do math! Yikes!), scheduling classes for the school and interviews for the show, doing research for my next “Conversations with Funny Feminists” interview ... so much office work.

H.L.: What are the top five elements of your perfect day?

P.V.: Kittens; mojitos from Mission Cantina (I should only order one, but I'll probably drink two); performing with The Ha­Ha's; watching movies with my husband, Jeff; laughing at dinner with Jeff and our kids, Jake and Sierra (I guess I should have put the family at number one, but ... kittens, mojitos and improv, you guys!)

— Kathleen Mellen

“Conversations with Funny Feminists” can be heard on iTunes, Sound Cloud and at www.pamvictor.com.

Happier Valley Comedy shows are on the second Saturday of the month at 8 p.m. at the Arts Block in Greenfield, followed by a showcase and open improv jam at 10 p.m. There’s a show for families on the third Saturday of the month at 4 p.m. in Eastworks in Easthampton. For information or tickets, visit www.happiervalley.com.




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