Express press service
What would happen if men had to have abortions? Consider the circumstances they might encounter and the conversations they would have. Say it out loud and act out the scene in front of a large group of strangers. This could cause nervousness in some, excitement in others, or perhaps a culmination of both in some.
But The Hysterical, Chennai’s first all-female improv comedy ensemble, through their jamming session held at the Backyard Clan, Adyar on Saturday, managed to engage the audience in such hypothetical improv comedy.
“People don’t know that they are the ones who are going to perform when they walk into the room. The initial struggle, the attempts to get comfortable and the confidence achieved, all of these situations will be comedy-producing. Also, agreeing to seek out humor in all situations will boost a participant’s self-esteem,” said Shalini Vijayakumar, Founder of The Hysterical.
Subgenres and scenarios
Improvisational theater, or improv, is a kind of participatory comedy that relies on spontaneous, unrehearsed scenarios created from the audience’s ideas. Jikki Nair, an actress and ensemble member, said, “Improv is a subgenre of comedy. It’s built on a ridiculous storyline. There are many fun games used for improv comedy on which to work.”
As promised by Jikki, the event turned out to be a riot of laughter with fun activities and games like “Spin a yarn” where you spin a story from a given word, “Zip Zap Zop” where players imagine they have a bolt of energy. in their hands and pass it to another using their bodies, “Double endowment” where two players are secretly told what they need the other player to do.
According to the set, improvisational activities like these train the mind and body to achieve “a sense of liberation.”
An all-female set
Shalini has been in acting since 2008. She was part of The Half-Boiled Inc, an improv comedy group in Chennai, for three years and was the only female member of the team.
“Although it’s a very different and fun dynamic, I wish there were more women in the comedy business. Most of the women are really funny and tell their jokes once they’re out there. comfortable in a safe space. My inspirations are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler from SNL and regionally, Sukmukhi Suresh and Kaneez Surka. They are female comedians who write their own comedy. So I thought why not build our own tribe in Chennai?”
In 2022, when Karthik Kumar, comedian and former actor, gave him the green signal for the production, Shalini did not hesitate. She and actor Amrutha Srinivasan, with the support of Evam, India’s biggest stand-up comedy movement, ran a ‘Feel Free to Be Funny’ comedy campaign, where contestants auditioned, and eventually formed the thirteen-member ensemble on June 15, 2022. “We don’t want to stop with these many members. We want this community to grow. Hopefully The Hysterical will motivate others in the field to form women’s ensembles,” Shalini shared.
The event was also reserved for women. “We wanted everyone to feel free and comfortable without fear of being judged,” Jikki shared. This sentiment resonated with the audience. Suchitra Shankaran, a participant, confirmed, “It was such a refreshing experience and there was no performance anxiety. On the contrary, it taught me to be in the moment.
The Hysterical plans to stage its first show in September at SoCo at the Savera Hotel, Mylapore. For more details, follow @thehysterical_ on Instagram.