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Meet Pam Victor of Happier Valley Comedy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pam Victor.

Pam, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I fell in love with improvisation about 15 years ago. Like so many others who fall for improv, I fell HARD. Obsessively hard. Even though there was no improv scene in Western Mass at the time, I cobbled together an education, bringing teachers and traveling to Boston, Chicago, and New York to study and see shows.

I began writing an interview series called “Geeking Out with…” as a device I finagled to talk to my improv heroes about improvisation in order to continue my education. That series and a little gumption lead to co-authoring “Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book” with improv legends TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi.

After the book was published, I started the “Can I Making Doing What I Love?” Experiment to see if I could turn my passion in improvisation into a career.(I blogged about it here: Turns out, I could make a living doing what I love!

I now am the “Head of Happiness” (aka president) of Happier Valley Comedy where I work full-time fulfilling my mission to bring more ease and joy to the Pioneer Valley (and the world.)

Has it been a smooth road?
I can’t imagine that making something from nothing is ever a smooth road. I think weathering the bumps along the road is what makes the journey even more rewarding. I think the biggest struggle for me was the whole “running a company” part. My dream was to work in improve – teaching, performing, producing – but it turns out in order to do all that, I have to spend the majority of my time running a company. You know, boring, tedious stuff like doing math-y stuff and filling out forms and answering emails.

I had never run a company before. (To be honest, I had never wanted to!) So there was a lot of learning to do along the way. Fortunately, I have a great team of people helping, advising, and bringing humor to the more tedious times. My husband, who is treasurer of the company in his “spare time,” has been a real hero. As he is an entrepreneur who has started several companies, his help has been invaluable. Thank goodness for him – he does the most painful “math-y” stuff, so I don’t have to.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Happier Valley Comedy story. Tell us more about the business.
The mission of Happier Valley Comedy is to bring more laughter and ease to the Pioneer Valley (and the world.) The nickname for this region is the “Happy Valley” (because we’re all so damned nice and happy living out here,) and Happier Valley Comedy works to make the Happy Valley HAPPIER. We deliver the happy through three main branches: the improv school, the improv shows, and THROUGH LAUGHTER, the professional and personal development program.

I developed the Zen of Improv program, which is the foundational curriculum of our school, Students start by taking Zen of Improv 1, Zen of Improv 2, Zen of Improv 3, and Zen of Improv 4, and then they launch into the many classes in the Advanced Improv program. Inspired by my work with my co-authors TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi and other major influences from the Chicago scene, The Zen of Improv is my specific approach to improvisation, which is based in a very supportive, authentic, and affirming approach. I think anyone can do improv, and I love proving that to people over and over again. Most of my students aren’t interested in performing when they start out. They say take improv because it’s cheaper than therapy!

The other very special thing about the Happier Valley Comedy School and performing community is that it’s predominantly female. In fact, our average student and performer is a middle-aged woman. This demographic is dramatically different than almost every other improv scene in the world, which tends to be dominated by young men. I love using the gifts of improv to empower women. I am very grateful that people regularly tell me that my improv class changed their lives for the better.

I’ve been astounded to see that the benefits of improv aren’t limited to the classroom. It’s thrilling to go into companies and share the values of improv to improv their communication, collaboration, innovation, resilience to challenges, and flexibility with change. The thing that sets the THROUGH LAUGHTER program apart from other training programs is that we approach training with a lot of personal affirmation. I believe people have all the skills they need to do a kick-ass job.

But so often, they doubt themselves and put up roadblocks that prevent success. The big message of the THROUGH LAUGHTER program is that we use improv to help people disempower failure, so they are freed up to be better communicators, collaborators, and creative thinkers.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Improv is growing unbelievably throughout the world. In the early ’80s, improv was hardly known at all outside of the big cities – and even there, it was just performed in the dark corners of bars for small audiences. Now, there is an improv theater in virtually every large city – and a whole bunch of the medium and small ones too! Pretty much every college has an improv team, and it’s spreading to high school and even middle schools too.

Applied improv – using improv as a tool to build other skills – is also growing dramatically worldwide. More and more corporate clients are reaching out to me because they’ve heard of the benefits of improv in the business world, which is a huge change. I predict that the benefits of improv to improv professional and personal development will grow even more in the next 5-10 years.

In the decade ahead, I am looking forward to expanding the personal growth branch of my company, particularly the women’s empowerment program called “Females Unleashing Courage, Knowledge, Individuality, and Truth.” I would like to bring more interactive presentations, workshops, and retreats to women to teach them fun and powerful techniques to disempower their internal critical voices and fear of failure in order to help them manifest their dreams.

I personally think the world would be a better place with more empowered women. My dream is to use the most effective tool I have, improvisation, to help women make their dreams into reality.

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