After living through a global pandemic, we can use a little more laughter in our lives, and Happier Valley Comedy is looking to bring the joy back to western Mass as they expand their operation in Hadley. 

The organization will now include the space next door to them to be appropriately called, The Next Door Lounge, which officially opens its doors on October 30th.  

Happier Valley Comedy President Pamela Victor talks about the expansion, the programs Happy Valley offers, and how the organization fosters community through connection and laughter. 

Read the transcription:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: After living through a global pandemic, we can use a little more laughter in our lives and Happier Valley Comedy is looking to bring the joy back to Western Mass as they expand their operation in Hadley.

The organization will now include the space next door to them to be appropriately called the Next Door Lounge, which officially opens on October 30th.

I spoke with Happier Valley comedy president Pamela Victor to hear more about the expansion, the programs Happier Valley offers, and how the organization fosters community through connection and laughter.

Pamela Victor, Happier Valley Comedy: So the next door space, the lounge is going to be our box office. So when you come, it will open at five o’clock, our shows start seven, so if you wanted to come in, get a ticket, and especially, order in dinner or bring in dinner, so you can hang out there for a couple hours before the show.

We have a game area. You can play some games. We have this lovely living room area where you can hang out on comfy chairs, then everybody will go next door on a Saturday night, see the show, be wildly entertained, and then they’re invited to come back next door if they’d like for more drinks, more fun.

And then our after show, our community-supported show, which is called More Improv, More Better at 9 p.m., is going to take place in our small cabaret theater in the Next Door Lounge.

Zydalis Bauer: Pam, your mission to bring more laughter, joy, and ease to Western Massachusetts has always been what’s really driven your business. You will be doing exactly that through the expansion with the Next Door Lounge.

Why was now the perfect time for Happier Valley Comedy to grow?

Pamela Victor: That’s hilarious! It wasn’t the perfect time. It was a terrible time! But we got the perfect opportunity.

I mean, really, I’m in a small arts nonprofit in western Massachusetts. Nothing has gone perfectly in the last couple of years. As we say in improv, you can’t choose the scene that you’re in, you just play the scene that you’re in. And this is the scene we’re in.

We had this great opportunity to expand next door to take on the former Taproom, and we took it because it’s been part of our vision at Happy Valley Comedy. My business partner Scott Friedman and I always have wanted to have a space where people can convene. Connection and community are really important core values to us.

Zydalis Bauer: You mentioned that this was an experimental decision, and I want to talk about that a little because for the next 20 months, you will be exploring how to make this new venture a success. And it’s not the first time that you have taken this “give it a shot” approach to a business opportunity. In fact, it’s how your career started in comedy.

Why do you take this improv approach to new opportunities, and what do you hope comes out of the next 20 months at the Next Door Lounge?

Pamela Victor: To misuse Ted Lasso, a line from Ted Lasso, “improv is life.” I’m an improviser in my very core, and I approach — I use improvization to approach my professional and my personal life. And so this is what’s happening. We’re going to do an experiment. I don’t know how it’s going to go. We have this opportunity.

So, I started my company with the can I make a living doing what I love experiment. I gave myself one year to see if I can make a living through improvization in western Massachusetts, which seemed impossible at the time and then ended up working out pretty well.

So, this we’re calling the Experiment Next Door, because that’s what the lounge is called the Next Door Lounge. And so, we’re doing the experiment next door. We’re giving ourselves 20 months to see if it is financially viable.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, Happier Valley Comedy is more than just improv shows. You’ve been around for a little while in the community, offering a variety of resources and programing.

What are the different divisions that Happier Valley has to offer?

Pamela Victor: So, there are three main branches to the company. Like you said, as of October 30th, we’re going to start back up our shows every single Saturday night. So, we have a different improv show every Saturday night.

And then another branch is a full multilevel comedy school, where we have a full curriculum of improv classes from terrified and I just want to dip my toe in the water, to I’m ready to get me on the stage coach. I’m ready. So and most of our students take improv because they say it’s cheaper than therapy. It’s just fun. It’s community. It’s a way for adults to play together. It’s a beautiful connection opportunity. We also have a stand up, storytelling-based standup classes as well.

And then the third branch is the professional development and Workplace Wellness and Wellbeing program, where I’m not teaching improv per say, but I’m using the tenets of improvization and improv training exercises to facilitate growth in professional development like communication, collaboration, innovative thinking. And then we have our new branch, which is wellness and wellbeing. So, it’s all about building self-care and resilience habits.

Zydalis Bauer: I love that because it’s taking improv to another level that I didn’t even think it could go. And I know that one of your commitments as an organization is to use improvization as a tool to amplify a person’s voice.

In what ways is improv effective and empowering an individual, and how can it change somebody’s life?

Pamela Victor: So, improvization is fantastic for building community, for building connections between people. But then also, improvization offers this blueprint for life that is so useful. We practice making each other look good. We practice being of service to each other. And we practice using our authentic voices, which I think in business and our personal lives, is the most powerful tool that each one of us has.

Zydalis Bauer: Are there any current classes or events that are happening that the community can partake in?

Pamela Victor: Actually, there are! On October 30th, in the evening we have our show, but at 1 p.m. we still have some space open in our workshop. It’s a two hour workshop called Improv for Scaredy Cats. It’s a great way to try out improvization in a really accepting setting and get some idea of the stuff we’re doing. And if you dig it well, we’re — registration is open for our weekly classes.

We are now offering two Joy and Ease of Improv I, so that’s my weekly improv one class. And then I think there’s still space in the stand up storytelling class, too. So either way, you can get a space in there.