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Comedy Improv Jam comes to the Talking Drum Caf

By Paula Canning

Staff Writer

HOLYOKE Relocating from the Fly Wall in Easthampton, The Comedy Improv Jam has come to Holyoke, and has found its new home at the Talking Drum Caf on Main Street.

The Talking Drum hosted its first Comedy Improv Jam yesterday, and founder of the event, Sue Davis is hoping that it will continue with an Improv Jam once a month.

Davis, who helped to organize and run the Improv Jam in Easthampton along with David Bannigan, the founder of the event, said"I thought I would try and give it a try in Holyoke to see if people might be interested."

Davis explained that the format of the improv comedy jam resembles ABC's Who's Line is It Anyways, in which a variety of games are played and the skits are completely unrehearsed.

Just like in the popular show hosted by Drew Carrey, Davis said that the participants sometimes creates their skits based on suggestions from the audience.

Attendees are welcome to participate as much as they would like, she said.

"It really is a great way to laugh and be creative and playful," Davis said. "Usually people will come and say that they are just going to watch, then end up participating."

Davis said that the Comedy Improv sessions in Easthampton often attracted between 10 and 15 people from a variety of age groups and backgrounds.

"We've had kids as young as 7 or 8 come as well as some elderly people," she said.

She explained that one of the attractions of improv comedy is that "it's very hard to do it wrong. Just get up and play and have fun with it."

Davis, who is a member and one of the founders of the Haha Sisterhood comedy improv group, began to hone her interest in the genre when she started up lessons with Catherine McNally and Kelsey Flynn of the Village Idiots, a local improv comedy group.

"It was always sort of a sleeping interest for me until I started doing the lessons," said Davis, who works in the mental health field.

The idea to seek out the Talking Drum Caf as the venue for the event sprung from Polly Paquette, a West Springfield resident who attended the Comedy Improv Jams when they took place in Easthampton.

Paquette explained that she was driving down Main Street in Holyoke when the exterior of the Talking Drum Caf, caught her attention.

"The place really stood out to me," Paquette said.

She and Davis then began conversations with the co-founders of the Talking Drum, Nathan Davis, and Executive Director of Nueva Esperenza Carlos Vegas.

"[Vegas and Davis] were excited about the idea of having it there," Paquette said.

Paquette said that prior to participating at the improv jams in Easthampton, she didn't have a real interest in comedy.

She said that after the comedy jams in Easthampton were discontinued, however, she was having "withdrawal symptoms" from not performing.

"It's fun to see where you are going to taking things," she said, adding that its "exhilarating" when the audience responds with laughter.

According to Nathan , the Talking Drum Caf is "very excited" about hosting the improv jams.

"We're very enthusiastic about providing a venue for an opportunity to community members to express themselves on multiple platforms, one of them being comedy improv," Nathan said.

He explained that providing this venue is one of the main goals of the caf, which opened up in January.

Upcoming events at the Talking Drum Caf are as follows:

June 24 Karaoke Night, 7 to 11 p.m.

June 28 Workshop: Money Problems, Surviving Debt Free, 6 to 8 p.m., hosted by the Housing Discrimination project

July Jazz concert with Scot Mandu and John Sroka jazz concert, 8 to 12 p.m.

July 8 Spoken Word Night, begins at 7 p.m.