author: mason sliva | a & c editor
A look into the mind of one of Regina’s finest comics
Despite the year being 2017, and constant effort being made to dispel stereotypes and hurtful prejudices, many persist. Capping off the Queen City Improv Festival, Hitchhikers Improv addressed many of these stereotypes, and gave a look into the performer’s minds. By way of bringing humour to the forefront, Hitchhikers can provide a brutal honesty that is much-needed.
The common misconception that women “cannot be funny” is overused, sexist, and just plain wrong. A young leader in the Regina art scene is Hitchhikers Improv member Jennifer Fuller. She demonstrates the trifecta of smart, successful, and so damn funny, and continues to make her voice heard. Jennifer is a Business student at the University of Regina, and dedicates time and passion to Hitchhikers on the side.
A bright, young, grade 9 student at the time, Jennifer joined her high school’s already strong improv team. She had always had a passion for acting, and she found herself performing at the Canadian Improv Games for all four years at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School. During her time there, she also attended grungy Combat Improv shows at the Exchange, featuring plenty of booze and profanity. She ended up taking massive inspiration from the Combat Improv members Judy Wensel and Jayden Pfeifer, and found herself desiring success outside of her high school improv team.
After a year at the University of Alberta, Jennifer returned to Regina to begin a fresh start at the University of Regina. Despite time with U of A’s Notorius UIG improv team, she saw herself entering a slump that required a change of setting. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she was welcomed with wide arms into the Hitchhikers Improv company by Cameron Chomyn, who provided a warm heart and much needed honesty. She considers her friendship with Cameron and other Hitchhikers members to be extremely valuable, as many other members struggle personally with mental health issues. The group is all supportive of each other, and are open about their personal struggles.
After a couple years of performing improv with Hitchhikers, Jennifer is beginning to see her opportunities and interests widen. Encouraged by fellow Hitchhikers members at a Halloween party, Jennifer made the decision to pursue stand-up comedy. She has been performing her stand-up routines at the Hitchhikers occasional b*RUDE sketch shows, and is truly beginning to find her stride as a comedian. She enjoys the vulnerability of being a comic, and expresses that the lack of a safety net helps to push her to succeed. Time will tell, but Jennifer is making her voice heard, and is using it for a good cause.
On the surface, Jennifer’s set is brutally honest, and discusses many women’s issues such as sex, body issues, and expectations. Her vulgar humour leaves no details out, but she hopes to achieve positive change by doing this. Jen believes that by providing humour alongside a discussion of these issues, she can help to raise awareness, and create a dialog in the local community. These issues can only lose their taboo status when strong individuals such as Jennifer are willing to share their thoughts openly and in a way that everyone can enjoy. Unsure of whether she wants to pursue comedy professionally, Jennifer will continue to bring awareness through her stand-up sets around the Queen City.
Hitchhikers has been known as a long-time ally of the LGBT community, and has provided a dialogue for mental health and women’s issue’s. The company has great representation of these disparaged groups, and has used their abilities to help de-stigmatize touchy topics. Sir Francis Bacon once said that, “knowledge is power,” and Hitchhikers hopes to create a generation of educated young adults.
Jennifer, and the rest of the Hitchhikers crew, can be viewed as a source of inspiration for many young artists. Jennifer hopes to encourage young artists and comedians to take the plunge into sharing their art with the local community. She believes that no matter what one is going through, they should realize that they are not alone, and they will have support within the local arts community. Putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to an audience is not easy, but Jennifer believes that the Regina community helps to support these passions. During our interview, Jennifer quoted her mother as saying, “What’s the worst that could happen? They can’t take your birthday away.” She hopes that her message will help to inspire another generation of young artists to get involved, and create a more inclusive future.
Four years ago, Hitchhikers founders Andrew Parry, Cameron Chomyn, Danny Murphy and Samantha Gross began performing at the Creative City Centre, and have continued to develop their brand ever since. The next year, they expanded their reach as they opened Hitchhikers Improv Company, and welcomed in many other members. The group has grown to include over forty members, and has spread its humour from Vancouver to Winnipeg. Recently, Hitchhikers members performed with star of Whose Line Is It Anyway, Colin Mochrie. This performance, and their increased recognition in the local and national arts community, is testament to the effort and passion put in by all of the group’s members.
There is no telling what the future holds for Hitchhikers, or Jennifer, but there is surely nowhere to move but up. Look out for these folks in the next year as they continue to perform, and spread awareness to long-ignored discussions.
For more information, or to find how you can get involved, find Hitchhikers Improv on Facebook.