More Than Just Stand-up

The Improv and Comedy Club is a rising club started by four sophomores who aspire to help people get out of their comfort zone.

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When people think of Stuyvesant, they imagine strict classes and hours of homework a day. Among over 3000 students shuffling to get to their classes on time, there were four who were looking for a way to cool off and have fun after a long school day. Some days, they would practice scenes or tell jokes during lunch, and what started out as a game soon turned into an idea for a club.

These four students were sophomores Syed Tajrian, Ammar Ahmed, Sayan Shil, and Saqif Abedin. They all met long before high school, with their friendship starting in first grade. Ten years of friendship created a bond that later inspired the idea of a club where everyone could be comfortable with one another.

Tajrian and Ahmed were introduced to improv by Mansour Elsharawy (‘18) in their freshman year, when he recruited them for his team. This improv team was for the Muslim-Interscholastic Tournament (MIST), a competition known throughout the nation. To prepare for the regional tournament, they practiced almost every day after school. In the beginning, they were not sure of whether they could do it or not. “At first I didn’t think I would be able to do improv and think fast, but when I got on the team, I realized that I wasn’t too bad,” Tajrian commented. “[In] every practice we had, we would laugh like crazy and have a great time.” While it clearly took a lot of work, it brought the members of the team closer.

When the regional tournament came around, it was time to put their hard work to the test. “I will say, there’s more pressure to be quick on your feet since you’re going head-on against other teams from around the country,” Ahmed said. It all proved to be worth it when they got first place in the regional tournament and then second place in Nationals. The experience showed them that improv was more than just stand-up comedy—it was an art.

Sophomore year came around and Tajrian and Ahmed were looking forward to practicing improv for the next MIST, but that was not for another six months. They practiced scenes during lunch, introducing improv to Shil and Abedin. The four of them sometimes stayed after school, hanging out and coming up with new ideas for possible scenes. One day, on the way home from one of these hangouts, Shil and Tajrian joked around about turning their hangouts into a club. While they found it amusing, the idea of having an improv club meant that they could show other people what improv was all about. “I thought it would be cool to make it a club and give it more recognition because it really makes for a great time,” Tajrian said. It would be a safe space where people could be themselves with no judgment, no consequences, and no inhibitions.

The next day, they shared this idea with Ahmed and Abedin. They all thought it would be nice to practice with more people. At the time, it was just an idea, but the process of turning it into something substantial proved to be harder than they thought. Tajrian is the president of the club, with Ahmed and Shil as vice presidents, and Abedin as secretary. There was still the fear of the club not being known to many and eventually dying out, but the four sophomores took the risk, believing that it would be worth it.

The risk proved to be a success, with the first meeting on Thursday, October 4 having over 30 people. “The first meeting was fun, and my biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be able to get people to participate in the games, but so many people wanted to be part of the game we were playing or the scene we were doing at the moment,” Tajrian shared. Abedin added that everyone was involved and laughing; but more than that, they were making new friends.

Though the first meeting showed them the responsibilities of running a club, it also gave hope of a club that would soon be known to the entire school. Not only would it increase confidence, but it would also create a tight-knit group, which is hard to find in such a large school. Inspired by some of their favorite comedians, including Ryan Stiles, Hasan Minhaj, and Jimmy Carr, the members hope to push people out of their comfort zone, showing them what they are truly capable of.