MSU alumna finds solidarity in Lansing's Comedy Coven, helps with depression
Imagine a room filled with dozens of people all waiting, watching and whispering. Imagine a room where tension builds and audience members can sometimes be hard to please.
For some, this scenario would be a nightmare, but for the women in Lansing’s Comedy Coven, this is a dream.
The Comedy Coven is made up of three women, and two of them attended MSU before pursuing comedy full time. Members include Tricia Chamberlain, Stephanie Onderchanin and Emily Syrja.
Syrja was a women’s studies major and attended MSU from fall 2009 to the spring of 2012. Onderchanin studied biochemistry from 2009 until 2012 and again in 2015. Both said they found their passion for comedy in college.
“I got my first taste of comedy performance in the Last Spartan Standing competition in my very last semester,” Syrja said via email.
Since beginning in 2014, the group has gone from playing cramped shows in Syrja’s basement to playing shows at The Robin Theatre in Lansing. The Robin Theatre holds a little more than 90 people. The group has sold out two shows.
“We didn't find our audience right away,” Onderchanin said via email. “When we embraced being ourselves and stopped trying to please everybody, that's when we started to gain a following.”
Echoes of laughter can be heard throughout the intimate venue. The performance includes many styles of comedy including stand-up, sketch and musical comedy.
For Syrja, the Comedy Coven is much more than a daily hobby. The comedy show offers an escape for her, as she struggles with depression and PTSD. She said comedy has provided her with an outlet to reach people with similar problems.
“I hope people can find meaning in those darker routines that resonates with them personally,” Syrja said. “It is really rewarding to get feedback from audience members who are struggling with mental illness themselves.”
The Comedy Coven’s monthly shows have had steady attendance.
“I just want to keep growing,” Syrja said. “First Lansing, then the Midwest, then the world. I think we have a comedic sensibility that already resonates with more people than we could have imagined.”
Chamberlain said the most important thing for her is that the three women stay together.
“These girls are the most thoughtful and intelligent people I know,” Chamberlain said via email. “We started off doing comedy together but it has become so much more than that, we are here for each other through thick and thin.”
MSU engineering senior Michael Hall has performed comedy all around Lansing and East Lansing, including at the Comedy Coven venue.
“For that small cozy venue they sure do pack quite a few people in,” Hall said via email. “The Coven brings in people with good vibes. Audience: 10/10. Atmosphere: 10/10. Could not have asked for a better crowd.”
The next Comedy Coven show will be held on Nov. 15. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.