Sayjal Joshi '00 earned a BA in drama, but she's made her home among comedians. These are my people, she says proudly, and we are all weirdos together.
Sayjal, also an alum of Chicago's famed Second City, has gravitated toward comedy since she was a little girl looking for laughs from adults.
I was the weird/awkward/slightly askew/multi-racial kid with a mentally ill father at home who as a result of all these things had a slightly different outlook, she says. I think I used humor to gain control because that was the only way I knew how. I wasn't the hot girl or the super-smart girl or the rich girl or the really athletic girl. I was the chubby, weird, funny girl. I just really wanted attention from my parents and adults I respected … Thank God for weird kids, they turned into some of the coolest, most talented, funny adults I know.
Inspired and encouraged by UNCG professors Marsha Paludan and Bob Hansen, who believed in me and what I wanted to do when no one else did, Sayjal moved to Chicago after graduation to step up her improv comedy career, eventually finding her way to Second City. She describes Second City, which gave rise to comedy greats like Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, as the top of the mountain in Chicago sketch comedy and also pretty much the only place you can sort of make a living doing sketch and improv.
For the next two years, she toured with one of three Second City companies based in Chicago. Second City performers are hired, generally after several auditions, for a variety of shows.
They have so many shows running in different capacities, there are shows on cruise ships, city-specific shows that tour to one particular city or part of the country, corporate shows, and of course three touring companies and two resident stages. It's really become a machine and a business.
Sayjal considers Second City one of several solid options for budding comic actors. Although she now works with other improv and sketch comedy groups in Chicago, she has rejoined Second City for a few corporate shows and still fills in on tours.
There are so many training grounds for comedic actors in Chicago I think it'd be unfair to say that Second City is the only way to go. Also, most stand-ups I know learned what they do suffering through open mics and hosting gigs. What do I aspire to do next? Be gainfully employed as a comedic actor. As much as I love Chicago I'm honestly not sure if that's something I can do here. I might have to move to L.A., we'll see.
Sayjal's favorite comic actors include Saturday Night Live's Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler as well as MADtv's Jenna Jolovitz. Not to mention Jane Lynch, a Second City alum who is now earning rave reviews as Sue Sylvester, the coach you love to hate, on Glee.
Thank God for Jane Lynch. She's one of those incredibly talented people who hung in there, working steadily and then finally … boom! Glee! I love her so much.
Whom does Sayjal consider to be the funniest person ever? That's very hard to say. That's like asking a crazy cat lady to pick her favorite cat. She knows in her heart which one is the favorite but can never say it out loud. There have been some wicked funny people in my life, most of whom are unknown outside of Chicago but who should be.