One in Two Thousand: Melia Hagino ’22

Tali Natter

Melia Hagino ’22 rehearsing to play Madame Armfeldt, the blunt and cynical grandmother in A Little Night Music (Photo courtesy of Gigi Gamez.)

Each week, we randomly select a unix from a list of all current students at the College. So long as the owner of the selected unix is willing to be interviewed and not a member of the Record board, that person becomes the subject of that week’s One in Two Thousand. This week, the computer (using a very simple script in R) chose Melia Hagino ’22.

You write for the Haystack, which is kind of the evil cousin of the Record.

I haven’t written much, but I love doing the Haystack. I did “real journalism” in high school but this is just a lot more fun. Personally, I harbor no ill will towards the Record. I just think, you know, maybe you need to be taken down a peg or something.

What is your favorite thing you’ve written?

“I Lived It: He Called Me ‘Dude’ in a Text” is my favorite one.

So you do lots of comedy; besides writing for the Haystack, you’re in Combo Za and you did an independent Winter Study writing stand-up. Do you have a preference?

I don’t think that any of them is a better art form than the others. I do all of it because it’s really fun and I love doing it. I think personally that what I am best at is writing to perform. I am actively trying to go into the entertainment business and write for TV. So if I had to pick, that’s what I’d pick. Improv is incredibly fun, but stand-up is probably the most fun. I don’t know, I just kinda love all of it.

Do you have a favorite joke you’ve ever written or told?

I do. It’s so weird to do stand-up to one person over FaceTime but it’s just me being like: “Yeah, so I was talking to my friend the other day – well, I guess not really my friend. Ugh, that’s so weird, you know – like, you’re telling a story to someone about somebody else who they don’t know, and you call them your friend, but you’re not actually friends, you’re just, like, acquaintances or something. Maybe you don’t even know them that well, but like, you have to say ‘friend’ because ‘acquaintance’ is such a long word, and there’s a lot of history there, and you don’t get into it, so you say friend. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I was talking to the guy that I hit with my car. 

Just kidding. He didn’t make it.” And that’s the joke.

[Laughs.] Was that from your stand-up Winter Study show?

I think I did that joke for the first time last year at the Log. They did a stand-up night. I don’t remember who organized it. I write almost all my stand-up in the hours before I have to do a stand-up show if it’s just me. The show Noah [Cohen-Greenberg ’22] and I did, we worked on all Winter Study. But even the stand-up that I did by myself for that, I wrote the day of. I’ll just have an idea and write it on the Notes app on my phone. Since Williams is so small, I feel like I can’t repeat material that much. I try to have something new every time, so I’ll just go into the notes in my phone, type in “stand up,” see what I’ve written in the past couple weeks, and then just pick stuff I like and refine it.

Is that stressful? Or does it usually work?

It’s worked so far. Noah writes out all his jokes pretty much word-for-word. He’s incredibly organized. I don’t think I’ve ever written out a joke. I kind of just have the notes in my phone. They’ll be like, “antichrist joke, hot car,” and I know what that means. I don’t feel pressure to memorize them because I came up with them, if that makes sense. I don’t have specific wordings or anything. It’s like beats, like in theater. I know where I’m going and I have the joke mapped out, but I can fill it in however I want, gauging the audience reactions, stuff like that. And also because I’m lazy and I don’t plan things that well.

How is the experience different in theater, with a script you can’t control at all?

I did a lot of theater in high school. That was kind of my “thing” before I knew that comedy existed. I was a theater kid, and I was like, “I’m gonna go to college for theater.” And then I showed up at college and I was like, “Oh, never mind, this comedy thing, this is sick.” It’s not that different because I’m usually cast in comedic roles, so I don’t really have to be serious. Like in A Little Night Music all I had to do, kind of, was be funny and then be sad like once. I guess it’s different in that you sometimes have to say things or make jokes where you’re like, “this is dumb. Like, why would I say this line,” but it’s also fun in different ways. I kind of separate them in my brain, like they don’t feel like the same thing to me.

You’re also in an a cappella group. Was that new at Williams, like comedy? Or did you do that in high school?

I did that all four years of high school. My high school group was called the B-flats, actually, so I went from the B-flats to the Ephlats, and I would make a joke about like, how many steps up or down that is, but I can’t read music, so I don’t know.

Maybe after college you’ll start your own group called the C-flats.

Oh, if I’m still doing a cappella after college, I’ve done something wrong. It’s lovely, I love it, but I hope that as a real functional adult I am not in an a cappella group.

What about a post-collegiate improv group? 

Oh yeah, for sure I wanna do that.

So you want to do improv and you want to write comedy. Is the goal to write for yourself or for other people?

I just want to be a comedian, essentially. So what that would mean for me would be going to New York or L.A. – and keep in mind that I’m probably very misinformed and don’t know what I’m talking about – but like, take improv classes, perform with groups, do as many open mics as I can. Then try to get some job writing for a TV program far down the line, for an NBC comedy like The Good Place or Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That would be the dream, ultimately.

Would you cast yourself?

No. I feel like to do that I’d have to focus on being an actress. And I can’t do that. That’s too much. That’s too rich for my blood.

You could write yourself a little cameo.

Yeah, maybe I’ll do that. And then hopefully I’ll also be doing stand-up, like John Mulaney. I hate using him as an example, but he writes for various things like Big Mouth or whatever, but then he also does stand-up.

Do you have a favorite comedian?

I do: James Acaster. Part of me wishes that my favorite comedian wasn’t a white man, but he’s also the funniest person I’ve ever seen in my life.

What are your thoughts on comedians making jokes about corona and quarantine? Is that funny?

Yeah, it’s funny. That’s just what has to happen. I’m gonna do it; we’re all gonna do it. I can’t speak for all comedians, but I can speak for myself, and for most people: humor is just a coping mechanism. That’s all it is. This is just my way of understanding and dealing with the world, so I’m gonna joke about it. And as long as you do it tastefully and you’re not being a dick about it, I feel like there’s not really a problem.