{ Comedy at Oberlin }

I don't know if it's because of the dry irony that plagues campus or because people here have got a lot of 'pinions, but considering its small population, Oberlin has a comedy scene1 worthy in size and quality of a much larger university. For those with humorous cravings to satisfy, here's a lil' overview of what Oberlin has to offer:


Primitive Streak: Formed in 1989 as Oberlin's oldest 'prov troupe, they perform longform and boast Ed Helms as an alumnus. They are all very cool and dry and witty and like to have their shows in co-ops. They are great.

Sunshine Scouts: Started in 1999, the Scouts are known for their musical longform, which means they have a piano player and improvise entire musical numbers. I don't know how they do this, but it is sure fun to watch. Also a great troupe.

Kid Business: MY GROUP. Oberlin's newest troupe, we were formed only a mere six years ago in 2009, and are Oberlin's reigning (only) short form troupe. Our shows are similar in style to the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway, meaning we play improv games for the audience. I joined last year as a wee freshman babe, and belonging to this troupe has been so far a wonderful experience, introducing me to lovely people and regularly tickling my funny bone.

And finally, Piscapo's Arm: Oberlin's only live sketch comedy group, they have shows about once a semester. I know less about these guys since they are more separated from the improv scene, but let me tell you one thing I know for sure: they are great.


For those who wish to build their improv skills, improv classes are offered in the Experimental College (ExCo's). Taught by senior improvisers, the Beginning ExCo is for those with little improv experience, and the Advanced ExCo is for those looking to build their skills. The Advanced ExCo is often a feeder for the three troupes on campus. This semester, I'm TA-ing the Advanced ExCo, which means next year I will be teaching it in full, and let me tell you, it's gonna be a riot.


While improvisers from Oberlin are a strong and hearty stock, destined to one day take over the world, not everyone interested in comedy yearns to do improv. Including Piscapo's Arm, there are plenty of comedy opportunities that aren't improv based.

This semester my dear friend Luke created a late night talk show, in the style of programs hosted by David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon. Good Talk with Luke Taylor airs every other Monday night at the Sco and involves interviews, musical performance, and funny bits too. You can tell it's legit, because the show even has their own in-house band. The efforts of the writers, musicians, producers, hosts, camerawomen, and sound crew are evident in this very clever, very funny program. While many of the comedy groups on campus are long established, there are still opportunities to make funny in new and creative ways.

Additionally, students are known to form video sketch groups, producing funny videos a la Key and Peele or Amy Schumer. Right now there are three groups in action, and you can check out their videos here, here, and here (warning: I'm in the last one). Producing video sketches is super rewarding, because you can make content on your own timeline and have that content be whatever you want.

Comedy at Oberlin is super cool! I've found many friends both in my troupe and in the larger community, and I'm really grateful to be collaborating with such a funny group of people. Join us!

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1There are strong overlaps between the comedy scene and the theatre scene, for many productions are humorous, but seeing as I know very little about Oberlin theatre, I'll keep these separate for the purpose of this post

{ Responses To This Entry }

Sooooo I only in the past two weeks learned about Good Talk and I love that it's happening (and even better, I love that they're archiving the show so old fogies like me can go and watch the show at not 10:30pm.

I was actually curious about how the different improv and sketch groups were paying attention to internet comedy, and I'm really excited that video sketch groups exist. Oh Youtube. Where would we be without you?

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 8, 2015 2:08 PM


I am incredibly interested in taking a beginner's improv class and was wondering how I went about that? Any information you have about the class would be very helpful. Thanks so much!

Aileen Smith

Posted by: Aileen Smith on September 2, 2015 3:22 PM

Ah so glad you're interested! The improv groups teach two Excos (classes you can take for credit in the Experimental College). One, Beginning Improv, is offered in the fall, and the second, Advanced (but really more like continuing) Improv is offered in the spring (I'll be teaching this one this year :D ).

Anyone can take these excos but for people who have little to no experience, the Beginning Exco is a great start, and it is actually so much fun and a great stress break from normal school stuff.

To sign up, go to the exco fair which is tonight!! in the Root Room, and there will a booth for the beginning improv exco, staffed by some very nice, excited people. They can give you more info about getting into the class. If you miss the exco fair, email Benjamin Hyams, who is one of the Beginning teachers, and he can help you out. Good luck!

Posted by: Esther Espeland '17 on September 2, 2015 5:10 PM

Amendment: most of that info would be if you're a current freshman looking to starting taking the class this semester. If your a prospective student, and just want more info, I'd be happy to answer all your questions if you wanna shoot me an email (eespelan@oberlin.edu)

Posted by: Esther Espeland '17 on September 2, 2015 5:13 PM

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