The Purple Onion Cafe was buzzing Friday night as students squeezed into the back corner of the restaurant, craning their necks for a glimpse of the makeshift stage.
Over the course of the night, Fool's Errand took their comedy variety show audience on a ride, their skit settings venturing from a house party run by demon worshippers to the platform of a green line train and the stage of an elementary school spelling bee.
With Friday's show featuring local comedians like Devohn Bland and Arman Shah, half of a barbershop quartet and a six-piece tuba group affectionately called "Faceplant and the Toot Toot Boys," Fool’s Errand is determined to make a name for themselves.
“Fool’s Errand combines all of the things I personally love about the comedy groups around [campus] and has kind of created its own identity with that,” said sophomore Meredith Oechler, one of the group's founding members. “I think sketch [comedy] is the most unique part. You can do improv anywhere, you can do stand-up on your own time, but there’s not a lot of opportunities to perform written work for such a great audience and be able to express your ideas in that way.”
Created last September by sophomore Henry Kueppers, Fool’s Errand came out of a desire to try something different.
“I thought it would be really cool to do a variety show,” Kueppers said. “No one here at the [University] does sketch comedy, and I was thinking that we should start a sketch group. It could be really cool and creative and something new.”
Most of the group met last year through their involvement in various comedy clubs around campus. Founding Fool’s Errand has brought the group even closer together.
“When you are the type of person who seeks out performance or seeks out doing comedy, there’s a bit of vulnerability in that,” said sophomore Fool’s Errand member Omena Giles. “You have to have a lot of confidence and you have to have a lot of energy. Since we are those kind of people who feed off of doing this and making jokes ... I think that makes a really strong bond.”
Through improv the group members have learned about each others' comedic styles. According to Oechler, this has fostered trust in the group.
“I think improv really bonds people,” she said. “It takes a lot of faith in somebody to go out on stage and do something completely stupid and trust that that person goes along with it and [doesn't] make you look like a fool. No pun intended.”
Alex Church, a sophomore and another member of the group, said it can be difficult for new comedians to get their foot in the door.
Although Fool’s Errand is a closed group, he said they strive to feature people who haven’t had opportunities to do stand-up or practice performing in front of a live audience.
“When we created the show, I always had the intention of it being a show that anyone can go to,” Kueppers said. “We don’t do anything political. Even the most remote thing that someone would find offensive, we’ll just cut it. It’s just not worth it.”
The comedy group’s popularity has surprised most of the members; their bi-weekly Friday shows consistently draw more than 60 people.
“It’s been nuts. It’s been truthfully, truthfully insane,” Kueppers said. “[At our first show] it was so crowded we had people standing on top of tables in the back. And it blew our minds. We do our best to put on a good show and people appreciate it and come back for it I guess.”
Editor's note: An earlier byline has been removed from the illustration. The illustration is based on the work of Shannon Rahkola.