Many comedians go on tour, but few do so while still in college.
Fourth Quarter All-Stars, USC’s newest sketch comedy group, traveled around New England last spring, putting on shows with comedy groups from Columbia, Yale, Fordham, Emerson, and Boston University. “4QAS” (pronounced fore-kwas) planned the trip with the goal of meeting other collegiate comedy groups, and making that community a little smaller, said Veronica Marks, a sophomore screenwriting student and head writer for the group.
“(Traveling) has made me … less afraid to take risks in general,” Marks said. “Stuff that I would never really think to put in front of an audience makes people laugh elsewhere, which is really cool.”
Before their east coast stint, the group performed their first show away from home at Stanford University with the sketch comedy group Robber Barons. The trip happened after co-founder of 4QAS and current USC alumnus Derl Clausen met a member of the Robber Barons at a comedy-related internship, and decided to set up a joint sketch show at the Palo Alto campus.
While the Stanford show ultimately turned out well, they faced an unexpected hiccup: their first heckle. For the cold open, 4QAS performed a sketch about Betsy DeVos coming to the Stanford campus, during which an audience member shouted “not funny,” which shook the group up a little, said Leo Driessen, a sophomore communication student.
“After that point we … didn’t know how the rest of the show would go,” Driessen said. “But then we did some more sketches and we started getting bigger laughs than the Stanford group, and so I thought it … toughened us up a little bit.”
After the Stanford trip in Fall 2016, 4QAS decided they wanted to continue their travels. They thought the east coast was an apt next destination since many New England schools have a large sketch comedy community, co-founder Clausen said. Moreover, some of the newer members lived on the east coast and had friends at some of the universities where 4QAS ended up performing.
Fourth Quarter All-Stars does not collect dues from its members, and instead self-fundraises for their shows, which proved difficult for a potentially expensive east coast tour, Driessen said. The group created a GoFundMe campaign online to request donations from friends and family, performed a fundraiser show with an entry fee, participated in some research studies, and even received money for being audience members at a dating game show, Driessen said.
“We just had to make the money happen, and make the plane tickets happen, and so that was really educational,” Driessen said. “I didn’t expect we were going to be able to go on two huge road trips together by the end of the year.”
After hustling to make the trip happen, 4QAS rehearsed frequently to make sure the trip went smoothly, Driessen said, even staying up all night practicing and taking turns sleeping the night before their redeye flight to New York.
Once at the airport, the group encountered another hurdle; co-founder Miles Woods somehow lacked a plane ticket. The group, not wanting to abandon their cast member and co-founder, waited with Woods until he sorted out the issue with airport personnel. Because of the debacle, 4QAS found themselves sprinting through the airport to make their plane before it left without them.
Once in New York, the sketch group showed up to the theater they booked only to find out the sketch group from Columbia was video-only, and had sent one student to play their clips. The group decided to make the best of the situation, Driessen said, and performed at the Public Improv Theater in Manhattan with the video group from Columbia and an improv group from Fordham.
The experiences traveling taught 4QAS to worry less about perfecting their sketches, Clausen said, as there are other problems to worry about on the road. Clausen said they still had a quality they shot for in their sketches but were less obsessive about the final product than before the road trips.
“Putting a show on the road is so much stress and … there’s more moving parts to it,” Clausen said. “You can’t just be focused on the perfect performance, so you really just have to be on your feet.”