The Shaun Cassidy Fan Club brings a new spin on comedy for Oswego State, resembling “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and performing every Saturday on campus.
Formed by Binghamton-based humor columnist Tim Mollen, the troupe started out as a way for Mollen to express his affection for improv comedy. On Mollen’s personal website, which also hosts his humor column, he talks about why he created The Shaun Cassidy Fan Club in the fall of 1990.
“I needed to get onstage and try improv before I started making major life decisions based on the abstract idea of it. So I set about forming a band of comedians,” Mollen writes in his column on his site.
The group started with seven members when Mollen created it and has grown to 24 this year.
“I stayed up late every Friday night to watch ‘Second City Television’ or ‘SCTV,’” Mollen writes.
He “worshipped” the members of the show for their “original characters, pitch-perfect impersonations, and razor-sharp satire.” He also admired Saturday Night Live actors, as they performed on the spot as well.
The group performs on the spot, otherwise known as improv, and takes suggestions from the audience to run their shows.
“We perform live, free and completely uncensored improv comedy every week on campus,” Mike Fisher, president of The Shaun Cassidy Fan Club said. “We play games, similar to those seen on ‘Whose Line’, with a basic structure that we have to follow but what happens in those games varies greatly based on the suggestions that the audience gives us.”
In its early years, the show would start with a short reading from “The Shaun Cassidy Scrapbook” by Connie Berman, according to Mollen’s column. After the reading, the group would try to come up with something funnier than the excerpt. They would utilize an hour’s worth of time to do this, allowing it to evolve as the show went on. The group is trying to bring back this longer style of comedy.
Fisher says that he and James Domachowske, the vice president of the club, are committed to bringing the longer skits back into the show.
“The past couple presidents have slowly started to bring [the longer skits] back,” Fisher said.
The story behind how the troupe came to be called “The Shaun Cassidy Fan Club” is explained by Mollen in his column post.
“I was looking for something bold, something that would make people say, ‘What in God’s name is that?’” Mollen said. “Inspiration struck when my roommates and I threw a 70s flashback party in our dorm suite. Jennifer Arnold, my friend and member of the troupe, brought some vinyl Shaun Cassidy records to the party. She relayed how she and a friend had fought over Shaun as children. They resolved the issue by agreeing that one of them would grow up to marry Shaun, while the other married Joe Hardy, Shaun’s character on TV’s ‘The Hardy Boys.’ Jennifer’s unabashed affection for this washed-up teen idol struck me first as pathetic, then as genius. If there was a name with guaranteed kitsch and pure ‘what the?’ value, this was it. That night we became ‘The Shaun Cassidy Fan Club.’”
In November 2010 the troupe celebrated their 20-year anniversary and invited all their alumni from the past 20 years for a dinner and private show.
“About 20 to 30 alumni attended and some even participated in skits with the current troupe members,” Fisher said.
In a short few weeks, the troupe will be in the Rochester Fall Back Comedy Festival, an event that features more than 25 acts over six days.
“I submitted some videos that we recorded at recent shows and we were selected as one of those 25 acts,” Fisher said.
The event starts on Oct. 30 and runs until Nov. 4. It features two workshops by Ali Farahnakian. According to the event’s website, Farahnakian has over 20 years of improv experience and is a former SNL writer. Three other workshops will be run by three members of Dr. God, a long-form improv and sketch comedy group based in Los Angeles. Brian James O’Connell, Neil Garguilo and Rochester-native Tommy Bechtold will be coming from Dr. God.
Workshops are $50 according to the event’s Facebook page. No price for admission to the shows has been set at this time.