Piscapo’s Arm Draws Laughs at Orientation


Mackenzie Maurer

Members of the comedy group Piscapo’s Arm performed quirky sketches at a first-year Orientation comedy show last Monday.

Orientation is all about giving first-years a feel for what life is like at Oberlin. Last Monday, Piscapo’s Arm, a student sketch comedy group, performed in an orientation show that introduced new Obies to popular spots on campus and created excitement for Oberlin student life and learning.

The show was held at one of Oberlin’s premier performance venues, the Cat in the Cream. Judging from the lack of cookies sold, it was obvious that the show’s audience was mostly first-years; seasoned Obies know that when you go to the Cat, you get a cookie. However, one must give first-years the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will learn from their mistakes next time.

The show was brief, but it packed a punch. The four members portrayed several different characters in amusing situations. Most memorable was Mr. Rigatoni, a sweet-talking hopeless romantic who sported a pasta strainer as a hat and spoke sweet nothings to his wife while she ate garlic bread and moaned. The audience was enthusiastic and giggled throughout the performance. Piscapo’s Arm represented Oberlin’s sense of humor well; most students don’t want laugh-out-loud comedy or crude, obvious jokes. They want awkwardness, nerdiness, and above all, the unexpected.

“We want to show them that we’re a bit absurd. We aren’t afraid to commit to some of our weirdest ideas,” said College fourth-year Claire Abramovitz, who performed in the group.

One sketch that took place in a fancy restaurant demonstrated a favorite trend at Oberlin: ironic detachment. One of the characters continually turned to the audience and broke the fourth wall to say things like “Piscapo’s Arm would write a sketch about feeling uncomfortable in a fancy restaurant.” And the show wasn’t lacking in Oberlin-friendly buzzwords like “class anxiety,” with which first-years will no doubt soon be familiar.

For Abramovitz, the kooky comedy style used by Piscapo’s Arm is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the performance. “I think for me when I find myself truly playing with the material — trying out different tactics, sliding between extremes, eating paper towels — it allows other people to start playing and experimenting as well.”

The comedy scene at Oberlin is certainly active, with many student groups performing at various times throughout the year, like fellow sketch comedy troupe Doobie Ingenuity. Additionally, There are several student improv groups, including Sunshine Scouts, Kid Business, Neurotic Fiction, and Primitive Streak. Finally, there is a biweekly comedy talk show called Good Talk, which performs at the ’Sco.

“Something special about comedy at Oberlin is how many outlets there are and how much good work is produced,” said College sophomore Daniel Fleischer, a member of the improv group Kid Business, in an email to the Review. “Comedy at Oberlin was a super welcoming group for me, especially coming in as someone with almost no comedy experience.”

Despite the many opportunites to get involved, participating in the Oberlin comedy scene is not something that everyone imagines doing when they first arrive.This was true for Abramovitz, who said, “I decided to audition for [the Oberlin Student Theater Association’s] production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I initially wasn’t even considering auditioning for Piscapo’s Arm; I didn’t think my comedy style would mesh with the group.” Nonetheless, Abramovitz joined Piscapo’s Arm in the spring of her first year after she didn’t get the part in Putnam County. 

“I suppose it wasn’t necessarily out of [a] strong desire to write and perform comedy specifically; it was more about finding any pathway to being on stage. All that love of comedy writing came with the process of actually being in the group.”

This sentiment is echoed by other participants in the comedy community at Oberlin. “Being part of comedy at Oberlin has connected me with students I may not have met and opportunities I may not have had otherwise, and I’m very grateful for that,” former member of Piscapo’s Arm and College senior Alaina Turocy said in an email to the Review. 

You can tell from Abramovitz’s contagious energy on stage — especially among the equally hilarious members of her troupe — that she has now fully embraced this new form of performance. This type of energy was a great way to kick off the year, and to give first-years a taste of what Oberlin’s like — a quirky place where anything is possible, even if that “anything” is performing sketch comedy with a strainer on your head.