On the Record with Shit Pit Siblings Sophie and Clara Zucker


Clara Zucker

Oberlin sisters Sophie and Clara Zucker both love to laugh.

Sophie Zucker, OC ’15, started Shit Pit — Oberlin’s underground and informal stand-up comedy collective — with her friend Maya Sharma, OC ’15, during their fourth years together. Now, seven years later, Sophie’s younger sister, College fourth-year Clara Zucker, regularly hosts the event. This familial tie isn’t the only thing that makes the event wholesome; despite the name, there is a sweetness to Shit Pit, which strives to create a casual and supportive environment for students to workshop new material. The event, now an Oberlin staple, is often planned with little notice, hosted in someone’s basement, living room, or backyard, and is open to anyone to perform regardless of previous comedy experience. Since her time at Oberlin, Sophie has been writing for and starring in Apple TV’s Dickinson, along with performing original work at theaters and comedy clubs across the country. Clara is working on her Theater capstone, an original play she has written and directed, Shayna Punim, opening on April 21, and has also spent time in Oberlin’s Sunshine Scouts improv troupe and Good Talk. The two sisters talk on the phone almost every day and often workshop material with each other.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sophie, you started Shit Pit along with a friend. Is that true?

SZ: Yes. Maya and I had both studied at The Second City in Chicago and when we were there, these two guys had started this thing called Shit Hole, which was a very welcoming, experimental, open mic in a basement. And so we were like, “We should do that at Oberlin!” And we asked them if we could use a variation of their name.

When you graduated, did you have any idea Shit Pit would still be around by the time Clara got to college?

SZ: I did not think that it would go on necessarily. We also created Good Talk with a bunch of others, including Luke Taylor, OC ’15, and I think that we hoped that would be sort of an institution. But Shit Pit? No. It was casual and always felt kind of thrown together. I don’t think we thought of it as starting something. 

And Clara, how did you get involved? How old were you when Sophie was in college?

CZ: When Sophie graduated from Oberlin, I was 15. I didn’t know anything about Shit Pit. We didn’t talk as much back then. I knew she went to Second City, but I didn’t find out about Shit Pit until years later, when I was a first-year at Oberlin. I was taking the Improv ExCo, and Gabby Shiner, OC ’19, and PJ McCormick, OC ’20, were like, “You should come to Shit Pit this weekend.” I texted Sophie about it and I was like, “Do you know what this is?” And she said, “I started that.” That’s how I found out about it. 

So Clara, you went to Shit Pit your freshman year, and now, as a senior, you’re generally one of the people organizing it. Do you feel like Sophie had influence in that? 

CZ: Sophie definitely had a lot of influence. Coming from high school, all I did was theater and Sophie was the one who pushed me to audition for an improv troupe. I don’t think I would’ve done that without her because, growing up, I was like, “Oh I’m funny. I can make my family laugh.” But I was never like, “Oh I can make a whole audience of college students laugh.”

SZ: I was like, “Do it b***h, it’ll change your life.”

CZ: (Laughing) Yeah, exactly.

Clara, do you feel like Shit Pit will continue next year? It’s mostly you and College fourth-years Juli Freedman and Levi Dayan — all of you are graduating. 

CZ: I know. But the nice thing about Shit Pit is that it’s free. You don’t have to raise any money to do it. You only need a mic, and you don’t really even need that. And Juli and Levi and I have been trying to teach the underclassmen how to organize it. It’s very easy. You just have to find a house. We always try to get underclassmen to host; we don’t wanna host every time because we don’t want it to die out when we graduate.

Sophie when you graduated, do you know who kept it going? Was that a conscious effort on your part?

SZ: No, we did not hand it off in any official way. I don’t think we thought that someone needed to continue it. Even though it was a huge success, it just didn’t seem like that sort of a thing.

CZ: Yeah. But people are always wanting to do open mics. Shit Pit is one of the easiest things to organize. Even though we’re not directly handing it off to someone, I do have confidence that the people who have been doing it every time we host it will continue to do it and eventually decide, “Oh, I guess now I have to host it and organize it.”

SZ: Yeah, if you want it, then you make it happen. That’s a good lesson to learn in comedy anyway ’cause so much of it is being a self-starter.

Sophie, what was Shit Pit like when you first started it? What did you get out of it?

SZ: Shit Pit was really one of the first times where I was performing on my own as a solo performer, because otherwise I’d only done improv, where you’re obviously supported by a group. And solo performing is a lot of what I do now. I still have some of the recordings on my phone from a while back. And honestly, some of them were good. I was like, “Okay, I was very inventive.” I had way more ideas then than I do now. My other big memory is that my friend Charlie Kaplowitz, OC ’16, had a really bad cough and he coughed so hard he fell down in the back of Shit Pit and got a concussion. 

Do either of you have anything else to add? 

SZ: Obviously it’s so special that Clara does Shit Pit. I definitely told her, “Audition for an improv team, that could really make your Oberlin experience.” But I didn’t necessarily expect her to do Shit Pit. She just found it on her own. We already have so much in common, but it’s nice to have even more, and I bet Clara does a really good job of running it. She is very good at that kind of stuff, better than I am for sure.