A portrait of Oprah with dozens of signatures scrawled on the back, along with a street that doesn’t exist carry the secrets, skits and jokes of the only sketch comedy group on Gonzaga’s campus.
Boone Street Hooligans is a group of six students and two student co-directors, ranging in age and fields of study. Together, they write, direct, produce and star in comedy sketches which can be anywhere from a minute-and-a-half to nine minutes long.
“Basically we’re the Gonzaga version of SNL,” said Justine Cooper, senior and co-director of this year’s hooligans.
These sketches will be performed on Friday and Saturday, both at 7:30 p.m. in Magnuson Theatre at the once-a-semester Boone Street Hooligans show. This semester marks its 15th performance by the group. Admission is donation-based, with all proceeds going toward a local charity, Cup of Cool Water, which assists homeless youth in Spokane.
Boone Street Hooligans began in 2012 when two students were joking around and decided they wanted to perform sketch comedy. They gathered friends to write and preform the sketches from scratch, and held their impromptu performance off-campus.
“It’s been building ever since,” Cooper said. “I think the first few years it wasn’t even on campus and now we get a space [to rehearse] in the [Theatre & Dance studio].”
The co-directors, which usually consist of one junior and one senior, are presented every year with a three-foot portrait of Oprah, which displays “Boone Street Hooligans” across the top, and sports the signatures of every pair of directors along with their year on the back.
“It’s a physical torch to pass along to each new director,” Cooper laughed.
Though Cooper and her co-director junior Bradley Miller are in their positions for the entire school year, the cast of Boone Street Hooligans changes every semester, with each new performance.
The process begins with sketches being submitted by students.
“Anybody can submit a sketch if they think it’s funny,” Miller said. “That’s where I got my start in Boone Street, I was a writer and my sketch made it in.”
The co-directors said they generally receive about as many sketches as make it into the show, and lengths and subjects are dependent on the writers and can vary. The co-directors then take these sketches and have students audition. This semester, every student who auditioned was selected for the show.
“I think the smaller cast makes a huge difference,” Cooper said. “Just because in previous Boone Streets, I remember helping cast when there were around eight to nine people and every person would be in only two or three sketches, but now every cast member gets to be in at least four so they get a lot more time not just to be onstage but to also develop their skills and I think that has really helped them a lot because they get a whole range of characters being in four to five. And I think that really helps them diversify their skills.”
The cast then practices for about six weeks, multiple days a week, until the performance. Throughout these six weeks the sketches morph and change as the cast members grow.
“My favorite part is watching the evolution of the sketches from the first time you run it to the last time you ran it before show and seeing how everything kind of comes together — even if you don’t think it’s going to,” Miller said. “In theater there’s always this notion of ‘it all comes together in the last week’ and every year you’re like ‘that’s not going to be the case.’ And then it does. It’s fun getting to see the changes through the characters that come out and lines that get thrown in.”
By showtime, about 20% of the lines are improvised while the other 80% are following the script, Cooper said.
Though many cast members, including Cooper and Miller, are involved in both, they said there is a distinct difference between the humor in GUTS (Gonzaga University Theatre Sports) and the humor in Boone Street Hooligans.
While GUTS tries to keep it family-friendly, the co-directors said, Boone Street pushes the boundaries by allowing cussing and controversial topics. They said it is clear in the sketches that college students are their target audience.
“I know many things say this, but it’s a show by students for students,” Miller said. “But at the core of the show, that’s what it’s about. It’s we think Zags are going to think this is funny, we’re going to do it.”
Topics can range from GU-centric topics like basketball games or classroom settings to topics that have nothing to do with GU, like happenings in a women’s restroom or waiters moving hot plates, which are Cooper and Miller’s favorite sketches they’ve written, respectively.
It’s Facebook page promises “jocks, nerds, cats, purgatory, pennies and portable ranch” at the show this weekend.
Though each semester’s show promises unique sketches from a fresh cast, some themes have prevailed throughout the years.
A certain character by the name of Dimmy Chucklaps makes an appearance every show.
“That name was used in one of the first Boone Streets and I think that’s why it’s still here today,” Cooper said. “It was just a crazy and insane name that they wanted Boone Street to keep using as a laugh punchline.”
Along with other Hooligan traditions, Miller promises his and Cooper’s new flair will be brought to this show. The finale of the show, titled “Splanch,” was co-written by the directors and ties together their unique flavors of humor.
Getting the audience laughing is the most important thing, the directors agreed, but Boone Street means more to them than laughs.
“It’s not just sketch comedy,” Cooper said. “It allows people to discover something about themselves and have fun at the same time.”