ODB makes a multicultural comedy spring comeback with ‘ODBoots With the Fur’

Jenna Wang, Reporter


Out Da Box, Northwestern’s only multicultural improv and sketch comedy group, returned to the stage this weekend with “ODBoots With the Fur.” The group’s first in-person spring show in two years took place in Shanley Pavilion on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Communication freshman Journey Cole said she decided to audition after seeing the group perform at “Rock the Lake” during Fall Quarter 2021. Cole said she felt she could best express herself and her identity as a minority through comedy.

“So much of the media we see of minority identities is rooted in pain because that’s marketable and easy for people who aren’t of those identities to feel sympathetic toward,” Cole said. “I feel like the important content rests in joy-based content, and comedy allows us to tell the truth through joy.”

For Communication senior Arshad Baruti, “ODBoots With the Fur” will be his second and last in-person spring show. Over the years, he said he enjoyed planning the logistics of the shows.

As the current president of the multicultural comedy group, they said they hope this year’s spring show solidified ODB’s presence on campus.

“ODB, as a space that’s dedicated toward marginalized people, is really underrated and has this reputation as the underdog of the comedy groups,” Baruti said. “I think the spring show is saying we’re not. We’re the ‘It-Girls,’ and we’re claiming space.”

According to Cole, the performers usually rehearse about four hours a week. However, Communication senior Emnet Abera said being a producer is a more intensive time commitment.

Unlike other performance groups, ODB is not backed by a theater board, so the group has to be engaged in emailing, word of mouth outreach and crowdsourcing to garner an audience, rather than just performing, Abera said.

“This has definitely been a bonding experience,” Abera said. “Just all of us figuring this out and working together. We all really love the work we’re doing.”

Cole said working primarily with people of color made the experience even more meaningful, as it was a unique opportunity.

In addition to stage performance, Cole said they discovered a passion for writing sketches, and ODB was a major reason why they decided to switch majors from theatre to RTVF.

“I was like, ‘Woah, I want to focus on writing now. This is insane, and everybody’s so talented,’” Cole said. “Being able to be a part of that and see the creation is so rewarding to me.”

Unlike pre-written sketches, the improv games are done on the spot with no lines to memorize. Although this has caused anxiety for performers like Cole, it produces magic for the audience, Abera said.

Abera said she thinks improv is special because of how unexpected and joyful it can be. She said she enjoys taking breaks from her producing work to watch the rehearsals.

“With improv, not only can you see the bond between the players onstage, but you also get to see all the people in the audience hearing these jokes for their one and only time,” Abera said.

Even as a freshman, Cole said she has already made significant friendships within ODB. In other student groups, they said they find it difficult to form strong bonds because of how busy members are. But they said ODB feels like a safe space for them to thrive and be themselves with others of similar identities.

“It unlocks a freedom that I can feel like I can be more of myself. I can tell a joke that pertains to my identities, and the people around me will get it,” Cole said. “They will not only laugh at it, but elevate and add a new layer to it because they understand.”

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