April Magazine ("College Report") claims that
Off-Off Campus was founded in 1986, "when Second City
co-founder Bernard G. Sahlins, AB'43, challenged students in his
improv comedy course to revive the tradition on campus." Please
allow me to correct this misleading statement.
Campus was founded by me, then director of University Theater,
and the late Prof. Frank Kinahan, then UT's faculty director.
It was our idea to establish a campus comedy troupe; we asked
Bernie Sahlins to lend his name to the enterprise because we knew
that his association with Second City would get people's attention.
The only thing Bernie did was to "teach" the "improv comedy course"
that we arranged for him, in which he traveled to campus to watch
the students rehearse their sketches. And yet whenever the subject
comes up, Bernie, and Bernie alone, is always cited as the founder
of Off-Off Campus. (E.g., on the Off-Off Campus home page.)
mention this not only because it annoys me, but also because it
may be a matter of interest to historiographers. Why does such
a distorted view of history carry the day? Three reasons occur
to me. First, it's simply unwieldy to cite a trio of founders.
Much easier to boil us down to one; and that one, of course, must
be the one whom the members of Off-Off Campus would prefer
to consider their founder--reason No. 2--because through him they
can trace a connection to Second City. Third, the situation seems
to be governed by a fundamental rule of American celebrity culture:
The best-known person in the vicinity of an event tends to receive
a grossly disproportionate share of credit or blame for it.
guess I shouldn't complain. Frank and I made a deal with the devil
when we used Bernie's name to advance our project.