Good Night Good Talk: A Tribute to These Last Four Years

by Juli Freedman

Bad Habits Editor


art by Ros Kish-Levine

[originally published June 3, 2022]

 

As if I don’t already treat Bad Habits as a fun little vanity project, I wanted to infiltrate Features to get a bit earnest, a bit weepy, and a bit gracious for my favorite thing about this place: Good Talk.


I got into Good Talk by accident. My Barrows neighbor at the time, Sam Merrick, asked if I could cover for them at this comedy show meeting and let the director know I could be the PA if they still needed one. It was the beginning of my first spring semester at Oberlin, and even though I was doing well in my classes and had a few friends, I really wanted to transfer. I wasn’t finding any pursuit that I felt passionate about, I was pretty homesick, and in a long-distance relationship with a gamer guy who was making me miserable. I did a few standup open mics in high school, and knew that I secretly really wanted to pursue comedy, but just forced myself to try to ‘grow out of it’ in college. But then I walked into this meeting.


This was my pre-medicated era, so I was literally shaking and stumbling over my words because I was so nervous to be around all these older people who seemed extremely close. I think I tried to come off really cool in my introduction by saying that I would bring Rosé and a Corgi in my hypothetical beach bag, smh. I was so enamored by the director and head writer, Ru Anderson, and how hilarious they were (and still one of the coolest people I have ever met by a long shot), that I made it my sole mission to get them to like me. When I was told to take notes on the script, oh did I take notes of every single thing people were saying at the table read. I think I even added some of my own jokes and suggestions, which was pretty fucking bold. The whole reason I did my first Shit Pit was to impress the writers of Good Talk. I can’t say that any of those jokes hold up today, but I definitely received some more attention from them and started getting a bit more comfortable at each meeting and rehearsal. They even had me be a part in this opening dance number, which I had to pretend to not be scared shitless about.


Ru was an amazing director. They really took the time to get to know everyone (even going to treasurer training with me), work through the politics of our jokes, and dedicate all their time and energy to the show. Ru also was a shit pit regular, opened for Jaboukie, the Bad Habits editor, and built a really solid queer community around them. When they let me sit in on a writer’s meeting, I had this kind of epiphany that this is what I wanted to do. I also grew to become close with Gabi Shiner, who also ran the comedy scene doing Good Talk, improv, theater, and hosting Shit Pit. When I told her how Sarah Squirm (pre-SNL Sarah Sherman) was performing her show HellTrap Nightmare at Mahall’s, Gabi drove me, Shane, and Levi, and introduced us to comedian Luke Taylor, who also happened to be one of the founders of Good Talk. In Ru and Gabi (and really the rest of Good Talk), I saw the kind of person I wanted to be and I wanted to stay at Oberlin.


When Mary Brody took over for Ru, she made the call to scrap the talk-show format we had been doing for a pure sketch show. Now as a writer, this meant I had to produce a lot of sketches when I had only written about 4 sketches in my life that definitely never saw the light of day. I lived for our weekly writer’s meetings. I would bring in a lot of sketches, most of them not winners. I was pretty intense about it too; when jokes wouldn’t land I would be devastated to an absurd extent. But Good Talk created an environment where we could all just throw anything out there, really experiment, and then collaborate. Oh and also I started taking anxiety meds.


What really sucks about COVID, and I think everyone in the world can agree with me on this, is that Good Talk had to pack up our show after only performing one and be apart right when we were getting close. We kept writing, but at a much slower pace. I missed the energy of the writer’s room. I may just brush over the semesters where we produced one totally DIY Met Gala themed show in the spring in Mary’s backyard and our summer show in the ‘Sco to get to the meat of it all. Summer was the first time I took over as the head writer and director— something Mary told me would happen when I was a freshman while trying to show me Bubble Pop Electric by Gwen Stefani at the 123 party where the floor broke. God, I love power! But for real, there is no community out here like Good Talk. I would be the shell of a man without it. It is corny to love your college sketch comedy troupe so much so you would get it tatted (if Mary and Jane keep their promise), but it really has been my everything. Now we have this whole new crop of writers and actors who are creating the same bonds I could feel were between everyone there when I was a freshman. Our opening show of this semester was not just the most packed I have seen the ‘Sco for Good Talk, but for probably 90% of the shows I see there. Gotta thank the fans (and the haters) for that one. But really, the writers and actors for their dedication, making every show better than the last.


Soon I’ll be moving to LA (to be a star) and I have been wrestling with the truth that I won’t have a place like Good Talk. I won’t have the luxury of a leadership role devoted to comedy fully funded by the institution and a full audience of college students. I do have an interview set up to be an ax throwing coach at an ax throwing bar. Never in my life have I thrown an ax, but that’s a problem for future Juli. I will be wandering around craving a space like Good Talk and people like my team of writers, and maybe I’ll never find it. Maybe I’ll just become a really famous ax thrower and throw comedy into the garbage much like you would an ax. There is kind of an impending doom of this loss that stresses me the fuck out. After almost every show I would go on a late night drive and just cry about the temporality of it all. I want a really good reason to fly all the way back to Oberlin just for Good Talk, but I don’t. I don’t think that would be cool either. I gotta let go. I am leaving this precious show in some of the best (and clammiest!) hands. The hands of my friends. I guess I will always have this beautiful moment in time where this got to matter, this got to take over all of my brain space, this made me feel important, this made me feel like I was actually good at making friends.


For those at Good Talk—aka bitches who can haaaang—appreciate this. You have so much creative liberty right now and you have people you can trust with seeing your work and making it better. These will be some of the best audiences you have. You will always have a place to stay with another Good Talker in LA or NYC or Athens, Ohio or the lesbian utopia where LJ’s from or wherever. You are hilarious and brilliant. I admire your spirit, your dedication, your weirdness, and all the things you do outside of Good Talk, like sport or worms. I’m your biggest fan. I will be watching all the episodes you guys make on repeat like a sicko.


If you want to apply to Good Talk, make that application so damn good you little freak! Even if you’re not a gay, you can apply! And if you are all like ‘well I didn’t get in’ or ‘I wanna do sketch, but I don’t wanna do Good Talk’, for the love of God, DIY it! Use a friend's backyard, props you can get for free from Facebook groups, some mics and amps from your friend’s boyfriend Tim, and people you find hilarious and brilliant and make that shit happen! Bring the old sketch teams back and see if you can get some school money to book the ‘Sco or Cat. Make a tiktok channel or something. You don’t need permission to do what you find funny! As I famously say all the time, Just Do It.


I guess I wanted to write this 1) out of spite for how many goddamn WOBC and Big Parade tribute pieces we have in here even though Good Talk is a total pop culture staple and 2) out of love. I love you Good Talk. So ridiculously much. If I had a baby, I would love Good Talk waaaay more than that slimy fucker.