Members of Fourth Quarter All-Stars take a bow after a performance.

Student Group Spotlight: Fourth Quarter All-Stars

Members of the Fourth Quarter All-Stars take a bow after an uproarious performance. Photo courtesy of Fourth Quarter All-Stars.

A sandworm from Dune walks into a bar and dives into a lengthy monologue about the ups and downs of its acting career. A courtroom stenographer becomes a bit too suggestive with her descriptions of trial proceedings. Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is derailed by a TV host who’s lost his keys and will stop at nothing to find them.

If these premises sound intriguing, you may enjoy the sketch comedy stylings of USC’s own Fourth Quarter All-Stars. They recently hosted Sketchella, the West Coast’s premiere college comedy festival, in mid-February at the Massman Theatre.

“One of my favorite things about Sketchella is getting to see the other groups—getting to see the different styles of sketch comedy and their different personalities,” Fourth Quarter All-Stars member and one of the group’s three co-presidents, Nicky Taylor (BA Theatre ’25), said. “It’s so eye-opening to see all the different forms that sketch comedy can take.”

It wasn’t the first time Fourth Quarter All-Stars represented USC at a sketch comedy festival featuring students from other colleges. In addition to hosting Sketchella, the group regularly takes their act on the road, performing with comedy troupes from other colleges and in other cities around the country. In the Fall, Fourth Quarter All-Stars traveled to Boston, where they performed with student comedy troupes from all over the East Coast at Emerson College. In March they will head to Chicago to perform with students from Northwestern.

“It’s one of my favorite parts of being in a sketch comedy group,” says co-president Collette McCurdy (BFA Acting for Stage and Screen ’25). “The audiences in L.A. react very differently than the ones in Boston. It’s interesting to see which types of sketches resonate with which audience members.”

Fourth Quarter All-Stars is a tight-knit group that emphasizes working on performances democratically, with every member contributing to every aspect of writing and production. They come up with their ideas together at the beginning of the semester, flesh them out as a group and work together to polish them through extensive rehearsals.

Unlike improv comedy, which relies on spontaneous creativity and audience participation, sketch comedy is carefully written and planned, much like short films and performances in other genres.

“We write and perform everything ourselves. It’s a very democratic and free-flowing process,” co-president Michael Musker (BA English, Emphasis in Creative Writing ’25) says. “[Sketch comedy] is much more about the preparation, the thought, the refinement of the writing and the performances, and hopefully putting out a more polished product.”

The group also prides itself on including members from a diverse set of academic backgrounds, including many non-theatre majors. From global health to philosophy, politics and law, Fourth Quarter All-Stars members believe that having varying perspectives, training and backgrounds only adds to the creativity of their comedy.

“We have so many different majors in Fourth Quarter All-Stars,” Taylor said. “It’s all over the place, and that’s something that makes our group really, really strong.”

Fourth Quarter All-Stars employ a democratic process to bring big laughs to the stage. Photo courtesy of Fourth Quarter All-Stars.

Everyone does everything

Another benefit of the group’s collaborative process is that students get to learn new skills, leading to the creation of multihyphenate artists capable of tackling many different aspects of the creative process. McCurdy, for example, emphasized that she never saw herself as a writer before joining the group, but now feels confident that she has the experience to add that skill to her creative repertoire.

“We’ve fostered an environment where people feel comfortable jumping into new things,” McCurdy said. “Creating that environment where everyone feels safe is so important to what we do.”

Musker agreed.

“So many of our members come in as one thing. But the actors are now writers, and the writers are now actors,” he said. “It’s not just theatre skills. People have learned how a set runs, how to make shot lists. The film people learn how to cue technical things in theatre. It’s all about everyone learning together.”

Fourth Quarter All-Stars take pride in their sense of community and willingness to push themselves to explore new creative avenues. Because the group is so small and collaborative, the style of their sketches shifts from year to year, as new members join and graduating members move on.

“All our sketches have the fingerprints of everyone in the group,” Musker said, “and I think that’s for the better.”

“The sense of humor changes with people joining the group and leaving the group,” Taylor added. “It’s so dependent on our collaboration and chemistry. Everyone does everything.”

When recruiting each year, Fourth Quarter All-Stars look for members who will take notes well, be team players, and be willing to get outside their comfort zone for the sake of comedy. Knowing that the group is so small and works so closely together makes it important that members are willing to work and grow as a unit.

“It’s about how you collaborate with people, how you receive notes, how you think creatively,” Taylor said of the group’s recruiting process.

“At the end of the day, because it’s such a democratic group, it’s a balance between being able to cede control of your ideas but also being confident and fighting for what you know is the best thing,” Musker added.

For now, the Fourth Quarter All-Stars are looking forward to performing their unique sketches alongside other comedy groups from USC and from around the country at this weekend’s big comedy event. You can catch Sketchella on February 16 and 17 at the Massman Theatre. The Fourth Quarter All-Stars will also be holding their annual Spring show at Tommy’s Place in late April.

For their part, the members of Fourth Quarter All-Stars think the world could benefit form a little more everyday comedy.

“Everyone brings their own uniqueness to comedy. It’s really cool to see what people from different perspectives can come up with,” Taylor said. “I would encourage everyone to give it a try.”