During my interview with Lindsay McLaughlin ’18 and Catherine Collison ’18, I was treated to my own sort of show. Within the first 20 seconds, Collison and McLaughlin, the two elder “Fools” of Kenyon’s student improv comedy group The Fools on the Hill, laughed as they traded quips. Much of the rest of our conversation was like this, less a formal interview than it was a performative rehashing of McLaughlin and Collison’s four years together as a comedic duo.
The two are an unlikely match. Once you see them in action, though, they make perfect sense.
“We are not so similar, you and I,” Collison said to McLaughlin at one point. “We are very different girls, but I think we are very similar when it comes to what we find funny.”
During their last show as Fools on Friday, April 20, the two extended a Johnny Appleseed bit so seamlessly that it almost seemed rehearsed. Of course, it was all improvised.
McLaughlin and Collison discovered each other and developed their chemistry early on at Kenyon.
“We lived across the hall from each other in McBride,” McLaughlin said, reminiscing about the weeks during their first year before they auditioned for Fools.
“We had only known each other for a couple of weeks at that point, but we had developed something of a rapport.”
“A rivalry,” Collison interjected. “It only could have gone one of two ways: a beautiful friendship, or something terrible. I like to think that both happened.”
Although neither of them did any sort of comedy during high school, they both had been fans of comedy (or, as Collison put it, “I liked being a dingus”). As a first year, McLaughlin decided that she wanted to audition for Fools on the Hill.
“We had reached the point by the time Fools auditions came around that we were like the loudest … we were just loud,” she said. “I wanted to audition for the group but I was too scared.”
Collison finished the story for McLaughlin. “She was like ‘I’m not going to do it unless you do it with me.’ And I said, ‘OK fine I’ll do it.’ … The only reason I auditioned was because she said she made me.”
That started a powerful partnership. Over their four years, McLaughlin and Collison have seen Fools on the Hill change dramatically.
“We have been blessed to have some real powerhouse ladies in our time in the group,” McLaughlin said. “But [before] we joined the group it was pretty masculine.”
This overt masculinity was limiting, according to Collison. “I think it … closes the audience off,” she said.
Their approach to improv relies heavily on trust and confidence.
“It’s incredibly difficult in a show in which the performers feel uncomfortable for the audience to even kind of have a good time, which is why the group dynamic is so important,” Collison said. “What a lot of people don’t know about Fools, is [that] a lot of our time is spent … just getting social hours in and getting to know each other.”
The trust that built between the Fools encapsulates much of what both Collison and McLaughlin love about the group.
“We practice three times a week, and it’s nice to be able to have that time, no matter what else you have going on … to have fun with your friends,” McLaughlin said.
Collison agrees. “It really is just the people for me,” she said. “Spending time with people that you love and trust.”
Though their time together as Kenyon comedians has come to a close, McLaughlin and Collison have big plans involving their future in comedy and with each other.
“I would love to be a C-list celebrity,” Collison said. “And I would love for Lindsay to be … ”
“…An A-list celebrity,” McLaughlin interjected. “I would love for Catherine to be a C-list celebrity and for myself to be an A-list celebrity.”
“I would love to be Lindsay’s date to the Oscars,” Collison said. “One year. Just one year. I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet.”