Created in 1985, the group celebrated its 20th Anniversary on October 24, 2005 with a reunion show, in which current cast members and alumni alike shared the stage. Former cast members have gone on to post-university success in writing, performing, and production work for movies, the stage, syndicated comics, and television. Troupe alumni have won 2 Emmy awards.
The group performs every Friday at 12:40 at Union Stage in ASU's Memorial Union.
In 1985, University of Arizona student and former U of A Comedy Corner member Michael Sterner moved to Tempe and started a weekly sketch comedy show at ASU. This new troupe also called itself Comedy Corner, and it performed to passing students in a Memorial Union study lounge each Friday. The show consisted of one half hour of original sketch comedy (much of it written by Sterner during his stint at U of A) followed by a half hour of standup comedy, performed by local or touring comics (such as David Spade), or most often by Sterner himself. The standup gig paid $50.
Although the show had a small and loyal following, the uncensored content was offensive to some students, and MUAB (Memorial Union Activities Board) ordered the group to move its show from the large public area to smaller meeting rooms or be shut down. Audience attendance dropped below 10 for many shows. MUAB, in early 1986, allowed the show to move to the Union Cinema, where it had access to a makeshift stage, a sound system, and dedicated audience seating.
Also around this time, the group voted to change the show's name to a more collegiate-sounding Comedy 101, which also distanced it from the U of A show. The troupe advertised the show heavily and it increased in popularity significantly throughout the year, ending with a "Best Of" performance for an audience of about 150.
Not realizing that ads for Comedy 101 referred to a show, some students requested ASU for the line number to register for the "course". During a brainstorm session in early 1987, the group unanimously approved the name Farce Side, suggested by member Jeff Smallidge. MUAB then created a fully budgeted Comedy Committee to fund and oversee the troupe and other comedy projects.
ASU built the current home of the Farce Side Comedy Hour, Union Stage, in 1991. The show continued to grow in popularity until weekly audiences of 200-250 were common, and the "Best Of" shows would tally crowds of 400 or more.
By fall of 1993, the show would often drop the standup segment and perform an entire hour of sketch comedy. The group began using the title "Farce Side Comedy Hour". Occasionally some improvisation was scheduled into the show, which was originally substituted for a missing standup performer. The show moved to an all-sketch format in the 1994 fall semester, when it also spun off the Barren Mind improvisational comedy troupe. Barren Mind received and still holds its own performance slot on Thursdays. Members commonly belong to both casts.
Due to ASU student programming changes, Farce Side and Barren Mind lost their funding at the end of the spring 2000 semester. Since then, the troupes have carried on as sponsored student clubs, retaining the privilege of playing at Union Stage.
A number of events throughout the history of the troupes has threatened ASU's tolerance of them. A handful of incidents involving profanity and nudity, including the 2004 "Sock Incident" (a male performer wearing nothing but a tube sock), have resulted in corrective actions and even suspensions of shows. The Sock Incident was explicitly responsible for a posted warning regarding the shows' content.
Today, the Farce Side Comedy Hour continues to regularly draw weekly audiences of over 200 fans.