Off-Off Campus stems from a rich tradition of improv comedy at the U of C. In the early 1950s, improv as it is known today was invented on the University of Chicago campus at the Woodlawn Tap. In 1959, the group, called the Compass Players, went on to form the Second City.
In 1986, Bernie Sahlins returned to the U of C in order to re-establish improv and sketch comedy on the south side of Chicago. The first generation of Off-Off Campus was trained by Sahlins, and the group continues to build on the foundation he created.
In addition to Off-Off's rich tradition, its successful alumni distinguish the group further. Pulitzer prize winner David Auburn was a member of Off-Off's second generation. In addition, Tony Award-winner Greg Kotis was one of Off-Off's original members. Tami Sagher, a member of the seventh generation, is a writer for 30 Rock. Other Off-Off alum write for MADTV and the The Onion, created You Don't Know Jack, and performed on the Second City mainstage.
Off-Off Campus operates in accordance with the University of Chicago's quarter system. Auditions are held during the first week of each fall quarter. New members train significantly (roughly 20 hours a week) during fall and winter quarters before becoming responsible for mainstage revues in the spring and the following fall. During training, new members also contribute afterglows and preglows around the mainstage revue. Winter quarter mainstage revues are inter-generational.