For some, participating in a fundraiser for a friend’s student organization can be a chore. One group aims to make it more tolerable than mere appeasement with fresh pizza, cold beer and live comedy — that’s the goal of Pizza Beer & Jokes.
Pizza Beer & Jokes isn’t your typical student organization fundraiser. Instead, it’s a show, exclusively for the organization that books an event with PB&J.
“PB&J’s are really exciting shows in the fact they are three separate groups coming together to create a fun event,” said PB&J member Joe Horan, a fourth-year in mathematics. “You have Pizza Rustica, providing a performance space for free, the Columbus-based comedians who tell all the jokes, and the student org who advertises the show and gets to keep 100 percent of their door sales.”
PB&J was founded in 2011 by Aaron Nemo, a 2012 Ohio State alumnus and former member of 8th Floor Improv, one of Ohio State’s improvisational groups.
The showcases developed and grew, while fellow 8th Floor Improv members Horan and Kyle Tolliver took over PB&J after Nemo graduated and moved to New York to pursue comedy.
Tolliver, a fifth-year in mathematics, said there’s a high demand for fundraising opportunities on campus.
“OSU has over 1,500 student organizations and new ones are added every year. Every club needs money to do things, and college students love the idea of getting to drink, eat and hang out with friends,” he said.
The price to attend a PB&J show is $5, not including pizza and beverage sales, and all door fees go directly back to the organization.
“A student club can make money for their club, and all they need to do is enjoy a comedy show,” Tolliver said. “Some orgs have so much fun that they hold three or four shows a year. It’s wonderful to be able to build a relationship with orgs and to be their favorite go-to for fundraising and a good time.”
Pizza Rustica, located in the South Campus Gateway, is a happy medium between bar and restaurant — a classic venue for comedy.
“At a campus bar, you can’t try to do a comedy show when people are trying to party,” Horan said. “At a pizza place, there are minimal distractions, allowing the comedians to perform better and the audience to have a more enjoyable time.”
Horan added that it’s important to have experienced performers at the shows.
“PB&Js are booked showcases, not open mics, so Kyle and I are asking people that we know have strong material that consistently gets laughs,” Horan said. “As long as the audience is looking for a good time, they will find it at our show.”
Tolliver and Horan work to book as many shows as possible, with new events added to their Facebook page regularly.
Last month, BuckeyeFit held a fundraiser with PB&J, and comedians Lisa Berry and Peter Brieck tailored their sets to feature bits about exercise and gym-life.
John Paul Anders, a fourth-year in exercise science education, and president and founder of BuckeyeFit, decided to hold the BuckeyeFit fundraiser with PB&J after attending a show in the past.
“BuckeyeFit is more than just a group of students working out together, but (it’s) also forming a sense of community and friendship,” Anders said of the crowd that gathered for the PB&J show. “How better else to do so than drinking beer and listening to some jokes?”
The funds raised by BuckeyeFit the night of their PB&J show went to their philanthropic partner, The Star House, a drop-in shelter for homeless youths between the ages of 14-24.
“The Star House community liaison, Samuel Masters, congratulated us on our first-ever fundraiser and was glad that such a young organization was successful in raising money for a good cause,” Anders said. “The money we raised is going to be put towards everyday supplies that we take for granted.”
Editor’s note: Pizza Rustica closed soon after publication.