Art with a Heart

Badgers bursting into song and dance while flying over one another isn’t something you’d expect to remain under the campus radar. But UW’s Humorology is full of surprises — though at long last, the secret may be out about this student variety show.

“Humorology is one of the longest traditions in UW history,” says Claudia Shapiro BA2016, who served as its student executive director her senior year. “It’s an annual, juried, musical-variety show where more than 600 students come together and spend the course of the academic year writing, producing, directing, and choreographing 20-minute mini-musicals [to benefit] charity.”

Some of Humorology's earliest student staff members, from 1949.

Image courtesy of the UW Digital Collections.

All campus Greek organizations are eligible to audition, and half a dozen or so are chosen for a final performance typically held at the Memorial Union. Every year, the show’s proceeds go to a local charity. Since 2014, “Humo” has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. In two years, Humo netted more than $200,000 in donations, which enabled the Boys and Girls Club to expand a variety of programs and facilities for children and families.

Though the Centennial Badger mentions a Humo show in 1947, the group dates itself as having formed in 1948. Little is known about its earliest days, but proceeds from the eight Humo skits performed in 1949 benefited Kiddy Kamp, which served children who suffered from rheumatic fever.

Humo is among the longest-lasting student production groups on campus, but it definitely wasn’t the first. The UW’s variety-show tradition goes back to 1898, when the Haresfoot drama club kicked off with a comedic adaptation of Edmund Kean: or, The Life of an Actor. Though its inaugural show included female students, Haresfoot grew most famous for sold-out performances featuring male students in drag.

Check out more clips from past Humo shows.