Student remembered for his “All-Star” talent, humor


Photo: Megan Mcloughlin

Griff was known as the “funniest man in the room.”

By Sofya Levina, The Berkeley Beacon

Members of Emerson comedy troupe Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars said they remember Griffin O’Brien, the troupe’s head writer, as the funniest man in the room. A guaranteed laugh producer. The star of the show.

In a tragic accident on July 11, O’Brien passed away at the age of 22 after sustaining fatal injuries from a fall down the stairs. The Emerson community was informed via email of the tragedy the day after.

“We got to say good bye to him because he was leaving for L.A. It was so shocking to find out, but at least we got to say goodbye and we gave him gifts,” said sophomore and Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars member Charlie Fay,writing for television and film major.

Originally from Winnetka, IL and a 2009 graduate of the New Trier East High School, O’Brien is survived by his parents Happy and Chris O’Brien, his grandparents Kitt and Bill O’Brien, and numerous other relatives. A memorial service was organized for his friends and family by his parents on July 20 in Northbrook, IL.

“We went to his memorial service and it was like, the worst prom ever. We all wanted to look good, to pay our respects. We even saw his room, and I realized, wow he was a kid once and he had fears. He would hate that. He would hate never knowing that I was in his room looking at his stuff,” said Charlie Fay, writing for television and film sophomore and Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars member.

Today, the imprints of O’Brien’s humor and kindness still radiate through the Emerson community. Treasured for his openness and wit, O’Brien shared a special bond with the members of Emerson’s sketch comedy troupe Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars.

Described by sophomore film major and Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars member Jordan Perry as “a fraternity without being a fraternity,” the members said O’Brien’s writing was of the greatest importance.

The troupe’s head writer, a beloved son, a friend, and a student, O’Brien is fondly remembered by all of those who knew him. His family said O’Brien left his stamp of humor, dignity, and kindness on both those who knew him for years, and those he just began to be acquainted with.

Younger members of Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars said they were able to establish a bond with O’Brien that was as strong as his relationship with older members.

“We were all standing on Jeremy Sender’s roof and despite all of the tears, one person said an anecdote and we would all laugh because he was such a defined person and influential person and we could all unite in his memory even though all of us knew him for different periods of time,” said Matthew Newman, a sophomore writing for film and television major and member of Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars.

Not only was O’Brien the head writer for Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars, he was also a long time student and participant with The Second City Comedy Club in Chicago. Griffin also interned at The Colbert Report television show.

His accomplishments in comedy went beyond the writer’s room. Last year, he was a chosen member of the Emerson College comedy team at the TBS National College Comedy Competition and was awarded MVP, giving him a chance to perform in Chicago at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival Showcase. He also worked with ImprovBoston and had plans to attend the L.A. program this semester, said Newman. All-Stars members said O’Brien’s humor, although unconventional at times, guaranteed laughter.

“There was that one sketch that was absolutely hilarious. It was called The 4th Wise Man, and the idea behind it was that there was this fourth wise man and him and the other three were all sitting in a bar and the fourth wise man points is like, there is a pig shitting right over there and then Griff gave the most convincing pig impression I have ever seen. It was incredible. None of us thought he was going to do it, but then he did,” said Jeremy Sender, a senior film production major and Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars member.

Despite his countless achievements in the realm of comedic writing and performance, O’Brien never wanted to attract attention, according to Jimmy’s Traveling All-Star members. Although he was indispensable to the group as the head writer, Fay notes that he never officially took up the role. When called upon, he would deliver without stopping to bathe in the limelight.

“He would hate this amount of attention. He would hate everything about this. He did not want the attention called upon him and that’s interesting about someone who’s funny because usually you love the attention. He hated the whole game,” said Fay.

Newman remarked that every conversation he ever had with O’Brien felt like a comedy bit. He remembers O’Brien best as someone who was always on, always thinking, and always funny.

“Remember when he did that brilliant thing? Remember when he was the funniest guy we ever knew?” said Fay.

Talented and modest, O’Brien will be forever remembered by the Emerson community. Donations can be sent for the Griffin O’Brien scholarship to  Emerson College Office of Development, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. Online condolences may be posted at