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Before he was famous: 1992 alumnus, actor and comedian Rob Riggle

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Rob Riggle

Actor and comedian Rob Riggle's Phi Gamma Delta composite photo. Riggle graduated from the University in 1992.

Years before he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” or began his stint on “The Daily Show,” Rob Riggle was known as the funniest guy in the room.

“It was different than just being the class clown,” said Riggle’s longtime friend and fraternity brother Jeff Robinson. “The thing that really stood apart is that he could win over complete strangers, and it really became evident in college out at a bar, and he'd have a group of 20 people watching him.”

Although Riggle went on to Hollywood fame, landing roles in high-grossing movies such as “The Hangover,” Riggle hadn't led his University classmates to believe that he wanted a career in show business. Riggle’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brother Kurt Goeser assumed Riggle would have a career in the Marine Corps after graduation. He’d already signed a flight contract, and he was active in ROTC. So when Goeser heard that Riggle was pursuing comedy in New York, he was surprised.

Someone told me, "Rob's doing standup," and I was like, "Really?"

Riggle, who graduated from the University in 1992 with a theatre degree, lived in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity “Fiji” house, where he’d frequently entertain his housemates. Riggle was the chapter’s pledge educator, meaning he spent a great deal of time with his younger fraternity brothers.

“When you’ve lived with someone for three years, you've seen every bit and every shtick and every character he's ever played, and so I kind of take it for granted,” said Rick Boyd, who was a year behind Riggle in the house. “He was just real funny.”

Boyd recalled a game Riggle invented called “whoopsie.” The rules are simple: just walk around knocking things off tables — nothing breakable, of course. Just something important enough to be a minor inconvenience. He’d play it frequently in the house.

Fiji was probably the most important part of Riggle’s college career, according to Boyd and other pledges. When he wasn’t at the house or busy with ROTC activities, he could probably be found at a number of bars in town. Fiji alumnus Kurt Goeser said Bullwinkles was Riggle’s favorite spot. He also said that Riggle might have gotten kicked out of The Wagon Wheel more than once.

“He liked to have fun, and he liked everyone around him to have fun with him,” Goeser said.

Robinson and Riggle went to almost every basketball game together. Robinson said “97 percent” of his stories about Riggle are probably not suitable for print, but he recalls numerous late nights after returning home from the bars and calling up Pizza Shuttle.

“We would drink too much, and they [Pizza Shuttle] always had to come by the Fiji house late at night,” he said.

Riggle makes it back to Lawrence at least once or twice a year, according to Robinson. He continues to be involved in alumni activities and fundraising efforts for KU Athletics.

“He gets recognized everywhere, but I think he appreciates it a lot more in Lawrence because it feels like he's home," Robinson said.

About 60 people attended a fundraiser and meet-and-greet with actor and KU alumnus Rob Riggle at the Oread Hotel on Monday. The event honored James “Jim Bob” Clarke, who was a line cook at the Oread and Eldridge hotels for 10 years, and raised money for a scholarship for Clarke’s two young children.