Improvisational comedy is one the most challenging forms
of entertainment, and Blacktop Comedy certainly is up to the challenge.
The beauty of group improv comedy is that it goes in
all kinds of bizarre, dreamlike and unscripted directions and no one
really knows where it will go until it gets there. There is really no
beginning and no end to each skit, and it is up to the audience to
determine where to laugh, gasp or groan. Each individual player has his
or her own way of coming up with ideas which may or may not work in a
skit. Each player is unlimited in drawing on his or her own life
experiences and observations. Each player has the opportunity to
interrupt someone right in the middle of whatever he or she is doing,
often to the other performer’s relief.
The night I came to see Blacktop Comedy, I witnessed
an impressively odd assortment of motions, dialogue and ideas, which
were gradually unveiled as the night wore on.
As I arrived at the venue, I was cordially greeted by
Paul Burke, the owner off the Blacktop Comedy Club. Craft beer, popcorn
and snacks were being sold in the lobby by the friendly Kiera, another
improv comedy participant. I waited for a few minutes in a separate
lounge room for the house to open. Upon entering the performance space,
I saw about eighteen seats and a high counter in front of what looked to
me like a dance floor and a DJ booth. The stage was lit up with the
letters “BTC” on a scenery flat which was bordered by curtains.
I settled into the front row with my popcorn and
ginger beer as the troupe introduced themselves: Betsaida, Jordan,
Garrett, JJ, Aeriel, Mo, and of course, Paul. The troupe began the show
by asking the audience to shout out a favorite color, flavor, and food,
which we all did in unison. Then the players asked for theme music and a
text from a cellphone. Someone from the audience offered up “Blurred
Lines” as music and read a random text aloud. I couldn’t figure out how
the sound guy brought the music out over the speakers so quickly. As the
lights then faded, we the audience hadn’t a clue about the hilarity to
In one sketch, a woman was asking a group of people
“Red or white?” One of the guys demanded that she hurry up with the
wine. The woman leaned over to another person in the group to say “You
were right about him.” The first fellow stated, with expletives, “So
what? I also hate Mondays and have migraines.” After a minute or two of
bickering, someone said “I love you,” and this same fellow sarcastically
uttered “I love you back.” Just as the others were trying to figure out
why he was so abrasive, the scene was regressed to twenty-five years
earlier with the guy’s mother reassuring him that she would always be
there, and she would be right back. Then she disappeared offstage. End
scene and blackout.
Lights went up on two men in a building who were
melting in the heat. One said “It’s so hot I wanna die.” The two of them
talked about how hot it was and then one guy ended up trying to prevent
the other from climbing out the window because he thought he was going
to jump. The first guy said “There’s nowhere else to go.” Just then a
woman from upstage began singing a musical ice cream truck ditty which
enticed the man to come get some ice cream. He wanted to get closer to
the ice cream truck, so he climbed out the window and onto the ledge,
much to the first man’s dismay. The others in the troupe began yelling
“It’s a jumper!” “Watch out!” The woman upstage said “They can’t see me,
I’m a mirage.” The guy on the ledge said “I believe you, ice cream!”
Then the mirage became an “Oreo cookie,” and as the guy started to go
back inside, she emphasized “I’m an Oreo cookie milkshake!” and then he
began to jump to get to the mirage. Blackout. My love of physical comedy
probably made the following my favorite sketch of the evening. A
policewoman was ordering three people to walk the line or “go to jail.”
Three players start walking a slightly crooked line and then the cop
said they must all do the steps in unison. So, they started doing funny
dance steps all together and then ended up crawl-dancing in unison
across the floor. Another person came from offstage to join the cop,
saying, “Am I late for the big finale?” And the big finale ended up
being the three suspects jumping up and yelling “Ta da!” which provoked
the cop to say “You’re all going to jail!” Blackout.
In another scene, two men were sitting in chairs. One
said “You know you want it.” This seemingly turned into a nonphysical
romance as another fellow entered. He announced “I am the manager. I
didn’t want to interrupt the moment.” The “romance” seemed to develop
into being not just between the two guys, but now the manager and a
water boy and anyone else who came into the room. “Now it’s an
orgy-isn’t that more than three people?” said one of the players. Two
more people entered from offstage and said “Is this where the orgy is?
We saw it on craigslist.” Blackout.
Lights up as zombies were invading a home, trying to
get in the front door. The people on the inside were desperately
attempting not to let the zombies in as they started hammering boards
onto the door and windows. After much moaning and clawing from the
zombies outside, one of the zombies shouted “Amazon Prime package!” This
prompted the foolish mortals inside to open the door and consequently
get eaten. Blackout.
Midway through their performance the comedy troupe
asked for a different song from the audience, to be played as interlude
music. Somebody had “Sprinkle Me with E40” by Suga-T on their phone.
Again, I couldn’t figure out how the sound guy was able to get the music
playing so quickly over the sound system. Anyway, the same guy with the
crazy music read a text from his cellphone which was meant to inspire
the troupe. “Should I go or not?” he read.
Another sketch came up about the fact that everyone
gave a wedding couple cakes as wedding gifts. One of the bakers informed
the others that she grew her own organic peaches and made her cake from
scratch. The wedding couple ended up saying “Thank you guys for the five
cakes. We’ll choose just one cake.” They then did an elaborate taste
test and favored one particular cake, stating, “It’s like we’re falling
in love again!” The organic baker who made her cake from scratch wanted
to figure out why the wedding couple liked the store-bought cake the
best, so she transitioned the scene to Raley’s to ask “Are you the
bakers? Who made the wedding cake?” The bakers say “Do you want one?”
She told them “You made a cake for some friends at a wedding” and
proceeded to tell them about her homegrown peaches and made-from-scratch
cake. The bakers could only state that there is “stoner love in our
I really enjoyed my time at the Blacktop Comedy Club
and hope to go many more times to witness these crazy sketches dreamed
up by such creative minds. These folks are certainly brave souls who
dare to go on such a difficult journey of entertaining an audience who
may or may not laugh at their unusual on-the-spot antics. But trust me.
There was a lot of laughter from the audience at this show.