Sketch Comedy at Blacktop

sacramento sketch comedy

It's been a long time coming! Behind the scenes, among the players, we've talked about beginning a sketch team that performs regularly. Would it be live sketch comedy? Video sketches? A blend? We talked, daydreamed, and wondered. Turns out, that doesn't produce much. Well, it makes you salivate, which I guess is something, but nothing someone wants to watch (and if you do want to watch us salivate, well...um....I don't want to judge that...but....).

With the help of Nick Armstrong we put pen to paper, and started writing down ideas. Wrestling an idea into a script can take a lot of work.

"OK. I see how that idea is funny. Now, how do we take it and build a 3 minute sketch?"

Thankfully, with experience both, coaching and performing at Groundings, and iO Nick provided invaluable feedback. We learned to build characters, and not just a premise. Premises can burn out so fast, but a character can sustain. It was the "a-ha" moment we all needed.

We spent a weekend locked in the theater, glued to the laptops, tinkering, adjusting, and crafting some really funny stuff. After detaching from the laptops we took to the stage and worked, and reworked, and reworked the sketches.

And, we emerged! Victorious! Written, staged, and ready. Sacramento sketch comedy won't be the same!

Hyperbole? Nope. Never in the history of time and space has something existed to perfectly (maybe a little hyperbolic).

We are thrilled to announce our first show is coming soon. In fact, we have a date. I should share that date, otherwise you won't have anything to circle on your calendar.

Saturday, April 23rd
8:00pm


Ninety minutes of scripted goodness. The team is packed with some of the funniest creative writers and comedians in Sacramento and Placer including Jordan Mata, Jay Miller, Kasey Castaneda, Tim Smith, Jessica Deprez, Garrett Bank, Mo Lim-Chua Sebastian Saba, Don Strong and Paul Burke. It's a company of supportive writers, and performers.

Expect intense board gaming, horrible teachers, Beatles lovers, questionable parenting, ADHD commercials, and more.

We premiered and tested the show with a small audience, and were really excited with the response. It taught us a lot and helped us produce this nifty little promo. If you'd like you share it we would be very grateful. Thanks!

Tickets are available online or at the box office.

Blacktop Comedy Instagram

KIRY SHABAZZ tomorrow at Stand Up Showcase!! 8pm #fridaynight #Rocklin #roseville #comedy #standupcomedy #improvcomedy #sacramentocomedy #datenight

Roseville Parks and Passion

kite flying

About a week ago, it was very windy. A Game of Thrones, “A cold wind was blowing from the north," sort of wind. It wasn't Twister-eqsue cow-flying-by-news-van windy (did anyone ever address in the audio commentary what happened to that cow? I like to the cow landed safely and continued to chew it's cudd. A man can dream.)


Most people were inside, but I decided to walk the dog. I hadn't walked him earlier in the day, and I felt guilt. I hate guilt, and rather then deal with it on an emotional level, I decided to deal with it on a tangible, I'll-just-go-walk-the-dog level and get rid of it all together.

I'm glad I did take the dog for a walk. Yes, because it made me feel better, but also because it made me fee great! I saw something very touching. I saw this father and son in the park, taking advantage of the wind, and trying to fly a kite. The kid was beaming. Thrilled to be out, living life. Freezing, no doubt, but loving life! The kite hadn't gotten off the ground yet, his dad was putting all the pieces in place, but he was bouncy-excited. Remember bouncy-excited? Remember that feeling? So exhilarated you couldn't sit or stand still?

I circled the park and kept my eye on the pair. How could I not? Both were so elated! The dad was clearly thrilled to be in the process of achieving his well deserved father of the year award, and the kid was hilarious. He was like a 3 foot tall surveyor. Waiting for the kite to be ready, walking around the patch of grass, staring into the sky, returning to the kite, and repeating the process.

Then, the moment arrived, the wind was swirling, the kite was assembled, and the kid was positioned at the end of the line, ready to run. He ran, and the kite crashed! The amazing thing, I didn't notice any sadness on the kids face. He just stood there, ready to try it again. The dad grabbed the kite, held it high in the air, and everyone was ready for round two.

The kid sprinted across the park, the kite caught in the air, and soared. Success! There was a lot of happiness.

And, there was a lot of passion. I know that's why I was mesmerized. I've seen kites fly before. It's not unusual I've even watched professional kite flyers in San Francisco. This excitement though, in a Roseville Park was more enchanting, because of the passion and joy.

It reminded me of how immensely watchable joy is. It's like this secret weapon. Watching someone truly enjoy themselves in a park or onstage in a show is memorable. Watching someone live in the moment, and be excited about the moment can be hypnotic. Sometimes I get focused on rules, patterns, heightening, and "the next thing." I better craft a good moment here to get to a good moment over there. Watching a couple kite flyers woke me up. Have fun first, love the moment, and living in that moment will be so much more fun for everyone. Everyone will fixate on that moment together.

Sideline Self-Doubt

horses and self-doubt

There have been a handful of lessons in improv that have profoundly impacted me. Six years ago...I think it was six years ago....time flies...I was fortunate to take an improv from Joe Bill at the Seattle Festival of Improv Theater (SFIT! Love it! Go to Seattle and enjoy the festival. It's this weekend! They're in their 14th year!). He admitted something, which I thought up until that point improv could fix. The wave of doubt. The second guessing. The self doubt!

"We can't get rid of self-doubt. You will feel the doubt. It's always there," he began.
Wait a second! We can't rid ourselves of this thing? No amount of "yes, anding," or supporting will smother that bastard? I'm forever going to have self-doubt.

[closeup to a wide shot] Nooooo!

But, he continued, (Thank goodness. I was about to pack it up. "Well, improv. It's been a hoot! I'm outta here."), "We always have doubt, but we need to tell it to shut the fuck up, and we'll deal with it after the show."

Oh Joe! I was both relieved and confused. Self doubt is with me, but I can tell it to leave me alone for awhile? I didn't quite understand, but I knew it was an important lesson. I felt like I was in a movie, receiving an important moment of foreshadowing. I didn't know how to process it, but I was confident it would take shape over time.

And, it has! Over the past six years, over the course of hundreds of scenes, his wisdom has only become more wisdom-y-er. It's clear there are only two options in a show. Option number one: Ignore the fear, suddenly notice the fear, and then judge yourself for having fear. Option number two: acknowledge the fear, notice the fear, and agree to deal with it later.

We can't judge ourselves for feeling something during a show. When we do that, prepare for an emotional spiral ("Why can't I stop?! Professionals probably can stop this feeling! I guess I'm not good. I'll never be good!" Walk offstage and eat a pint of ice cream). It's not realistic to shut off the feelings. The best we can do, as Joe Bill said, admit upfront we're going to feel it. This will help us keep from being rattled when it appears. The feeling exists, you can't overcome an instinctual feeling. You're normal for having self-doubt. It's always sitting on the sidelines after every choice, waiting to strike. Just try and tell your doubt to stay on the sidelines, until after the show.

Video Games and Visual Cues

dishonored video game


Playing video games will help you become a better improviser!

Wait! Before you say, "that's preposterous," and go watch cute kitten videos, hear me out. The kittens will always be there! Well, so will this blog, but still. Just hold on. I promise this will make sense! And, if it doesn't, you can sit back smugly in your chair and think, "I knew his ideas wouldn't make sense. I just knew it!" Everyone likes being right! See. If you stay, and learn, you made the right choice. And, if you stay, and don't learn, you'll feel vindicated. You win either way.

I recently completed Dishonored on Xbox. It's an incredible game, for a number of reasons, not least of which is how much information it silently communicates. Dishonored is all about surviving a unique world. You're a "dishonored" guard, who happens to be a pretty incredible assassin. You're out for revenge. And.......

'Start!"

That's all you have to go on. Better escape the jail cell, and do it quietly. How do you do that quietly?

You crouch. You're told how to crouch. Get used to crouching, because you're sneaking around a lot in this game. The guards never know where you are, and you want to keep it that way.

When you're playing from a first person perspective, however, going from standing to crouching is a minor perspective change. A few inches really. In the heart of a battle, and you're trying to slip out quietly, do you remember if you're already down? Am I standing? It's so hard to tell!

Well, it would be hard to tell...but the design team are silent geniuses. They knew the player needed some visual clues. The player needs a height hint. So they decided to change the blade. When you're walking around upright, you hold the blade upright and when you're down low, the knife is folded back, along your arm. You're ready to strike, and you're educated! You know you can duck out of the room unnoticed because you have a clear visual indication you're crouching.

dishonored 2 2016
dishonored 2

It's a visual cue that saves you a lot of frustrating guesswork.

Do you leave your improv audience to frustrating guesswork? You might. We all might. Visual cues are invaluable in a show.

When we're creating an improvised world at our Rocklin theater, the audience is much like a gamer, thrust into a unique situation. Like a game designer, we, the players better give the audience some information. It doesn't have to be verbal. We don't have to turn to an audience and tell them, "here's the table, and the family photo that makes me cry is sitting right here. On the table." It can be nonverbal cues. Pick up the photo, and tear up. Put it down, and leave the room. When you enter the room again, cross over to the table, pick something up and begin to cry, the audience will assume it's the picture again. The audience is smart, and is looking for patterns. X means Y. Reinforce it. Play with it. Help the audience. It'll probably help you in the scene too.

Listening In at Blaze Pizza

listening and talking

I live by Blaze Pizza in Roseville. It's fantastic. Think Chipotle of Pizza. Fresh. Organic. Delicious. Go there. And, have fun, be someone else. I learned something this week. Listening is filled with nearly imperceptible gaps. If I wasn't role playing, I wouldn't have noticed
I should explain.

Every time I go to Blaze, I change up my name. I've been Todd, Robbie, and this past week I was Vermont. As Robbie I was passed along the Blaze assembly line. "Robbie, what kind of sauce would you like?" "Robbie, What toppings?" It's 60 feet of persona.

This week, however, as Vermont, something weird happened (weirder then role playing in a Blaze pizza you ask, while rolling your eyes. Yes!)

The Blaze attendant, let's call him John, added red sauce to my pizza, and as he pushed along my pizza, he said "thanks, Paul." At least, I thought he said, "thanks Paul." But, he couldn't have. I didn't know him. I wasn't wearing aname tag. Every time I go into Blaze I'm someone new. I was Vermont. I've never seen this guy, yet I could have sworn he said, "thanks, Paul."

What's happening? I think my brain shut off, and filled in some gaps. It made some assumptions. How many times have we been told, "thanks, ________." That gap is for your name. It happens hundreds of times. Makes sense your brain would eventually just fill in information it assumes will "go here, and here, and here."

It's like the brain is painting by numbers, and just figures where the numbers go.

That'll mess up your "listening," though. It effected me in Blaze. I've always thought I was a really good listener. I thought I heard most everything, and processed it really well. Maybe not! In fact, that moment reinforced it....definitely not.

How often do you think this happens? How often do you think your brain comes into a situation, hears a little bit, and assumes, "we'll take it from here," and tunes out the rest. It must happen on a micro-scale pretty frequently.

Do you think it happens to you onstage? The interaction with John shook me up. I "knew" I heard something that never existed. I responded to a ghost image. Truly listening is vigilant work moment to moment. I feel like the brain wants to sneak in and simply things with assumptions.

Stay vigilant! :)

Shakespeare and Love and A Big Announcement

Betsaida Lebron and Chris Kimbrough

It has been so much fun to be part of Shakespeare and Love. The Rocklin audiences get bigger every week, and we want to say, "thank you!" We are so grateful for all the positive reviews online, and the word of mouth you have given the show. We never thought it would be this popular. I mean, sure we hoped it would, but expect it? Nope. Never. We're so excited about what Blacktop Comedy has in the upcoming months. We can't wait to share the surprises with the greater Sacramento comedy and theater community. Ok. We'll give one clue. "Thriller." That's all we'll say right now.

But, today, back to today.

There are still a handful of tickets available for this Saturday show. If you're looking for the perfect Rocklin date night come to Shakespeare and Love. You know what, let me amend that. If you're looking for the best Sacramento date night this Saturday, come check out this fun show! I said it! Love, deceit, maybe even a wedding or two. It's a Shakespeare comedy...so methinks hookups betwixt pairs shall happen.

In fact, the show has been such a big success, we'r extending the run! We're adding one more show! Next week. March 12th, Saturday night, 8pm is the final chance to catch Shakespeare and Love. If you have thought to yourself over the last month, "I'd like to get out there and see some improv comedy that utilities the themes of the Shakespeare, but yet keeps it light and consumable for all," well, you've got one more shot. You asked, and we're happy to deliver!

Hmmmm. I feel like I'm forgetting something quite big and exciting. I feel there's something happening at Blacktop that people have asked for since we opened.

One second, let me answer the phone.

[Paul picks up space object phone]

"Hello. Yes, this is Blacktop Comedy. Yes, shows are $10. What was that? Do we serve drinks?"

[Paul excitedly hangs up space object phone while declaring]

"EUREKA! That's it!"

[SCENE] Accept for 4 standing ovations.

Did we mention we're now serving beer? Yes! You read that correctly. Blacktop Comedy now serves beer. Shout it between the rooftops, " The Rocklin comedy theater Blacktop Comedy serves beer." Oh! And, what a collection of ales we have. We have Not Your Father's Root Beer and Ginger Ale, Laguinatas IPA, Moose Drool, Schofferhofer Grapefruit, and we're getting some cider too. Maybe you enjoy a drink that says, "I'm doing this ironically?" We're serving ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon too!