The Government Shutdown and How Can We Help


The Government Shutdown and How Can We Help

Well, here we are. The government is still shutdown. Government employees are still furloughed, and we don’ really see any end in sight. The politics are posturing, everyone is making their speeches, and the employees are getting squeezed.

I’m not here to talk politics, but I am here to say what we’re all thinking, “this sucks for the thousands of employees who need that money.“

We can’t solve everything here at Blacktop Comedy (but if we could? Things would look different!). We can, however, do our part to help make this a little less of a burden on everyone.

“What are you trying to say Paul? Why are you burying the lead? Shouldn’t you start a blog post with something new and exciting and not something we already know. We know the government shutdown is here. What are you going to do about it?”

You’re right, let’s skip over the bad, and get to the good: FREE ADMISSION FOR FURLOUGHED FEDERAL EMPLOYEES! Money is tight, and you’re stressed over bills.

The one time you actually need to get out of the house, and go enjoy some live comedy you can’t…because it costs money. Normally. Normally it costs money. But, it’s worth repeating, this week: FREE ADMISSION FOR FURLOUGHED FEDERAL EMPLOYEES!

You need a community of support, and not a community of sniping, angry, and exhausted politicians shouting at each other. You need laughter. We have a community. And laughter. And it’s available. It’s at Blacktop Comedy.

We're offering free admission to Open Mic, Friday Improv Playground, and Saturday's show, Rollin in Riches!


Have you wanted to TRY improv? Join us for the Friday Playground! You’ll learn new improv games. It’s like an improv jam blended with a class. You’ll learn, laugh, and meet new people. It’s the oppisate of a negative furlough.

Are you looking to watch more live stand up comedy? The Blacktop Comedy Open Mic welcomes the best live, and local comedians to the stage. We even get touring comics looking to work on their set at our Open Mic. You’ll see 20 comedians in 90 minute! Guaranteed laughter.

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Finally, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS SHOW! Rollin’ in Riches is an amazing Los Angeles based duo who is making a special, one night only performance at Blacktop. This Saturday you can catch one of the best improv duos from LA (and Los Angeles has a lot of improv comedy).

How do you take advantage of this special event, open mic, and improv jam? Just bring a government \ employment ID for verification to the Blacktop Box Office.

That’s all you have to do to enjoy some incredible local and visiting comedians. We hope this helps in a small way. I know getting out of the house, seeing other people, and laughing with each other is healing, and helps us tap into a positive mindset. I think we could all use more of that right now.

ALSO! Important….let’s be honest…I don’t think this blog readership is large. If you read my blog…thank you! Could you help me and share this post? Could you let a furloughed employee know what we are doing? I want everyone to know they’re invtied to join us this week. Open Mics are Wednesday, Friday Improv Playground is…well….on Friday, and Rollin’ and Riches do their thing this Saturday. See you soon!


Making a Difference:  NorCal Bully Breed Rescue


Making a Difference: NorCal Bully Breed Rescue

When I think back on 2018 I’m so grateful we have a theater and venue that can offer a stage to wonderful organizations trying to help the world. Our venue has been a great spot for fundraisers in 2018, and we look forward to continuing to work with the best nonprofits in 2019.

NorCal Bully Breed Rescue is just such a group. They held Paws for the Cause in 2018 at Blacktop Comedy, and money raised went to help at risk dogs in Sacramento and Placer.I had the chance to talk with Leah Kelsey, who organized the event, and learn more about the Rescue. If you were not able to attend Paws for the Cause you can still help NBBR. Leah was nice enough to provide some links below.

What does NorCal Bully Breed Rescue (NCBBR) offer the local community?

NBBR provides temporary foster homes to dogs pulled from shelters, strays, and medical dogs at risk for being euthanized and adopt them out to loving safe homes. The rescue also strives to educate the public on the importance of spaying/neutering and vaccinating your dog. The work that the rescue does helps with decreasing the amount of homeless dogs that are caused by abandonment and dogs that are not spayed and neutered in our community.


How long have you been with NorCal Bully Breed Rescue?

I have been involved with the rescue for a little over a year now. I am unable to foster so I help with dog transport from the shelter, events, and dog sitting. A group of us also helped walk dogs at a facility out in Chico during the Paradise fires.  

What's the best part of working with NorCal Bully Breed Rescue?

One of the best parts is to see the volunteers and owners in organization come together with so much love for these dogs and do whatever needs to be done to get them to a safe place. It isn’t always easy and can be emotionally taxing to see what these dogs go through and provide the care they need. The women in this group are some of the strongest, most caring, bad ass women I have ever met. Even after a long work week or balancing their personal lives they all step up to the plate to get the dogs to the vet or care for medical dogs with extreme needs, or drive long distances to do home checks. They do all of this without batting an eyelash and with so much love in their hearts, that to me is one of the best things to be a part of. 

What do you hope people learn tomorrow at Paws for the Cause?

The rescue does not only pull in bully breeds but I would like people to gain insight that bully breeds are so sweet and loving. I feel breed discrimination can be diminished with education and people giving these dogs a chance. I also want people to understand the importance of dog ownership, it is a long term commitment. Too many times dogs are given up to shelters or neglected which causes overcrowding in shelters and euthanasia of their pet. 

Where did you come up with the idea for Paws for the Cause?

The rescue has helped me in the past and I wanted to give back to them the best way I knew I could. It was so nice for my employer to help in hosting this event that brought in $2,800 for the organization. We also had a lot of local business’s chip in and Paul providing BlackTop Comedy as the venue for this occasion was beyond helpful!

If someone wants to help, but couldn't make Paws for the Cause, how can they get involved with NorCal Bully Breed Rescue?

There are multiple ways to help! You can visit their website to get details on using Amazon Smile that would donate a portion of items you purchase, you can send money donations via pay pal, or inquire on their Facebook page on how to ship needed items for their dogs.

If there are people interested in fostering dogs they can apply on the NBBR website as well!

Website -

Pay Pal -

Facebook -


If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation! Travelling would be much cheaper. 

What's something you know now, that you wish you knew 10 years ago?  

I wish I would have known more about overcrowded shelters and how many dogs on a daily are being dumped. I would have gotten involved in helping the rescue much sooner!


Yes, And Christmas


Yes, And Christmas


Merry Christmas!

I hope your Christmas has been lovely, and feels perfect.
Oh, yours isn't going perfect? Mine either. I'm sick! I wasn't expecting to be sick. I don't think anyone jumps out of bed and expects to be sick (maybe hypochondriacs).

But, here you are, and here I am, realizing this day is not going as we hoped.
Oh, well, maybe next year.


....We look at this as the most perfect opportunity if not the most perfect day. Here is a chance to put all our improv training to work. We've taken the improv classes, learned what makes a good scene, and stepped onstage a few dozen (or hundred dozen times) ready to yes, and and discover with our scene partner.

Well, you're looking at the biggest scene partner ever right now: Christmas Day. You're surrounded by offers, positivity, and opportunity. Will you yes, and the day, or curl up and let out the biggest, "no-thank-you, i'm not going to participate in your improv scene": bah humbug.

Have you ever looked out "that" window in your house? The window is there to be looked through.
Have you ever walked down, "that" street? The street is there just for you to walk!
Have you ever read chapter 7 in "that" book without reading 1-6? Chapter seven is just waiting for you.
How about writing an email to someone you haven't spoken with in years? Gmail is just waiting to mail your letter!

Yeah! OK. Sure. How adorable Paul. All these, 'coulds', but what's the point? What would it do?

Well, it would help you see everything as an opportunity to engage, and realize it's sitting there for you, if you take the time. Just take the time to do something you haven't done:

"Yes, I will take a walk down this new street and I will see sign for 'Free Guitar Lessons.'
Yes, I have always wanted to learn guitar, and call the number...
Yes, I love my first lesson and commit to weekly of classes....
Yes, with my new skills and confidence I audition for a band, and good news! I have my first show next October.

It's like a giant snowball of wonderful that grows. You can push that snowball down the hill in any direction, anytime you want.

It's that simple....and that hard. It's always hard to try something new.

And, yes, we're practicing what we preach. We can't go see the family today, because we're sick, and we don't want to infect them with all of this. We're going to grab some gift cards, wrap them up, and give them to people working at McDonalds. I think most of those locations are 24-hours...and working on Christmas sucks. And, even if it doesn't suck, and they love working on Christmas, who hates a gift? Zero people. I tallied all the voters and zero people hate surprise gifts.

(I know. I know. We're sick....won't our germs be on those gifts? No! At least, we're wiping down our hands and the gift with Lysol wipes to kill all the germs. I got my germaphobe brain figuring out all the angles. We want to pass on happiness, and gift cards....and not sickness.)

After that! We'll hit the road. We're going for a drive and we don't know where. We're just going to get on the road, and go. Maybe we'll drive down that road we've seen hundreds of times, but have never been sure what's down there. I have a hunch we'll end up in Sierras somewhere, but I don't know. Our goal is to see new things....and we'll yes, and the next adventure.

I hope you can yes, and today, and have an adventure of newness! If the day hasn't been perfect so far, I can at least control the upcoming moment.....coming


Improv Wisdom: Improv Teams


Improv Wisdom: Improv Teams

How do you know which improv team to perform with? Everyone is asking to perform with you! Dealing with a flood of calls from New York, Chicago, LA? How can you manage all of this?!

We have the answer!


Camp Fire Relief Fundraiser


Camp Fire Relief Fundraiser


Every day at Blacktop, we host classes, or shows, or rehearsals, we do something that relies on working together.  Most of what we do is comprised of improvisational comedy, which is unscripted theater made up on the spot.  The tenets of improv involve support and agreement, with your scene partner or team.   And as a team, class, or our overall community, we practice this emotional, mental, playful support constantly.  Whether it’s a warm-up, an exercise, or a game the key is I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.   It’s all about teamwork.   Without a partner or a team in improv, the show means nothing, there is no one key player or character in an improv show.   It can’t work unless everyone is on board.

I’ve seen games or shows work out even if everyone wasn’t on the teamwork page, but it took longer than necessary. And good improv (you’ll know it when you see it), happens more often when the players agree (even if it appears their characters are disagreeing).

I’ve been fortunate enough to get in a little teaching, take some amazing workshops, and see some incredible shows.  I still get stage fright. Like, hardcore stage fright.  I still worry if I will be able to contribute and make the right move at the right time.  Sometimes I need to remind myself still, that it isn’t about me, it’s about what we are going to do on stage together.

Lesson Learned Part One: It isn’t about me.

Each year Blacktop Comedy does a fall fundraiser, raising material goods and monetary donations to a local charity.   This year as we were planning, the Camp Fire broke out. It’s a staggering tragedy that effects countless lives. It’s a disaster. Every time you turn on the news, or read an article you’re struck by the mounting losses. I’m also struck by the sense of community, and peoples willingness to come together, and help one another.

Leason Learned Part Two: It’s about us.

We want to help. And, what we do is make people laugh. We’re taking that skill, and turning it into a fundraiser for the Camp Fire relief efforts.

We at Blacktop will be hosting a fundraiser comedy show on Friday, November 30th at 8pm.  It will be a variety show of stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy.  We’ll have stand-up comedy by Kelley Nicole, Cristian Amaral, and Syndey Roll.  The sketch writing and talents of Jay Miller and Kevin Scott Brown. Featuring performances by Jordan Mata and Austin Jansma.  Improv performances by Blacktop’s incredible house team of Paul Burke, improv veterans Dustin Seidler and Troy Wallis, as well as Shoana Hunt and myself (Ciara Cumiskey).  I am immensely thankful to all the comics, volunteers, and Blacktop Comedy donating their time and efforts.

Proceeds from the show will benefit the North Valley Community Foundation Camp Fire Relief Fund.  The NVCF is based in Chico and distributes grants to multiple causes affected by the fire ranging from churches, to veterans, to animals, and shelters in the area.

We are not collecting material donations at this event, as most organizations are requesting monetary donations first.  If you would like to donate directly to the NVCF for a tax-deductible donation you can donate here:

If you’re interested in volunteering you can work with Caring Choices:

They will be needing volunteers in the coming weeks and months to facilitate recovery.

We thank you in advance for support of your and our community.  We look forward to seeing you at the show, around town, and just living life.  

Thank you for being part of community and helping out those in need! We all have the opportunity to help.



Teen Slasher Cast Interview


Teen Slasher Cast Interview

Last month we brought Teen Slasher back for it’s 8th season. This time Teen Slasher took the Rocklin audience to space!

Lots of murder, mayhem, and laughs ensued. I had a chance to sit down with the cast and ask them some questions about the performance, preparation, and favorite moments.

A lot of work goes into this improvised genre comedy! If you would like to see some pictures and videos from the show be sure to check out our Instagram.


What was your favorite kill during Teen Slasher?

Kevin:  It wasn't really a kill, but Troy's character during the first show was badly injured. He wasn't dead, so he crawled onto the stage, dragging himself across, and did it several time during the show and it killed me each time.

Dustin:  My favorite kill during teen slasher was a failed kill. Troys character was almost killed but never died and kept coming back crawling and dragging himself across stage. It was such a fun bit.

Jay:  That’s a tough one. We did one show where I was turned into a rat-man hybrid by Dustin’s character. I ended up eating Austin while Kevin (who was amazing on lights and sound) activated the blacklight strobe. Austin’s character was likeable and sympathetic, which made it a genuinely terrifying and emotional moment in which a character’s death truly mattered. It felt like a real, heart wrenching moment in a good movie and it stuck with me because of that

Troy:  In rehearsal we had an alien that would just make people explode.
So we had fun just bringing on random characters that would just be there to explode.

Sydney:  Oh, well during one of our rehearsals someone killed a monster with a giant condom.

Which has been your favorite character to perform and why?

Kevin:  While I wasn't a character this year, but I have done it in the past. I remember playing Chad, a jock, which was different for me since I am such a nerdy person in real life. It was a lot of fun to emulate that kind of person and confidence.  

Dustin:  My favorite character to play was Jays son that turned evil. It was a lot of fun playing with the transformation of the kid as he turned bad. I had a blast playing with the voice bouncing back and forth between sweet and innocent to possessed and evil.

Jay:  Les Talent was a joy. I rarely play villains or jerks, so playing an egomaniacal space captain on the verge of a psychotic break was a nice change of pace. Les ended up being the killer in that particular show, so I had the chance to get out of my comfort zone with a character.

Troy:  In rehearsal again I played an alien who could no longer feel emotions but

had them before. He had to make a choice to lose emotions and live or just die. It was interesting to see how that character felt about himself and other people after the incident that left him emotionless.

Sydney:  I have one character and he is a very old man. He's fun, cause he's sassy and usually has a storied past.

Tips for anyone looking to use fake blood?

Kevin:  If you get in on your clothes, make sure to NOT dry it in the dryer until the stain is completely gone. If you are not careful, the dryer can heat press the stain and it will never come out. Also, avoid getting it in your mouth.

Dustin:  Tips for using fake blood would be practice using it  lots before the show. I would also recommend finding fun ways to deliver the fake blood. My favorite was the water gun filled with fake blood.

Jay:  There are numerous types/brands of fake blood. Understand how yours works. If you’re spilling it (as opposed to using it as costume makeup), practice with it and understand how it sprays, whether it stains, etc.

Troy:  Practice Practice Practice. Know your blood capabilities and limitations. Have fun!

Sydney:  Either take careful precaution and... post-caution (?), or just be prepared to have everything covered in blood for the rest of all time.

What surprised you during your run of Teen Slasher?

Kevin:  The biggest surprise is was how quickly the cast was able to come together and put on an amazing show. We had less than 20 days from our first rehearsal to our first show. They all worked so hard and showed real passion.

Dustin:  What surprised me the most was how slippery the stage got with the fake blood. At moments I felt like a was doing blood ice capades.  

Jay:  No matter how many times I perform in Teen Slasher (this is my 6th year), the audience turnout never ceases to amaze me. Despite loving the genre, seeing full houses for every show was a huge surprise. Maybe October just gets people in the mood to see some bloodshed.

Troy:  Putting the Teen Slasher Genre into space was a more challenging than I thought it would be.  There were many ways to introduce a "killer". Rogue Alien on board. Or some biological mishap that changed crew members.  With no defined killer the story line could get a little confusing.

Sydney:  If you buy white pants from a thrift store, about 90% of what you find will be 10+ years old.

What's one tip you would give another improviser interested in genre work?

Kevin:  I would say there is a very delicate balance when doing genre work. It takes both researching the genre and experimentation. You need to be both truthful to the source material but also make it your own.

Dustin:  Genre work is a lot of fun. I would recommend anyone interested in working on genre work start by watching and researching the genre they want to perform. Make the plot simple and easy to follow. Focus most on the characters and relationship in the story they are most important.

Jay:  First, make sure you understand how to tell a story. Being a good storyteller will make any genre show easier. Second, understand your genre. Read it, watch it and absorb it as much as you can. Recognizing the tropes that pop up in your chosen genre means you can take utilize them to tell your story well.

Troy:  Focus on characters not plot. Keep it simple. Foreshadowing can be really fun.   Example: setting up rooms with weapons or different ways someone could die. Then using those things later in the show.

Sydney:  Do your research! Genre work is the same as anything else really, you just have to know what you're drawing from.


How a Kill Room in Rocklin Renewed My Improv Feels


How a Kill Room in Rocklin Renewed My Improv Feels



Burnout happens. Nothing is immune! Even passions can feel like more work than joy.

I was there in Burnout City (not Burnout Paradise...which is a really fun game! Go download it on XBox...they just released a remastered version...and it sure is purty. I think it's exclusively on XBox. If it's on PS4, I apologize. I have no allegiance to XBox. Just go experience the game...but after reading the rest of this post of course. I think you'll enjoy it...the post...and the game….but let’s focus on the post right now. Onward!)

And, damn, the population always feels like one, right? When you feel burnout it feels like the world is moving at a different speed, and you wish you were there, but you don't know how to feel that again. All around me are people loving improv excited to perform, and here I am sitting there thinking, "I don't feel the spark." I wanted to be excited, I wanted to feel passionate, but you can't force it. At least, I discovered you can't force it. When you "attempt" to get passionate again, and it doesn't work, you just slide further down into burnout and disappointment.

And, then, a wonderful thing happened! I walked onto the Teen Slasher set! I felt so warm, and fuzzy, and excited. The team had transformed the theater into a giant tarp covered kill room. It felt like walking into an episode of Dexter. The theater stage was quarantined with tarps.

Jay, Kevin, Sydney, Dustin, Troy and Austin had worked hours on designing the space for a very special two night, blood-soaked spectacle called Teen Slasher 8! Kevin and Jay co-directed this years show, and together with the cast developed the vision. They worked together, and came up with something special.This year Teen Slasher takes the bloody good time to space. Like any good franchise, eventually, you put that series in deep space.. All the greats do it! Halloween. Leprechaun. Jason. Dracula Hollywood have even tossed some Killer Klowns into space!


When I entered the theater I was awestruck.


...more then awe. I felt that spark, I felt that joy. I felt that, "wow. We can do anything in improv," feeling. You never know when it hits, but you never forget when it does. I’ve felt that way a few times. The first time was when I discovered long form improv. It was in San Francisco, and the team was Revolving Madness (they no longer perform...but damn they were fun). I remember walking away from that show saying, "you can do that?! That was amazing." That's how I felt walking onto the set of our Teen Slasher show, "this is beautiful, and amazing."

You can walk onto the set too, and feel all the feels. And, who doesn’t want to feel all the feels? But, your chance to feel the feels is fleeting!

Halloween, is your final chance.

You will laugh, you will be sprayed with blood*, and you will realize just some of the beautiful things you can do with improv. Will you be inspired? Maybe. Will you laugh? Definitely! Will you score some free candy at the box office on your way in? Of course! It's Halloween! Let's enjoy a sugar high together and watch improv comedy survival horror!

*We help you guard against that blood splatter by offering you the best in high-tech, space-age ponchos. Working closely with NASA**  and the CIA***, Blacktop has created a marvel in protective gear.

"But, Paul," you begin, "are these just garbage bags?"

"Garbage bags with 3 holes cut in them! That's top-shelf tech."

**NASA: Nurturing And Sassy Animals

***CIA: Collective of Interesting Apples