Laughs on the blacktop


Jonathan H. Ellyson

Improvisers Ashleigh YaYa and Betsaida LeBron pantomime twirling parasols as part of a longform improv inspired by the word “cloud.”

Take one black box theater, add some funny people, throw in a dash of audience participation and the end result is a comedy show performers and customers can all enjoy. At Blacktop Comedy improv and sketch theater several American River College students give performances weekly. Voted best comedy club in the region by the KCRA 3 A-list, the Roseville-based club provides a variety of comedy shows.

Co-owners Betsaida LeBron ,who first studied improv at ARC, and Paul Burke moved to the location on Galilee Road in early 2011 with the goal of “creating a supportive improv environment where improvisers can excel and show off new skills.” The club not only does weekend shows but offers a variety of workshops during the week for up-and-coming improvisers to learn and develop their talents.

According to ARC alumnus and veteran improviser Kevin Brown, the name of the theater comes from a playground blacktop where kids get to be crazy and have fun during recess. Blacktop recreates that by playing improv games allowing performers to get wacky and be ridiculous.

“I’ve been at Blacktop for almost three years now. I got cast, and after a few months I was doing Shorties (a weekly-performance team). The atmosphere here is very friendly and it’s pretty much like a family,” said theater arts major Jonathon Milby, whose last performance at ARC was in “The Three Musketeers.”

“I watched a lot of it, I have a lot of friends who do it at clubs around town, but I knew Betsaida before from classes and she told me about auditions,” said ARC theater arts major Lindsey Loe, who has been with Blacktop for about a year, after taking her first improv class in 2011.

“Everyone’s really nice and there’s a lot of opportunities. You can come here so many days of the week and there is always something to do,” said Loe. Blacktop focuses on instruction and fosters a community of people who have all become friends.

“We get together and gel. It’s like jamming,” said Loe, regarding the difference between practicing and rehearsing. “(Rehearsing) would mean memorizing lines but we’re really just going over drills and formats and what ends up on stage is completely unpredictable every time.”

LeBron and Loe are also members of a group called Yadda Yadda Yadda, an improv a capella team that performs every month.

“We all discovered that we like to do music and can sing. There’s five ladies. We get a suggestion from the audience and then sing a song at whim that we make up on the spot,” said Loe, “so you imagine a girl band like The Spice Girls, and after singing the song we do scenes based on (that) song and then (continue to) other songs based on those scenes.”

Yadda Yadda Yadda’s next show is Dec. 6, but Blacktop puts on comedy shows every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Suite 150, 7311 Galilee Road in Roseville.