Improv and sketch finally ‘Clash’ in new show at Comedysportz San Jose

There is something seemingly not very random about the term “Random Search.” But there certainly is something painfully annoying about it.
But what if there was a surprise at the end? In the same way people do annoying timeshare presentations for a free meal or show, a random search might be some kind of awesome. Or if there is any accuracy in the new show “Clash,” racial profiling has the potential to be really, REALLY awesome.

“Clash,” is the second show written, directed and produced by the members of the Laughingstock Theatre Company, being presented at Comedysportz San Jose’s downtown theatre space. While Comedysportz has made their niche in the last 26 years as a place to see improvised, fast-paced comedy, “Clash” is a departure for the company. For many years, the rotation of weekend shows included the family friendly version of the show plus the 18 and over long-form improv show. But in the past few years, that has changed. Themed long-form is now the normal midnight show fare, and with this new production, sketch comedy is now making a regular trip into the quaint downtown space.

According to the national Comedysportz website, there are 21 companies in the United States, with two more in Europe. And while, according to the show’s director Jimmy Snell, there are other Comedysportz companies doing sketch, this is San Jose’s fledgling foray into a new genre.

“It was a mutual decision to do a sketch show,” said Snell, speaking about company members and Jeff Kramer, the founder of the San Jose chapter. “We’ve seen other companies doing it, and it was determined that members of the company can work on projects they wanted to work on. That’s how the sketch show came about.”

Snell said that the entire company was invited to participate back in August on their first show, entitled “Forever Alone,” and every participant had to agree to write sketches. That first premiere focused more on human relationships, and now the new show is much more driven by genres. And for a group of performers who spend their weekends making folks laugh via improvisation, the opportunity to work with a script was welcome to those whose first training was more traditional theatre.

“Sketch is the best of both worlds,” said Snell. “You get to improvise and create, and once it’s set in stone, you have your jokes and you’re ready to go.”

“Sketch is very similar to theatre, and something I am very comfortable with,” said Marisa Hankins, an improviser with the company for the past six months. Hankins first got involved with “Forever Alone” as the jack-of-all-trades – stage manager, choreographer, and the lighting and sound designer.

The process of creating a show like “Clash” is a new experience for Hankins, considering she has never spent time writing other than traditional English classes. But now, a new genre calls, and with it are endless possibilities.

“The major thing that Jimmy told us is to write what you know, and write everything,” said Hankins. “With my sense of humor, I have written about movies, pop culture, Harry Potter.

“One day I got on Pinterest, and I thought to write a Pinterest sketch. I just get a suggestion, take it from there and riff on it in my own head. I guess now everything is an idea, whereas before it wasn’t something I’d even think about.

Omar Abdullah, another member of Comedysportz and “Clash,” was attracted to the challenge of organic creation for the stage.

“It was really difficult, because there are these little pockets of when you think you understand what you’re doing,” said Abdullah. “It was good enough for me to keep trying, and it kind of works out like that.”

Abdullah certainly enjoys a chance to work with a script, but even though the rules of convention say not to stray from the written word, sometimes it’s still too irresistible.

“There’s an ephemeral quality to improv, it may be something your partner does, and it’s a gift,” said Abdullah. “As improvisers, we just can’t avoid or ignore that, we have to make it part of your reality now.

“It’s something we just do. I find myself always keeping two percent ever changing. That’s what’s fresh for us.”

What is very exciting for the company is that sketch is not something being done much in the Bay Area, except for a few companies. So for the group to delve into a popular, albeit underutilized genre, is appealing. And for a company who has firmly established themselves in one comedy genre, branching into another is a natural path.

“I feel like what we’re doing is a hybrid of improv and theatre, and that makes me really comfortable,” said Abdullah. “The group energy is so strong, as if it’s telepathic, and that doesn’t happen with a scripted show.

“It’s a wonderful departure from improv, but has so many improv elements to it.”

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

The Laughingstock Theatre Company presents “Clash”
Written by Omar Abdullah, Brandon Arnold, Sam Bowers, Cole Bridges, Nathan Diehl, Marisa Hankins, Jimmy Snell and Julia Van Roo.
Directed by Jimmy Snell
Saturdays at 9:15 pm
April 20th through May 11th
Tickets priced at $10
Comedysportz San Jose at the Camera 3 Cinemas
288 South Second St., San Jose, CA 95113
For tickets, call (408) 985-LAFF(5233) or visit www.comedysportzsanjose.com

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