default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Teen jokesters bring out laughs in Lodi

Tokay High School’s comedysportz team offers improv to area

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, January 20, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:02 am, Fri Jan 20, 2012.

The Tokay High School Theater is dimly lit, with laughter erupting from the first few rows. Five teenagers are scattered on-stage, frozen, with arms and legs bent akimbo, waiting for a sixth to tell them what to do next.

A tall girl serves as liaison between the stage and audience and offers four options.

Option A: Ian breakdances.

Option B: Alba breakdances.

Option C: Alba breakdances and is a zombie.

Option D: Michael can’t talk, falls to the ground and waits for Ian to help him, only to find that Ian has become a hungry zombie with an eye on Michael.

The audience debates for a moment. These are pretty good options. They narrow it down to C or D. Drama teacher Jim Jones has the final say.

It’s option D. Michael dies and is carried offstage by his fellows.

This was one scene practiced by the black team, one of four that make up the high school’s comedysportz club. They’re an improvisational theater troupe who compete among themselves and against other high school teams to earn points and laughs.

Jones was inspired to start up the team after hearing a presentation by a professional improv team in L.A. several years ago.

“I liked the structure, I liked that it was family friendly,” he said. “You can bring a fiveor six-year-old to a show.”

Now, as the coach for Tokay’s team, he advises the largest high school improv club in Northern California. The club’s forty members are split into four teams, identified by purple, gold, black and gray shirts.

Tonight, the black team will head to Roseville High School to compete. Their next home show is on April 3.

Performances are set up like a tournament. Each has several rounds of scenes, two teams alternating or battling on-stage and a referee with an eye out for foul plays.

These include the groaner, delay of game and brown bag fouls.

If the audience groans at a pun, the player has to apologize to the audience and hope they accept it.

Slow jokers must pass the scene to the other team.

Stepping past the boundaries of good taste forces the perpetrator to wear a brown paper bag over his or her head for the rest of the scene.

All these rules are meant to keep the game moving, family-friendly, and legitimately funny.

An improv team in Sacramento, part of the professional comedysportz league, partners with Tokay High to provide training, instructors and referees for each competition.

The players are all over the board. Some have a background in theater while some are shy and reluctant to come out of their shell outside of their weekly practice.

But acting in improv requires students to think fast, take risks and be willing to fail.

Four team captains have learned a few valuable lessons on how to survive the fast paced nature of improv.

“If you’re going to fail, fail big because it’s hilarious to the audience,” said Matthew Litfin, 16, who captains the purple team.

Players hail from various social circles on campus, but cliques go out the window on-stage and among club members, said Anthony Rodriguez, 17, captain of the gray team. Personal dignity is not important. Sometimes pants are ripped.

Keeping a ragtag group of energetic teenagers in line isn’t easy.

“The hardest part is controlling the team without killing their imagination,” said Jamie Walcott, 18, who manages the black team.

But perhaps the most important skill is the ability to roll with the punches.

Someone in the audience could throw out any idea to influence a skit. It’s essential for players to keep up on pop culture, according to Walcott’s mother Nara Walcott who helps supervise the club.

“You have to be ready,” she said. “If you’re not ready, fake it.”

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

More about

More about

More about

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:


Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 85


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists