My friend Maura was in Asheville for less than 48 hours back in PP (pre-pandemic) times, and we squeezed a lot in. We did Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Whistle Hop, and Wedge breweries. We ate at Foothills Butcher Bar (RIP), Wicked Weed, and Curate. We visited The Burger Bar and Fleetwood’s, both of which will require their own posts at some point, shopped for art and books, sampled South Slope breweries, participated in an Irish Session in honor of the start of March, and got some home made ice cream at somewhere I won’t mention because I didn’t love it. The highlight though, was the LaZoom Comedy Tour.
I’m sort of an unabashed fan of organized tours. I have my own set of quibbles with the white washing that happens in a lot of historical tours (I’m woke now, remember?) but am a big fan of pub tours, brewery tours, food tours, bike tours, and especially the hop-on-hop-off bus tour to help acclimate yourself to a new city or learn more about one you’re already familiar with.
I chose the LaZoom Tour in lieu of the hop-on-hop-off tour I assume I’ll do when my mother visits, because I was curious about any comedy tour that’s been able to sustain itself for as long as LaZoom has in a city the size of Asheville. I know tourism is Asheville’s thing, but still, I was impressed when I learned it’s been going on since 2007.
I thought the comedy would just be weird or off-beat facts told in a less formal setting. I wasn’t expecting to learn next to nothing and witness a full-on comedy routine. If I had, I might not have bought tickets. I have a low threshold when it comes to live comedy–as much as I love secondhand embarrassment in my television, I have a hard time with it in person. I also might not have bought tickets if I realized just how forced the audience participation was, as I have a straight up audience participation phobia that I trace back to a “valiant” knight from the jousting show at The Excalibur thrusting a mic in my face the summer between fifth and sixth grade during a family vacation to Vegas and forcing me to sing/say “tra-la-la-la-la” or some bullshit. And yet! Despite my middling enthusiasm for live comedy and straight up disdain for audience participation, I had a great time.
Did it help that I was two brewery flights in when I boarded the bus? I’m certain. But also? The tour was genuinely funny and while it went the advertised hour and a half, it felt like we were on the bus for 20 minutes max…time truly flies when you’re having fun!
I’d be curious to see if the tour is just as funny a second go around, as a large portion was clearly choreographed (and I don’t know if it was the post-brunch buzz or me being still in the Asheville honeymoon phase of my move, but I found the pre-planned bits very funny). What makes me think it still might be funny is that the best part was how well the guide riffed on the audience, dubbing another rider “muskrat” for his beard, accusing my friend Maura of “smelling like a yeast infection” (I don’t know why she singled Maura out for that…), and dubbing me both “J.Crew” and “chest hair” depending on how red she wanted to make me. It always seemed good natured though and the jibes were well passed around, even if there was a specific savagery involved in dubbing one girl “top knot” that I really respected (our guide’s interactions with “top knot” were special). I also respected that they didn’t shy away from what many tour companies I’m sure would deem too “controversial:” nipples, the aforementioned yeast infection, CrossFit douchery, Catholicism, Trump, and Zelda Fitzgerald’s schizophrenia all got their time to shine.
There was a real element of IDGAF-ness to LaZoom that made me realize why it’s an Asheville institution.
Editor’s note: This post was written in March of 2020, JUST before everything shut down. It felt weird to publish a review of a tour when tours weren’t able to operate. Since I’ve seen the LaZoom bus driving around town several times over the past few weekends, I think it’s time it saw the light of day.