You have to wave. You just have to.
Strolling the streets of downtown Asheville, one will soon hear a commotion in the distance. Yelling. Laughter. Soon, a large purple bus rounds the corner. Arms sticking out of every window, endless hands waving in your direction. Before you know it, everyone around you on the sidewalk is reciprocating the motions. And just as soon as it came into your vision, the LaZoom bus is gone—around another corner, onward to entertain more unsuspecting folks.
“You see the bus go by,” said Kelly Molony, sales and human resources manager for LaZoom. “And once you ride the bus, you understand why everyone waves at it. You just can’t help it—it’s like you’re in a parade.”
For the last 10 years, the LaZoom comedy bus tours have become an iconic sight in Asheville. Featuring sketch comedy—on and off the bus—all while patrons can enjoy wine and beer (BYOB), the company continues to meander around the city, all in hopes of putting smiles on the faces of locals and visitors alike.
“We’re a city tour with a twist. We try to provide a different experience than what you might expect with a tourist bus in other cities,” Molony said. “Your tour guide is dressed up in character, telling jokes while educating you about the city, and you run into other costumed characters on the street as you ride through town.”
LaZoom was created by Jim and Jen Lauzon, who were street performers that moved to Asheville from New Orleans. They wanted to try and start something completely different from anything else in Asheville, a city that prides itself in being open and supportive to any idea that is planted and cultivated with passion and zest.
“It’s a rolling circus,” Molony said. “A lot of people might think we’re just a party bus, and to an extent we are, but the core of LaZoom is that we’re a traveling theatre—the ‘party’ is the cherry on top of the performances.”
The company began with Jen in character on the bus, Jim on the street performing, and a driver. Nowadays, they employ upwards of 20 people, with the scripts and sketches always evolving. Alongside their daily tours, there are also craft brewery treks (which includes a live band on the bus), haunted rides, and also an excursion for kids on Saturday mornings.
“The core of LaZoom is that we’re a traveling theatre. The ‘party’ is the cherry on top of the performances.” —Kelly Molony, LaZoom
“It’s a very familial environment to work in, one where I get to wrangle in all these crazy and wild actors, all these characters and personalities,” Molony chuckled. “And that plays into Asheville as a whole, which is this community of people following their dreams.”
With memorable characters like “The Nuns,” “Anita Valium,” “Hellena Handbasket,” and “Earlene Hooch,” the group consists of seasoned actors who immerse themselves in their characters while the busses roll through downtown. It’s as much about comedic chaos as it is simply enjoying the essence of Asheville.
“There’s this whole ‘Keep Asheville Weird’ concept, and I think we provide that experience,” Molony said. “Asheville is this quirky, hip, and interesting artist town, and people who come here to live or visit really embrace this culture.”
This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to order your own free copy. Learn more about LaZoom tours at lazoomtours.com.
Max Cooper Photo