Category: Aspen Comedy Festival
It feels weird calling these by letters; but it’s actually almost sincere. They’re thisclose to cattlecalls in a way. The stand-ups in this group were Baron Vaughn, Anthony Jeselink, Aziz Ansari, Deon Cole and Russ Meneve, with Robert Kelly MCing. The audience was a little off by some accounts, but I actually enjoyed this group quite a bit. Baron Vaughn, a former winner of our Aristocontest, had some fantastic work including iPod users dismissing him for his ancient “Phantasmagorical CD Player” and on Jack Daniels’ hometown of Lynchburg (“There were a lot of negros, and then there weren’t”).
This was also the first time I’ve seen Anthony Jeselink’s faux-egotistical style (“this is about to pay off” was how he introduced himself). Favorite line: “My friend just told me he had cancer. And I know there’s nothing funny about that. But it’s the way he said it.” Anthony was right, these are “great jokes.”
Aziz had a fantatic set, with my favorite bit being the tag on a joke about Kanye West’s bragging where he “wrote that joke on a Tuesday and I refuse to compromise the wording.” He also kept the egotistical vibe going with a joke about being too connected: “Comedy badboy Aziz Ansari AKA comedy hearthrob Aziz Ansari was killed in a car crash today while he was googling his own name.”
I’m also a big fan of Deon Cole’s notepad, which he uses to check off and cross out jokes in his set as he goes along. (Best line: “I see men beat on women. That ain’t cool. it’s funny, but it ain’t cool.”)
Did I mention the crowd was a little difficult? Russ Meneve was the most referential to the crowd’s quiet, admitting “look these jokes aren’t for everybody.” I don’t see why that would be? What could be more audience friendly than making jokes about have sex “human style” when your dog is lying on it’s back.
Was looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. Based off the fantastic Christopher Buckley book (Bizarrely, i felt stupid when I asked people if they read it and they said “no”), the movie featured Aaron Eckheart as Nick Naylor, a man who talks for a living for big tobacco. He’s charged with reversing the downward trend in teen smoking by his employers, a lobbyist group who scientists have found no link between smoking and any ill-health effects (their scientst, Nick says, could “disprove gravity”). The film is definitely an adult satire, in some ways a celebration of a lack of integrity. Director Jason Reitman plays with putting icons and symbols, using them to highlight and creating jokes that would require exposition otherwise. There’s all kinds of small bits layered in the background, such as the all-black pallbearers at the funeral of a North Carolina Big Tobacco lord, creating a richness that rewards multiple viewings. The ending is nicely uncompromised as well. And the big plus for not creating some faux-revelation: the movie was the perfect length for a comedy - 92 mnutes.
Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival
Just informed that Dave Chappelle performed at Wayans’ Round Midnight show, which I had tickets for but decided to instead to brave drinking alcohol in a high altitude environment. The next day, I saw Chappelle just hanging out in the front lobby, smiling, laughing. Seems just fine to me.
Ran into The PIT’s Alex Zalben, who related to me a story about a sketch comedy team. Too many details to go into, but suffice it to say: make sure you give agents, festival organizers, media, etc your correct email address. You may miss an opportunity.
Todd Levin and I talked comedy films for a little while and the man knows his stuff. Hopefully he has a script in his back pocket for thrusting into the hands of development peeps.
According to one local, in past years, comics inhale oxygen backstage before some of the bigger shows so they can compensate for the high-altitude environment. Adding the water requirements, the snow and the lack of affordable housing, Aspen is simply not fit for man.
Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival
This double bill was my favorite show so far. Eliza Coupe‘s “Patriots” was first, appearing as five different characters, each uniquely American in some way. My favorites are a working class Boston woman who’s at Wallmart in search of an engagement ring ( “Fricking gays can get married, this one right here can get her own frickin’ ring.”) and an Irish girl who wants to be adopted by an American couple for all the wrong reasons. Each character is rendered completely whole, completely recognizable and perfect in tone.
Then the Whitest Kids U Know come on and tore the place up. Combining some of their popular video segments with live sketches, the show grabbed the audience immediately and did not let go. There’s so many highlights here: an overwrought inspiring line leader who leads his charges to recess and into “worse horrors cannot be conjured by R.L. Stine”, a grossout sketch where one of the WKUK joins the audience screaming at another to not drink from a bucket of “boners” and a scene that intentionally doesn’t play funny until it’s revealed to be written as a vendetta against one of the player’s girlfriend. And that’s a small sampling of what we saw.
The WKUK have no dogma about making a sketch last a certain length. One sketch which involves a pirate captain trying to get the attention of his fellow “yarrr!”-ing pirates plays at a perfect and surprising length. Another sketch holds for an almost uncomfortable length on two character crying over the discover that one is afflcted with a brain tumor, culminating in a wonderful payoff that’s enhanced by the tension.
To see some of the video segments from this show, including “Pregnancy Test” and “We Gon’ Make Love”, check out the clip archive on the WKUK site. As one audience member said between sketches, “Wow!” Somebody, give ‘em a deal now.
This show was packed. According to one account, only 300-350 were anticipated and 600 people showed up. It made for a rowdy crowd, perfect for shouting out suggestions to the improvisers. The show was billed “adults only”, but, in some ways, it’s only because what naturally happens whenever you solicit for ideas from an audience. As the show went along, people were following along, chanting for the improvisers to “puppet up” (which is simply picking a puppet to put your hand inside).
Host Partick Bristow was great at working the crowd for suggestions and for tossing off one-liners. When one suggestion resulted in a scene where characters are carpooing to the Church of Scientology to make a human sacrifice, he simply tossed off “enjoy my obituary.”
The show was impressive, since the performers not only have to figure out what to say but how to represent it physically through the puppets. I sometimes appreciate improv because it’s the mental equivalent of the trapezee act, it’s amazing simply to watch these performers catch each other from the leaps they make. By that measure alone the show is a success.
The show is a bit more “Who’s Line” than “UCB” with the focus on games more than creating scenes. Improv fundamentalists might be a little bothered by the occassional lapses of “Yes And”. During one scene, one improviser choosed to make a random noise provided for the game a “mini-helicopter”, but the other improviser denied the choice and made it a “vibrating propeller condom.” Sometimes improvisers actively asked in character for their partner to provide the answer for predicaments they were in. These are perhaps purist’s concerns, but yes-anding a bit more could help some scenes. Still, it’s a dazzingly inventive show, and worth seeing for the high-wire aspects.
Stand-Ups are grouped together by letter here, each five to a group. There’s no theme or anything, so one act can be quite a bit different from the next. Group C, had DeRay, Robert Kelly, Lenny Marcus, Veronica Mosey and Brent Weinbach with the show MCed by Guy Torry.
They all a pretty good command of the crowd, but the one I enjoyed most myself was Brent Weinbach. His style is definitely off-kilter. He holds the mike with two hands, every word annunciated carefully, in an almost staccato rhythm. He reminded me a little of Gilbert Gottfried. My favorite joke of his involved a hardcore gangsta picking a flower; he simply stands on stage, and, in perfect homeboy, says “Oh, snap” and mimes picking the flower. That just killed me.
Brent’s also self aware enough to play on stage with what he’d be like if he was both more natural (which satirizes other comics’ easy jokes with a bit Arnold Schwarznegger taking a dump) annd more creepy (“You know the problem with poo-poo? God made it delicious.”). He wasn’t necessary somebody for everybody in that room Wednesday night, but I can definitely see why he’s a favorite of America’s Radio Sweetheart Jesse Thorn. To get a taste of Brent check out the clip archive on his website.