Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival
There’s no full line-up for 2007 as of yet on the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival site, but here’s what can be gleamed from various blogs:
I’m going to be wrapping up all the shows and events I saw in Aspen below, but I wanted to give you the winners from 2006 now:
Best Stand-up – Aziz Ansari and Mitch Fatel
Best Alternative – Kristen Schaal
Best Sketch – Whitest Kids U Know
Best One Person Show – Rick Cleveland, “My Buddy Bill”
Entertainment Weekly Breakout Award – Eliza Coupe
As you can tell, there’s a huge representation from both New York and UCB (a fact Matt Besser pointed out to me with deserved pride). Film winners after the jump.
I’m very familiar with all these people’s work from before, so this show was a real joy for me from very beginning, which featured changing images of viral images set to an “All Your Base” song. The show focused mostly on the real sites of the creators, but the first shown was the fake internationalfanmale.lb from Todd Levin & Bob Powers (not lovers), which celebrated the models and the clothing from International Male. even though its most popular page features a three-years-too-late 9/11 tribute with a photo of a kitten on a duck on a rabbit. Adorable.
Much of the rest of the show was a combo of education/entertainment as I imagine that a fair amount of the 4:30PM Bellyup crowd wasn’t really aware of the possibilities of humor on the web from Chelsea Peretti‘s “Black People Love Us” to a clip featuring thrown scissors from College Humor (which brought a huge gasp). Charlie Todd‘s account of the beginnings of Improv Everywhere including clips from both his pranks in NY and Aspen was a huge hit. Watching mountain residents eat the “free snowcones” made from much-trod-upon snow was a thing of joy. Hopefully those people are going to get tested for, well, everything.
CollegeHumor’s Ricky Van Veen and Jacob Lodwick pulled back the veil a bit on how they “serve up the world’s finest dick jokes” to a million monthly readers. The biggest surprise to me is that they now get paid by Big Media to put up videos from upcoming movies and shows to make them appear as if they were pirated. Their rules for successful viral videos:
Of course, then they show something that didn’t make it on the site, a somewhat homoerotic clip of guys slapping a plastic bag filled with wine. Oh well, at least it made it to Aspen.
Lemon: Annabelle Gurwitch was fired by Woody Allen. “You look retarded,” he said.
Lemonade: “Fired!” - a collection of stories from comedians, actors and writers about how they were fired. It’s been a live show, a book and, now, a movie currently in search of a buyer.
The toughest venue at the festival was the Bellyup and, “Fired! Live” had the distinction of playing at two in the afternoon on Friday, a rough time for comedy. I had read a couple of the essays in the recent book already, so I was well aware of how entertaining they were even if the audience laughs were sparse. (The biggest laugh came when Dana Gould yelled at latecomers and then pretended to start reading his essay from the beginning.) A common theme for all the stories is how shitty the jobs were in the first place - they were a blessing to be fired from. Even the Woody Allen play Annabelle was fired from is described by the New York Times as “disappointing” (noted with some deserved glee by her). My favorite essay and performance was from Andy Borowitz, who failed to be invited back as a writer for “The Fact of Life” because he actually attempts to make the characters funny rather than the “sarcastic black one” and the “sarcastic fat one.”
The film “Fired!”, along with including these stories, attempts a larger social look, with examinations of plant closings, conversations with economists like Robert Reich (who sneaks a plug in for his son’s sketch group Dutch West) and visits to job fairs and career reassessment seminars. After showing a rah-rah “We Love GM” day in Lansing. Michigan, the film then documents how GM lays off workers anyway. In the face of that, I could see some critiquing Annabelle for dwelling on her own firing by Woody Allen (the scene where she shares her experience in a class attended by other displaced workers is likely to get the most jibes), but the film points out quite accurately that anyone who’s gets fired ends of obsessing about it - it’s equally traumatic to all. The film makes clear that nearly all of us can expect to get fired at some point in our careers and gives some comfort just by sharing it. I don’t think it’ll replace “Office Space” as everyone’s go-to video for when they’re shit-canned, but maybe it’ll be a good second choice if it’s out.
Disappointing. Dan Clowes’ original comic story is hysterical, but it’s a collection of observations, so naturally a story had to be crafted to make a film. Jerome, a naive kid from the suburbs, becomes a freshman at Strathmore, an art school where stereotypical students believe their unique voice will shine through, setting them off as the next big thing in the art world. Jerome strives to become a great artist, but the sexually-inexperienced freshman may simply believe this will help capture the love of “his muse” Audrey, whose picture he saw in the college brochure. A second storyline going on in the background about a strangler who might be affiliated with the campus.
The movie’s best when it concentrates on the budding artists interrelationships and how they critique each other. The story builds to a grand joke and it wouldn’t be a bad one. But we get there far sooner than the filmmakers, so the surprise required to land the joke is gone. Plus, Jerome attempts a ploy to win the girl’s affection that results in him missing out on a massive clue that’s so obvious, he appears stupid. The film is unsparing in its critique of all the characters, but I don’t think it wants us to think Jerome is dumb. There’s definitely moments here, but the whole is sadly lacking.
This show was opened by Ryan Stout, who had a few bits that played like a sicker Jack Benny - saving 11¢ daily on the impoverish child he supports. He also nicely set up Jim Norton with a joke about getting our “strongest and fastest mongoloids” into the international special olympics.
Jim Norton continued the retard-a-palooza - “I love retards and I love fucking them more.” He talked quite a bit about how sitcoms used to have character that were mean to each other - Sanford & Son and All in the Family and how today’s shows you could “feed (him) mescaline and tickle me and I still wouldn’t laugh.” Probably gives a hint at Lucky Louie, Louis CK’s new sitcom will be like. My favorite part was him relating a threesome he had with Ron Jeremy and, as he makes very clear, a girl. He learns the biggest no-no in porn that night and just how deadly Ron’s dick is. He already so open with his jokes about escorts and his preferences in how vaginas look (“a bassett hound wearing a miner’s helmet”), so I can’t wait him branch into similarly honest storytelling.
Watching Louis CK evolve as a stand-up has been so impressive to me - he’s found ways to reach more people now without compromising his style, voice and language. It’s astonishing. I’ve never seen anyone talk publicly about kids like he does, almost dismissive of his 10 month old baby because “I don’t know anything about her. She’s a baby. There’s nothing to talk about.” His four-year-old daughter he has plenty of things to say, starting with “she’s an asshole.” As he details how horrible his child is at Hide ‘n Seek (“how can she live with herself?”), just by detailing the lengths that he goes through playing the game keep the bit humanized, relatable. In other words you can tell he loves his kid without him having to constantly say, “But I love my kid” to keep the audience on his side. Just dazzling.
Filed Under Aspen Comedy Festival
Kristen Schaal joyously hosted this unfortunately titled event (why tell us it’s edgy?), almost appearing like a gangsta moll from a old movie in voice and look. She opened with showing us her audition to be the chubby grocer on an episode of Law & Order SVU, the lines quickly degenerating into her cramming chocolate doughnuts into her mouth while crying about her dead friend. She asked if the chocolate on her teeth made her endearing. Yes it does, Kristen. Yes it does.
Next was Becky Drysdale, who played up her resentment for returning for a five minute spot in someone else’s show after she had been the “most amazing greatest comic of 2005 ever” in last year’s fest. She had Kristen had a wonderful interplay, with Kristen advising her sweetly to go for “joke, laugh, joke, laugh, joke, laugh” instead of her reliving last year’s glory. Drysdale played a song that told off the crowd for making her a monster, including a direction to “suck her lady ham.”
Two of the Whitest Kids U Know came out next as blind comedy brothers Paul and Dennis. Even though I expected a good fall, the intensity of the header taken by “Dennis” (Trevor Moore) was so incredible, I was still surprised. He ended up lost in the audience and Paul soon followed trying to save his brother, both crawling all over audience member to reach the other. After they reunited, attention was quickly turned to a WKUK video entitled “Supersize Me with Whiskey.”
Kristen Schaal then felt moved enough to play a song, but soon takes quite a spill herself. Her attempts to continue on despite her new bloody head wound brought cries from her and much, much laughter from the crowd.
The meat of the show was dedicated to “At Least it’s Pink” - a medley of songs relating the small town slut life of Bridget Everett, with keyboards by Kenny Mellman. My favorite song was a semi-gospel number where she implored “Feel me up! Feel me up! With the touch of a man.” The religious ecstacy drove her into the crowd, rubbing herself against various audience members (and briefly touching the head of Baron Vaughn). Bridget became increasingly disheveled as the set goes along, with the encore about her “can hole” bringing us all to a very dark place.