Hollywood comes to the mountains for annual Aspen yuk-fest
What do Ray Romano, Jack Black and “Napoleon Dynamite” have in common?Anyone who’s kept an eye on Aspen’s annual U.S. Comedy Arts Festival (running today though Sunday, Feb. 13) knows that the event’s not only a great place to catch both up-and-coming and established comedy favorites, but also one of the most important industry showcases in the country. Both Romano and Black landed career-making deals after appearances at the festival, and the USCAF’s yearly Film Discovery Program offers debuts of many comedic films like last year’s “Napoleon Dynamite” which often go on to mainstream success.And while the cell-phone-toting-L.A.-insider-schmooze-fest element of the USCAF is an acquired taste (hang out in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with every Big Name in attendance, if not land your own series), the Comedy Arts Festival is an amazing opportunity to see the very best in stand-up, sketch comedy and special star-studded shows and events. Best of all, tickets to many main shows are still available and waiting list room is always a good way to get into many other performances: contact the Wheeler Box Office (970-920-5770) or check out the scene in person for best results.This year’s big draws include the first reunited appearances by stoner comic pioneers Cheech and Chong in a very long time (their own show happens tonight at 10 p.m. at the St. Regis Ballroom, followed by their appearance at 1 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Ballroom on a live taping of Peter Bart and Peter Gruber’s “Sunday Morning Shootout”), as well as a reunion of the cast of Christopher Guest’s marvelous mockumentary “Waiting for Guffman” (6:30 p.m. Friday at the St. Regis).You can also catch individual performances by edgy notables such as Eddie Izzard (8:30 p.m. tonight at the Wheeler Opera House) and Comedy Central favorite Dane Cook (11 p.m. tonight at the Wheeler and 9 p.m. Friday at the St. Regis), plus shows by the tart-tongued Sarah Silverman (she and her band, oddly enough, play Friday night at Belly Up, the new incarnation of the Double Diamond nightclub; her own movie, “Jesus is Magic,” plays Friday afternoon at the film portion of the festival).Don’t count on getting access to Saturday’s long sold-out American Film Institute Star Award presentation for Jim Carrey (miracles do happen, however); you may be able to watch “Boondocks” comic strip author Aaron McGruder hosting the Freedom of Speech award presentation for “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau (4:30 p.m. Friday at the Wheeler) or see new lit hero Dave Eggers and authors Lynda Barry, Charles Burns and Dan Clowes in a special McSweeney’s session on “The Rise of the Graphic Novel” (held today at 4:30 p.m.). VTA full schedule is available online at http://www.uscaf.com; contact the Wheeler for ticket availability. By Andy Stonehouse
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