Laff Fest’s best come back to the Wheeler | AspenTimes.com

Laff Fest’s best come back to the Wheeler

Comedian Andy Hendrickson at the Aspen Laff Festival in February. Hendrickson will return to the Wheeler tonight for the "Best of the Fests" stand-up showcase.

With its fifth outing a few months away, the Aspen Laff Festival appears to be here to stay, calming fears that Aspen might lose the foothold the town established as a comedy destination during its years hosting HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

Laff Fest is also starting to establish a stable of leading national comedians who make repeat visits to stages here. Three of them take the stage at the Wheeler Opera House Saturday night for a stand-up showcase.

Andy Hendrickson, who played the festival in February, joins Jackie Kashian (2010) and Tammy Pescatelli (2013) on the triple-bill.

Hendrickson has honed a conversational, personal style on stage. A memorable bit in his February show detailed his experience with a running shoe store that analyzes how you run and customizes your footwear ("Turns out I run very expensively").

Like a lot of comics, though, it took time for Hendrickson to settle in on-stage and find what worked.

"I used to be a lot more animated. Goofier. I did a bunch of bizarre one-liners back in the early days," he said. "I used to try and have a stoner persona. I experimented with all sorts of crap. It took me years to just figure out how to be myself on stage."

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In recent years, Hendrickson has been touring nationally and making the rounds on TV, including a stand-up set on "Late Show with David Letterman" and elsewhere. Over the summer, Hendrickson moved to Los Angeles – he had been based in New York for eight years before that – where he has been working on an autobiographical situation comedy ("like everybody else"). He's also developing a web series, based on the maintenance man in his New York apartment building, which shoots in the new year.

"If it all falls through, I still get to perform stand-up and that's comforting," he said.

Like many comedians, including Pescatelli and Kashian, Hendrickson got his first taste of Aspen – and national exposure – at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. He played the festival in its last year, 2007. The set earlier this year at Laff Fest, he said, was a lot better than that debut.

"That was fun, but it was early in my career and I was feeling the pressure," he said.

In the 10 months that have passed since the most recent Laff Festival, the comedy world has been shaken with bad news, including the untimely deaths of stand-up legends Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, and the fallout of numerous sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby.

While some comedians have tackled the Cosby situation head-on on-stage, Hendrickson hasn't touched it yet.

"The whole thing is very disheartening to me," he said. "I definitely looked up to him. He accomplished so much and there's nostalgia when I think about 'Fat Albert,' 'The Cosby Show' and all the stand-up albums. I still don't want to believe it's true."

Saturday night's show is billed as "PG-13," so the comics are likely to keep it relatively clean and family friendly.

atravers@aspentimes.com

If You Go …

What: ‘Best of the Fests,’ presented by Wheeler Opera House

When: Saturday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m.

Where: Wheeler Opera House

Cost: $29.50

Tickets: Wheeler box office; http://www.aspenshowtix.com

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