Shandling, Keillor, Def Jam highlight comedy fest lineup | AspenTimes.com

Shandling, Keillor, Def Jam highlight comedy fest lineup

Stewart Oksenhorn

The 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival will feature salutes to the TV program “The Larry Sanders Show” and to Def Comedy Jam. Also scheduled for the upcoming festival are a special presentation of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and a screening of the Robert Altman feature film based on Keillor’s radio program, as well as a performance of Jim Henson’s “Puppet Improv.”The 12th annual Comedy Arts Festival, presented by HBO, is set for March 8-12 at various Aspen locations.Set to appear for the tribute to “The Larry Sanders Show” are the show’s creator and star, Garry Shandling, and co-star Jeffrey Tambor. The show, which ran on HBO from 1992-98, was a parody of a late-night talk show, both on camera and backstage. “The Larry Sanders Show,” which earned 78 Emmy nominations and an Emmy for Shandling for best writing in a comedy series, also starred Rip Torn and Janeane Garofalo, and featured the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Sharon Stone and Ellen DeGeneres playing themselves.Shandling, who got his start in comedy as a writer for the television show “Sanford and Son” and “Welcome Back, Kotter,” also created and starred in the groundbreaking series “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.” He co-wrote and starred in the 2000 film “What Planet Are You From?” and appeared in the 1998 drama “Hurlyburly.” Shandling has made two previous appearances at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, and he was featured last month in the inaugural Comedy Festival, a Las Vegas event also presented by HBO.Creator Russell Simmons will appear for the 15th anniversary celebration of Def Comedy Jam. The series, which ran on HBO from 1992-98, introduced such comedians as Chris Tucker and Cedric the Entertainer, and gave a platform to hip-hop-inspired comedy. Appearing with Simmons will be Stan Lathan, the show’s director and executive producer, and Sandy Wernick, the co-creator and executive producer of Def Comedy Jam.Keillor has been performing the radio theater program “A Prairie Home Companion” – named after the Prairie Home cemetery in Keillor’s native Minnesota – on public radio since 1974. Today, the program boasts a weekly listenership of more than 4 million and is carried by some 550 public radio stations.The feature film “A Prairie Home Companion,” directed by Robert Altman and with a screenplay by Keillor, is set for release in June. The film, starring Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly, and featuring Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep, Virginia Madsen and more, is a backstage look at the final broadcast of America’s most celebrated radio show.Jim Henson’s “Puppet Improv” is an adult puppet comedy featuring characters from the Jim Henson Company.The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival has been presented in Aspen since its founding in 1995. The festival, which serves as a launching pad for new talent, features the Film Discovery Program, various award presentations, stand-up performances, comedic theater and more. Highlights of past festivals include “The Simpsons Live”; reunions of the casts of Monty Python and “Animal House”; tributes to The Onion and The Harvard Lampoon; and performances by George Carlin, Robert Schimmel, Eddie Izzard and Tenacious D.Ticket packages for the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival are on sale now by calling (866) 350-3369, or online at http://www.hbocomedyfestival.com.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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