Heather McDonald, Gilbert Gottfried, Second City and more to headline Aspen Laff Fest | AspenTimes.com

Heather McDonald, Gilbert Gottfried, Second City and more to headline Aspen Laff Fest

Comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Heather McDonald, Steve Byrne, Pete Holmes and the improv troupe The Second City will headline the 2016 Aspen Laff Festival at the Wheeler Opera House. The Wheeler announced the lineup Wednesday.

The annual comedy festival will open Feb. 18 with "Hooking Up," a new show from Chicago's The Second City. The vaunted comedy theater group also will offer improv classes for festivalgoers, Wheeler Executive Director Gena Buhler said in a festival announcement.

"They are the perfect troupe to get our Laff Fest off to a hilarious start," she said.

On Feb. 19, the double-bill opens with McDonald, best known for her regular appearances on Chelsea Handler's "Chelsea Lately" and as the host of the spinoff "After Lately." Most recently, McDonald has hosted the TLC talk show "All About Sex," the podcast "The Juicy Scoop" and was featured in her Showtime stand-up special "I Don't Mean to Brag" (now streaming on Netflix).

McDonald has kept busy on stage and screen since "Chelsea Lately" ended its enormously popular seven-year run on E! last year.

"I told Chelsea, 'Thank you for quitting, because I never would have quit,'" McDonald said of the new phase of her career. "When the show ended, ("I Don't Mean to Brag") came out shortly after that, and I wanted to do more stand-up and different things — eventually I'd like to be on TV every day again. I love doing talk shows."

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Over the past year or so, she's gained recognition beyond being the impressionist, pop-culture commentator and resident mom on Handler's roundtable.

"What's great now is that more people come up to me and say, 'You're a comedian!' rather than, 'Hey, you're the girl from "Chelsea Lately,"'" she said.

Comedy legend Gottfried follows McDonald on Feb. 19. A decades-long mainstay on stand-up stages and in voiceover roles (the Aflac duck and Iago the parrot in "Aladdin" among them), the comedy veteran dubbed "America's Creepy Uncle" will bring his signature politically incorrect act to the Wheeler.

On Feb. 20, the first headliner will be Steve Byrne, best known as the creator and star of TBS's "Sullivan & Son," for his regular stand-up appearances on late night shows and for his work on "Chappelle's Show" and "The Middle."

Pete Holmes of the "You Made It Weird" podcast and TBS's "The Pete Holmes Show" closes the festival on Feb. 20.

In the coming months, the Wheeler plans to announce additional Laff Fest performers and community activities for the festival weekend.

Laff Fest tickets will go on sale Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. immediately following the Wheeler's Preview Party at the Limelight Hotel. The party, beginning at 6 p.m. and unveiling the theater's full 2015-16 winter event lineup, is free and open to the public with complimentary beer, wine, snacks and Wheeler swag. Reservations for the party are available at 970-920-5770 and boxoffice@cityofaspen.com.

atravers@aspentimes.com

Aspen Laff Fest lineup

Thursday, Feb. 18

8 p.m. ‘Hooking Up’ with the Second City

Friday, Feb. 19

7 p.m. Heather McDonald

9:30 Gilbert Gottfried

Saturday, Feb. 20

7 p.m. Steve Byrne

9:30 Pete Holmes

Festival passes are $125, with single event tickets ranging from $35 to $45. Day passes are $55. Tickets go on sale Nov. 19 at the Wheeler Opera House box office and http://www.aspenshowtix.com. More info at http://www.wheeleroperahouse.com