Aspen Laugh Fest 2020: Trevor Noah, Norm Macdonald, free après shows and fresh faces | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen Laugh Fest 2020: Trevor Noah, Norm Macdonald, free après shows and fresh faces

The Wheeler Opera House has raised expectations sky high for the Aspen Laugh Festival, as it’s booked the biggest names in comedy for several years in a row now. When you’re used to headliners like Whitney Cummings and Tiffany Haddish, Colin Jost and Tig Notaro and Jim Gaffigan, you are spoiled as a comedy audience.

The big one for 2020 is Trevor Noah, as the festival brings “The Daily Show” host and arguably the country’s favorite political satirist to the Wheeler for a sold-out show in the middle of this bonkers post-impeachment presidential primary season.

“I’ve had the chance to see Trevor Noah in very large halls across North America, and to bring him and his stand-up to our historic and intimate venue is an opportunity that should not be missed,” Wheeler executive director Gena Buhler said when the lineup was announced in October.

Noah’s performance is sold out, as is comedy legend Norm Macdonald’s on Thursday night. This year’s festival opened Tuesday with the annual Colorado Comedy showcase and continues through Saturday night across three Aspen venues. Here’s a crash course on what to expect.

FREE APRES SHOWS

Thursday, Friday and Saturday

4 p.m.

Silver City Saloon

Free

WHY GO? These intimate barroom sets are an entry-point to the festival for the cash-strapped among us, and have been some of the most fun and surprising performances of the past few years at Laugh Fest. Featuring rising comics and occasional drop-ins by the headliners, Silver City is where we’ve seen Alex Edelman hop in with the locally based Consensual Improv and seen Jon Rudnitsky do his bizarre “Dirty Dancing” mime routine in the cramped quarters of a standing-room-only bar.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? This year’s announced comics for the après-ski shows include “GLOW” actress Jackie Tohn, Becky Robinson, Janae Burris and Joe Praino.

NORM MACDONALD

Thursday, Feb. 20

7:30 p.m.

Wheeler Opera House

Sold out

WHAT TO WATCH? Macdonald has had legendary comic status since his bitterly sarcastic and DGAF run anchoring “Weekend Update” on “SNL” back in the 1990s. His latest releases prove that the years haven’t softened his edges, as evidenced in his 2017 Netflix special “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip and Trickery” and the 10-show first season of his talk show “Norm Macdonald Has a Show.”

VIR DAS

Friday, Feb. 21

5:30 & 8 p.m.

Limelight Lounge

$30

WHAT TO WATCH? The Indian comedian made a splashy entry to American pop culture with his 2017 Netflix special “Abroad Understanding,” followed soon after by “Losing It.” Just last month he released his third special, “For India,” which is essential viewing for any Aspenite who has visited India or hopes to (yes, that’s just about everybody in town).

TAYLOR TOMLINSON, ADAM RAY, DUSTY SLAY

Friday, Feb. 21

7:30 p.m.

Wheeler Opera House

$45

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Taylor Tomlinson and Dusty Slay are young road comics who’ve begun making the rounds on late night and are making a case for themselves as the next generation of comedy stars (Tomlinson’s first Netflix special is due out this year). You’ll already know Adam Ray’s face, as he has popped up on “Arrested Development” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and you may know his voice from his spots on “The Adam Carolla Show” (and as Slimer in the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot).

NANCY NORTON

Saturday, Feb. 22

5:30 & 8 p.m.

Limelight Lounge

$30

WHY GO? Norton may be the best comedian working out of Colorado. A three-decade stand-up veteran — she’s also worked as a nurse — the Front Range resident has drawn belated attention since she became the first woman to win the Boston Comedy Festival in 2018 and then won the Seattle International Comedy Competition last year.

TREVOR NOAH

Saturday, Feb. 22

7 p.m.

Wheeler Opera House

Sold out

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? You’ve seen him skewer Trump and seen him crack up celebrities on “The Daily Show,” but his stand-up — freed of the time and format limitations of the TV show — is the pure Trevor Noah. In his stand-up, the political commentary is more internationally informed and more nuanced, the bits often more personal. Check out his Netflix specials “Afraid of the Dark” and “Son of Patricia” for a taste.

atravers@aspentimes.com


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