Aspen Times Weekly: Funny Stuff

by Andrew Travers
Heather McDonald will perform Friday night at the Aspen Laff Festival.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Aspen Laff Festival

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Thursday, Feb. 18 to Saturday, Feb. 20

How much: $35-$45 per show; $125 Laff Pass for all five shows

Tickets: Wheeler box office;

It’s been nearly a decade since HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival left Aspen, but the Wheeler Opera House has kept the legacy of high-altitude stand-up comedy alive. From Feb. 18 to 20, the historic theater hosts the sixth annual Aspen Laff Festival with three nights of shows from some of the best and brightest in American comedy.

Hooking Up with the Second City

Thursday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m.


The premiere American comedy troupe takes on sex and love in this touring improv show. The Second City – the iconic Chicago-based outfit that gave us John Belushi and Bill Murray and Mike Myers and Adam McKay and Tina Fey and many more – is set to tackle the ins and outs of relationships, with riffs on everything from girls’ night out hijinks to abstinence education.

Second City’s crew came to town early to host after-school improv workshops with local kids on Wednesday. A free workshop for adults will run Thursday, Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. in the Wheeler Opera House lobby.

Heather McDonald

Friday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m.


Best known for dishing about celebrities and such at the roundtable with Chelsea Handler on “Chelsea Lately” and for playing herself in the semi-scripted behind-the-scenes spoof “After Lately,” Heather McDonald is a brash, no-holds-barred comedian (occasionally landing her in hot water, like last month, when comments about Handler led to a brief feud between the two in global tabloids, which has probably made it into her stand-up act by now).

Since “Chelsea Lately” ended its run in 2014, McDonald – who honed her comedic chops with The Groundlings – has returned to the stage as a road comic, hosted the TLC talk show “All About Sex” and was featured in her first stand-up special, “I Don’t Mean to Brag,” on Showtime.

Will Weldon will open for McDonald.

Gilbert Gottfried

Friday, Feb. 19, 9:30 p.m.


A master of satire and sarcasm, with a knack for crude jokes that make you cringe and laugh at once, and the voice only a mother could love, Gilbert Gottfried is a comedy legend. He’s been at it since his teen years, performing on an early season of “Saturday Night Live” and in countless movies, including the voice of Iago the parrot in “Aladdin.” And yes, that was his voice as the duck in the Aflac commercials. Over the last two years he’s been hosting “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.”

But the stage has always been Gottfried’s home. Friday’s show marks his first performance in Aspen since the 1994 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

Jerry Rocha opens for Gottfried.

Steve Byrne

Saturday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.


The star and creator of the TBS hit show “Sullivan & Son,” Byrne’s been on TV shows like “The Middle” and “Chappelle’s Show,” in films like “The Dilemma,” “Couples Retreat” and “Four Christmases,” and done stand-up on “Conan,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Late Show,” and became a regular on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

His smart, incisive brand of stand-up won him TBS’ “Standup or Sitdown Comedy Challenge” in 2006, which thrust him onto the world stage. He’s since been featured in three Comedy Central specials and a one-hour special on Netflix last year.

Gareth Reynolds opens for Byrne.

Pete Holmes

Saturday, Feb. 20, 9:30 p.m.


If you blinked, you probably missed the all-too brief run of the brilliant “The Pete Holmes Show” on TBS in 2013-14, showcasing the comedian’s off-kilter style (and featuring him awkwardly asking the likes of Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow about their experiences with hallucinogenic mushrooms in a running gag).

Holmes appears regularly on late night TV and draws cartoons for The New Yorker. He played Batman in the absurd spoofs series, but is probably best known for his podcast on the Nerdist network, “You Made it Weird,” where he weirds out celebrity guests. He’s also due to star in and write the upcoming Judd Apatow-directed HBO series “Crashing.” But when he’s not doing all that, he’s doing stand-up.

The opening act for Holmes has yet to be announced.