City not amused by Comedy Fest request | AspenTimes.com

City not amused by Comedy Fest request

Janet Urquhart

The HBO Comedy Arts Festival is eyeing a much bigger tent at Wagner Park to accommodate its headliners next March, but the City Council declined Tuesday to provide a requested $87,500 to help defray the expense.”We don’t have that sort of money,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.Instead, the council narrowly agreed to give the festival $30,000 – up from the $25,000 it granted for the 2005 event.The larger tent will cost an estimated $187,500, according to Joe Lang, director of communications and operations for the festival, which returns to Aspen for its 11th year of standup comedy, films and other events next year.Last March, Comedy Fest made use of a tent in the park that could accommodate about 300 people. This time, it will be looking to seat 1,000-plus there, Lang said.”This would be an opportunity to get headliners in a bigger venue,” Lang said. It would replace the festival’s use of the Hotel Jerome ballroom, he said.Council members voiced few qualms about the tent – Mayor Helen Klanderud said that decision should be left up to the city Special Events Committee – but they came close to rejecting any city funding for the event.Councilman Jack Johnson cast the deciding vote on the $30,000 allocation, siding with members Torre and Rachel Richards in granting the contribution.The event is “way too Hollywood,” said Johnson, urging Lang to make the festival more accessible to locals by putting acts in the town’s smaller bars and restaurants. He also suggested the festival document its economic boost to the town if it wants public funding in the future.The festival, underwritten by HBO, already distributes thousands of complimentary tickets in town and sells about 1,000 discounted locals passes annually, Lang said. The festival does not turn a profit but provides a unique venue for the comedic arts, he said. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com