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Edgier, geekier, popular

John Oliver
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ASPEN Though the headliners at this year’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival may grab … the headlines, this year’s lesser-known comedians again raise the bar. Take the trio of Mary Lynn Rajskub, Michael Showalter and John Oliver, performing stand-up in three 20-minute segments.All three have performed in or written for well-known TV shows and movies, though many are in background roles. Still, with the industry-laden attendees of the festival, the tickets for the trio have been snapped up quickly

Oliver was picked last year from 1,000-plus applicants to be a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” Showalter co-wrote “Wet Hot American Summer.” And Rajskub plays “Chloe” on Fox’s “24.”Rajskub’s varied roles evoke the wierder, edgier side of comedy well-represented in the three. She played the mean sister in “Punch-Drunk Love” and a space nerd in “Dude Where’s My Car?” She isn’t the makeover girl who ends up a hottie at the end of the movie. Rather, she often plays the role that could only be considered bizarre. “I was weird and bitchy in ‘Punch Drunk Love,'” Rajskub said. “I played an overbearing sister to Adam Sandler.”

Rajskub’s current boss on “24” saw her in the movie and said he would write a role for her in the TV show. That role ended up as a computer genius significantly lacking in social graces. “When I started, I thought I was going to be fired because my character was really abrasive and didn’t really fit in,” Rajskub said. “I’ve gotten a really great response from my character. Sometimes people hug me. They’re like, ‘You’re Chloe, I’m going to give you a hug.’ It’s kind of weird. I get hugs from strangers sometimes, which goes both ways.”Just as the character Chloe has a sort of underground following, so too does Showalter’s previous projects, the early ’90s MTV-show “The State,” and later, a movie he co-wrote, “Wet Hot American Summer.”



The 2001 film has been known as a modern-day “Animal House,” to the extent that kids on college campuses can be found quoting the entire thing and holding parties dedicated to the theme. The cast of “Wet Hot,” includes many of the same people from “The State” and embraces the same off-key, non-sequitur humor.

“We wanted to write a movie about summer camp,” Showalter said. “So we just wrote our experiences and fashioned it into a screenplay. We thought of premises and ideas for multiple characters and story lines and executed it from there.”Showalter is now working on a pilot for Comedy Central and touring as a stand-up comedian. In the last year, he said he’s done most major cities twice. Though the three won’t be performing together, both Showalter and Rajskub said they figured it would be a solid hour of comedy.




“Sensibility-wise, it’s a good pairing,” Showalter said. The trio of Oliver, Rajskub and Showalter perform tonight (Friday) at 12:30 a.m. and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., in the Tent at Wagner Park.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com.


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