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Locals raise roof on opening night of Aspen Rooftop Comedy

April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Stand-up comedy is not for the faint of heart. Unless the comic is Billy Spindler.

Just two weeks after undergoing heart surgery, Spindler, a soft-spoken, 30-something comic from Aspen, was on stage at the Wheeler Opera House cracking jokes. He was one of eight valley comics who opened the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival on Wednesday.

He brought his triangle. And he brought the laughs.



“This triangle here is a left-handed triangle,” Spindler said.

He promptly switched hands for the punch line.




“Now it’s right-handed,” he said. “It has much more of a dulcet tone.”

The joke brought even more laughs. That’s just what people need, said Mark Thomas, who joined Spindler and other valley comedians for the Local Laughs showcase Wednesday.

“Now more than ever, America needs to laugh,” he said. “We’ve got recession. Stress. Environmental catastrophe. War. Hypocrisy. So much B.S.”

Thomas, who covered everything from plastic surgery to a billboard of Aspen Mountain mounted in front of Aspen Mountain, said comedy is a way for audiences to cope with a complicated world.

“Laughter builds up your emotional water wings so you can keep your head and heart afloat in the sea of B.S.,” he said. “If you can’t go after the bad people of the world physically, you can tear them up with comedy. Relentless ridicule is the ultimate weapon of the people. I say don’t give up, don’t let up, lighten up, keep your drinks filled up, and pull your pants up.”

Gram Slaton, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, said the time is right for a comedy festival of this magnitude.

“In the last two decades of following comedy, I’ve found that when we’re in the same time of a national crisis, comedians tend to rise back up again. When there’s a thing like a recession, people like to have their court jester.”

Thomas, who founded Comedy Mercenary Productions, which hosts shows up and down the Roaring Fork Valley, has no problem filling that role.

“It’s just a joy,” he said. “To get inside somebody’s head, with their permission, and make them laugh.”

Collaborating with valley comics – and meeting touring professionals headlining the festival – is especially appealing to Thomas. He plans to step up to an open mic around town this weekend.

“There is really good talent in the Roaring Fork Valley but we need to break out of our habits and stretch a little more, have some fun,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how many styles there are in comedy. Your culture and your environment shape who you are as a comedian.”

Shifting from booker and producer to strictly stand-up comic is a welcome transition for Thomas during the festival. Thomas and Comedy Mercenary partner Gail Mason are producing weekly comedy shows this summer through Sept. 1 at the Mountain Chalet in Aspen.

“I’m always happy to participate in any production outside of my own,” he said. “When anyone else runs the show, it’s always a nice change of pace for me. I get to focus on my set. It’s an all-too-rare treat for me.”

Thomas said he looks forward to idea sharing. And, simply, laughing.

“It’s comedy immersion,” he said. “It’s almost like a convention.”

The Aspen Rooftop Comedy festival runs through Sunday.

For more information, visit rooftopcomedy.com.


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