Onion and ‘Enthusiasm’ panels leave ’em laughing | AspenTimes.com

Onion and ‘Enthusiasm’ panels leave ’em laughing

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

One unique quality of professional comedians is that it’s actually interesting to listen to them talk about themselves. On the whole, that’s what comedians do.

Two of the hottest tickets during the Comedy Arts Festival last weekend were panel discussions. The writers from the satirical newspaper The Onion and the people behind the popular show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” entertained packed audiences with stories about themselves.

Perhaps because of the participants’ humble beginnings, both shows were filled with charm and self-deprecation. The Onion staff proudly spoke of their heritage as deadbeats and dropouts from Madison, Wis.

“People ask us how can you write for the Onion and we say you have to go back in time and live in Madison in the early ’90s,” said the paper’s editor, Carol Kolb.

Larry David, the writer and star of “Curb your Enthusiasm,” recounted stories about scouting spaces on New York streets as a young man in case he became homeless.

“I found a spot where heat from a building would pour down on me,” David told the crowd. “I figured this was prime real-estate.”

Such panel discussions are only as good as their moderators, and in this case the comedy festival picked well. CNN’s Anderson Cooper kept conversation among the large Onion staff organized and succinct. For a newsman from a serious cable news network, he was a great sport when the Onion’s satirical eye turned on him, laughing off suggestions that he might lose his job by fraternizing with such an unruly crowd.

Moderator David Steinberg, who has been associated with hit TV shows “Friends” and “Seinfeld” along with “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” brought his own knowledge of the comedians on the “Enthusiasm” panel to flush out interesting tidbits behind the show. It was revealed that although the scenes in the show are improvisational, Larry David writes elaborate plot outlines to guide all the action in each hectic episode.

The audiences poured adoration on both panels. In response to clips presented to the “Enthusiasm” crowd, Steinberg said glowingly, “It’s so nice to hear you laugh at our TV show. Usually, the show is on TV in people’s homes. Hearing laughter doesn’t usually happen.”