Time for the last laugh
ASPEN Local comedy troupe Laugh Your Aspen Off is calling it quits after a tumultuous year touring the Roaring Fork Valley.The group’s swan-song performance is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Wheeler Opera House, said founder Clifford Fewel. “It’s not a break-up,” he said. “It’s an ending.”In the redDespite some sellout shows in almost 30 performances since October, the group – which launched last fall – has operated in the red, Fewel said. Fewel cited the troupe’s low ticket charges – no higher than $15 – as one reason for its financial woes.”It’s tough, and we were told at the outset it was hard to make money in this business,” he said. The cost of advertising, paying comics and renting performance space – as well as the work organizing and promoting the shows – overextended Fewel, who manages a storage facility.Discovery feesThere were other factors for folding, too, such as when producers of the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, which was staged in Aspen, offered Fewel a slot for himself and just a few select comics. Fewel declined the offer. Instead, the troupe held its own performance coinciding with the HBO event.”I told [HBO] that my commitment was to get all my comics on stage,” Fewel said.But, when Fewel asked the comics to pay him a 5 percent “discovery fee” if their performance earned them a contract with any agents during the festival, five performers defected.”A couple of the comics didn’t want to do that. They pulled out right before Comedy Fest,” Fewel said. “It’s business. They had the option to sign or not sign and they chose not to. And there were plenty of other comics willing to audition.”Fewel also attributed HBO’s decision to not bring the Comedy Arts Festival back to Aspen in 2008 to the troupe’s demise.Looking backFewel said he is proud of the young comics.”When we started back in September there was nothing and now there’s options everywhere,” Fewel said of the city’s new Aspen Comedy Club and other venues now hosting open mic nights.”I was a rookie promoter when I started out,” Fewel said. And while the year has been a steep learning curve, Fewel said he’s ready to step down and give his own comedy career time to blossom. “I’d like to stretch my legs.”Fewel said he is excited about the finale at the Wheeler and said the bar will stay open through the show, a welcome “social lubricant” to bid the Laugh Your Aspen Off comics adieu.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is email@example.com.