Funny days

Paul E. Anna
Aspen, CO Colorado

To paraphrase an old line: Come­dy is easy; it’s getting to Aspen that’s hard.

As the men and women in black descend once again on our town for the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, it is clear that the thing we love the most, March snow, will no doubt be the butt of many jokes and profanity­laced tirades.

The comedians, you know ” they all are pasty, depressed and depraved, which is why they became comedians in the first place ” love to live with pain. Speaking from experience, there is no greater pain than being forced to sit in Denver while waiting for the skies to clear a few miles up the hill. But it will pro­vide plenty of pathos for those who make their living railing against the injustice of their lives.

For us, on the other hand, the Comedy Fest comes at just the right time. As is the case with Park City when the Sundance Film Festival comes calling, it is the best time to be a local on the slopes. Think about it, all the lodging in town is taken by those who don’t ski. It is almost impossible to find an unfamiliar face on the mountain. When you couple that with the epic storms of this week ( did you see Steamboat got FIVE FREAKIN’ FEET in five days?), the skiing is so good it’s, well, funny.

This year’s festival promises to be a good one. The gang from “Entourage” is here, which will like­ly provide Aspen Times columnist and freelance writer Alison Berkeley with enough fodder for another “Oh my God, I can’t believe my life” article for The New York Times or, even better, The Aspen Times. And Aspen Times arts editor Stewart Oksenhorn will again be writing more words than Webster about Car­lin, Wright, Rickles, Colbert and whatever future comedic genius he discovers. And there will be little surprises all over town as well.

A personal favorite of Comedy Arts past is the video clip that the prankster group, Improv Every­where, produced last year at the fes­tival. Called “Meet a Black Person,” the clip opens with a title that reads ” Aspen, Colorado pop. 5914.” It is followed by a second title that says “(94.9%) white” and dissolves into a visual of a stand set up in Gondola Square with a hand- made sign that says, ” Meet a Black Person.” As skiers descend the stairs, the man behind the kiosk calls them over to shake hands and “meet a black per­son.” As expected, many of us white folk don’t get the joke.

Steven Colbert also took the opportunity to send a zinger our direction when he was named “Per­son of the Year” for this year’s festi­val. “I’m humbled to be a part of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival’s tireless efforts to bring joy to the wealthy,” he crowed in a press release.

Yes, comedy relies on having a straight man, and we here in Aspen try to do our part.