I know what you’re thinking, based on the title, but I’m not talking about me and my colleagues. (Stage cymbal crash.) I mean funny-ha-ha not funny-peculiar.
Saturday morning. I’m drinking a double espresso at Victoria’s (the newest of the cafes) and putting my aging ipod to the test after having opened it up and tinkered around inside to diagnose some strange behaviour. I notice out of the extreme corner of my eye that the guy who was sitting at a nearby table, now on his way out, changed his mind and is looking at me and now approaching and saying something. I break off from Sting’s earnest vocals and try to catch again what he’s saying. He repeats.
Are you with the comedy show?
Er, sorry no. I’m not remotely funny, I’m afraid.
Oh, sorry, I thought you… I… Well, you’re here visiting for a while?
I heard about the festival last night and wondered if I should go tonight to check some out, I said, trying to be helpful at this point. Have you been going? I add.
He sits down at his table again, and he confirms that he’s been going to it. We chat for a while about this and that (me being in Aspen for work, him living in Aspen, what we each do and so forth), and in about 20 minutes I’m the recipient of tickets to the evening comedy sessions, including the big finale. It turned out that my new friend, a well-known member of the Aspen community (I’ve seen him around town a lot) is a friend of the people organizing the festival.
Saturday night. It was a lot of fun. Being in the Wheeler Opera house (Aspen’s most striking heritage building) is always nice, of course, and for the first show I sat up in the balcony area which I’d not done before. That was for the five or six young up and coming comedians (Marina Franklin, Pete Lee, Kyle Grooms, Lisa Landry, and JR Brow)) who were being featured that night, and they were actually all rather good. Some excellent. Several of them either have or are in shows on Comedy Central and so forth, and so I suppose it makes sense that they are good. (Putting the Carlos Mencias of this world aside for the moment.) Go to the Rooftop Comedy channel on YouTube to see some of these and more.
While wandering about for a bit after the show waiting for the next one, I had a couple of people come up to me and congratulate me on the excellent set I just did. Sorry, wrong guy, I politely said, knowing that they were assuming that I was Kyle Grooms, who wears glasses and is black but looks nothing like me. They must have thought there can only be one black guy wearing glasses in a 50 mile radius, after all, so why look carefully. Take a break and look at a version of Grooms’ routine here, on race and language, etc. (Post continues after that):
I ran into my friend from earlier in the morning between shows and offered to buy him and his friend a drink to chat and say thanks, after the second show. It turned out that there was to be an after party for all the comedians and VIP guests later on and so he’d get me a VIP badge and we could go. Sounds good, I said.
The second show saw me sitting on the main orchestra section a half dozen or so rows back from the front. While waiting, I noticed a group of five of the young postdocs from the physics workshop I told you about (who I was with the night before, having goodbye drinks in a bar – we’d all learned about the festival together from a friendly nearby couple) looking for seats. Good to see that they made it. The show started at a surprising (for sleepy out-of-season Aspen) 10:15pm, and featured three more established comedians (Chad Daniels, Pat Dixon, and Finesse Mitchell) with another (Andi Smith) introducing them. It was also very good. These comedians had longer sets each, with did not necessarily work well for them in all cases. Two of them sagged in the middle a bit, and one ran out of steam a bit at the end, and so the session before was more to my liking, but overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by how good everyone was. These more established ones really had an excellent grasp of some of the key aspects of skirting right on the edge of the audience’s discomfort, and reading the crowd and (in some cases) adjusting well to keep the pressure on and the laughs coming.
The after party was at the Regal, and was a lot of fun. It is an Aspen nightclub in a basement, and they had some of it roped off for the guests, with food and so forth to go with the drinks. Nicely done. Soon I was on my own (my friend was tired and left), chatting with the various comedians and other guests into the night. The whole thing was a rather interesting mix of people from that world, with lots of overlap with crowds I’m familiar with from social life in LA, writers for TV shows and so forth. I was mostly listening, making small talk, and encouraging people to talk about themselves, and so as a bonus was happy to not have to explain what a physicist was doing there. I was in a quiet mood, and not interested in talking about myself or what I do, and at times like that it is nice to just blend into the wallpaper.
There was then an after after party back at the pub near the Wheeler, and everyone went along to that and hung out for a while. I chatted with some more people, and found interesting the comedian W. Kamau Bell and his dancer/choreographer wife Melissa Hudson Bell. I hope to talk with them some more, since their work (Google ‘em) seemed interesting to me, at least on first impressions. (I like comedy that digs down into what we mean in our use of language – see my earlier post with a master of that, George Carlin – and this seems to be the case here.) We agreed to stay in touch (and Kamau has a show in LA on the 30th, so I’ll maybe summon a gang and go along – clips here). We were all thrown out of the pub at 2:00pm, upon its closure. A fine tradition.
Some Related Asymptotia Posts (not exhaustive):