Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Having a laugh or two in Aspen – Things to Do Besides Skiing

Having a few laughs in Aspen Colorado
It’s been awhile since I’ve had a really good laugh – and I needed one. Even though I had really been enjoying the skiing in all of the great snow we’ve had this year, having to shovel all of it was making me grumpy. I needed something else to do besides skiing to get out of my funk, and the Aspen Laff Festival was just the “ticket”.

Aspen Laff Festival History

For the uninitiated, the Aspen Laff Festival is the latest effort by the Wheeler Opera House to bring a little humor to our sometimes too serious, um… money-focused little ski town.

The Laff Festival has become a welcome annual reprieve from what seems like the town’s obsession with the almighty dollar fueled by uber-capitalist landlords, developers and high-end retailers. It also gives locals and visitors alike something else fun to do in Aspen besides skiing (and hitting the night club/bar scene).

While previous comedy festivals, the HBO/U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, also provided great entertainment with an impressive lineup of high-profile comedians, they were supplanted by the Laff Festival in 2011.

The high-profile HBO/U.S. Comedy Arts Festival tickled audiences in Aspen from 1985 until 2008. Featured comedians included Don Rickles, Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Mike Myers, Goldie Hawn, Conan O’Brien, Jim Carrey, Cheech and Chong, Eddie Izzard, Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin, Bob Newhart, Diane Keaton, Richard Lewis, Martin Short, Chevy Chase, Russell Simmons, and Ray Romano.

In 2008, the Comedy Arts Festival pulled out of Aspen. According to the Aspen Times this was reportedly due, at least in part, to the “shortage and high cost of hotel rooms” -

This comedic void was soon filled by the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, which showcased such artists as Michael Ian Black, “30 Rock’s” Pete Adsit, “The Office’s” Oscar Nunez, and Christian Finnegan.

In 2011, the Wheeler Opera house chose to strike out on its own and created the Aspen Laff Festival.

According to the Wheeler, “The Aspen Laff Festival is the stand-up comedy festival that focuses on finding the fastest, funniest, and brainiest comedians out there”

While the Laff Festival is, like its predecessors, a profit-oriented event, the fact that one can see a show for only $12 is a testament to the idea that this is also an attempt by the Wheeler Opera House to provide affordable entertainment to an audience with a wide range of economic capabilities.

Previous featured Laff Festival comics include Tom Simmons, Darryl Lenox, Stewart Huff, Auggie Smith, Jackie Kashian, Roy Wood Jr, Caroline Rhea, Christopher Titus, Hippieman, Keith Alberstadt, Ben Bailey, Danny Bevins, Jimmy Pardo, Costaki Economopoulos, Christina Pazsitzsky, and the “legendary” David Brenner.

Aspen Laff Festival 2014

Although I chose not to attend all of the shows this year, including those by this year’s headliners, Josh Blue, Orny Adams and Tom Papa, I did get to see a couple of very funny, well-credentialed comedians, Jeff Kreisler and Ben San Del, during the “Short Snorts” sessions.

Kreisler’s impressive accomplishments include winning the Bill Hicks Spirit Award for Thought Provoking Comedy, being a Senior Writer for “The War Room”, being a syndicated radio host and regular on MSNBC, CNN, Current TV and Sirius/XM.

Moreover, he has been involved in producing and The Final Edition Radio Hour, and he has written for Comedy Central, IFC and

Kreisler delved into politics, family relationships, being Jewish and most prominently, promoting his book, “Get Rich Cheating”, a parody guide for how to make gobs of money with such schemes as drug company kickbacks, Medicare fraud, steroids in athletics, shady political dealings, and the like.

Ben San Del’s resume includes winning the Acme Comedy Co.’s Funniest Person in the Twin Cities Contest and performing at the 2012 Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta, the 2013 10,000 Laughs Comedy Festival in Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Sketchfest. He also wrote and directed the comedies “A Nice Guy’s Guide to Awkward Sex” and “Minnesota Middle Finger”.

Among other topics, San Del bantered about family, dating, sex and other uncomfortable situations. The audience was particularly amused by a, shall we say, over-weight mother-in-law story, pre-internet amusement, an interaction with a traffic cop, “51 Second Date ideas” and this funky visual routine he did with his hands. He pressed them together, one on top of the other, and wiggled his thumbs – not the most intellectual part of his routine, but it was extremely funny nonetheless.

Clips of some of these and other routines can be found at

Yes, the Aspen Laff Festival hit town just in time not only to give me a break from the snow, but also to give me a few laughs and something else to do for amusement here in Aspen besides skiing. 
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