In Aspen, if money talks, humor balks Humor: At the ski town's comedy festival, comedians hold their yuks when the laughable meets the bankable in the person of potential employers.

March 07, 1998|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

ASPEN, Colo. -- A funny thing is happening at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival: Nobody sees the humor in it. Or if they do, they are keeping their mouths shut.

Take the scene in the insufferably chic double-fireplace lobby/lounge of the St. Regis Aspen, festival headquarters. Every evening, it turns into a scene from a Robert Altman satire, a rich vein of comedy gold.

There's the gray-haired guy in the black cowboy hat, black ski pants fit snug over his little potbelly, silk white jacket and white turtleneck with "ASPEN" embroidered in the collar. The woman in the fake-leopard-skin coat and matching broad-brimmed hat. And how about the assortment of graying-but-ponytailed male television executives in their fabulously expensive ski parkas trailing an assortment of fabulously expensive-looking young women. They're all so fabulous. Just ask them.

You'd think the assembled comedians, supposed enemies of all things pretentious, would make a cutting remark or two. But hey, get serious. This is the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Being witty and observant is one thing. Being stupid is another.

"I have to leave here with a big deal because I need money," says comedian Scott Kennedy of Houston, who has been doing stand-up comedy full-time since 1989. That pony-tailed geezer in the leather pants just might be the guy who can make your sitcom dreams come true. So you hold your fire.

Fortunately, Kennedy says, he's had professional experience controlling his comic impulses amid such impressive displays of ego and superficiality. He used to work at a Porsche dealership in Texas.

nTC "Selling Porsches is like being at the Aspen comedy festival 365 days a year," says Kennedy.

"There's some hypocrisy as far as what we're doing," admits comic Wanda Sykes-Hall of New York City. "It's just being smart, and it's just good business. These are people you want to do deals with."

People like that man over there in the bright red trench coat and the monocle. Yes, a monocle. He apparently owns a big, famous comedy club. Or the fellow in the black cowboy hat, gray fleece wrap and skin-tight jeans swaggering through the lobby, clearly in the throes of a passionate love affair -- with himself.

Comedy gold, sure, but who knows what he might be able to do for your career?

"Our whole goal is to become actors," says comedian J.R. Brow of Austin, Texas. "So in a sense, we're all acting."

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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