If putting your grandmother on speed dial and calling it Instagram elicits a snort, you’d best head over to the Sheridan Opera House this weekend for a four-day run of comedic performances bound to get your giggles going.
Now in its second decade, the Telluride Comedy Festival runs from Thursday through Sunday, and boasts a packed roster of nationally acclaimed comedians whose work has appeared on outlets such as FX, MTV, Comedy Central and Netflix. Comedians, actors, writers and producers, including Natasha Leggero, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Emmy Blotnick and more, will entertain audiences with their witty stand-up, irreverent improv and sketch comedy. Tickets start at $45. As of press time Tuesday afternoon, the tickets were nearly sold out. Shows start at 8 p.m. each night.
Being a professional “funny guy” is not all fun and games, though, according to comedic actor Paul Scheer, who said making people laugh is one of the hardest jobs out there.
“When I look at people working on an oil rig, coal mine or even the easiest job of land mine remover in a war torn country, I just laugh thinking, they will never know how hard my job is compared to theirs,” Scheer riffed in an email. “But maybe it’s better that way. I wake up around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. almost every day. Then I go to work hours later around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., and perform three to four times a week for upwards of 40 minutes. I mean, writing these words brings a tear to my eyes. I don’t think I realized how hard it is, until I saw it on paper.”
However, Scheer did cite “getting paid in pasta” as one of the perks of the job, hardships notwithstanding.
Since 2004, festival organizer and fellow actor Jeb Berrier has been bringing the laughs to the box canyon. That was the fateful year he began collaborating with Ronnie Palamar to bring friends of his from the comedy world to partake in the fledgling comedy festival. With friends from the legendary sketch comedy group the Upright Citizens’ Brigade and “The Daily Show,” before long, Berrier had roped in some new acts for the fest.
“I had always talked about Telluride to Rob Corddry and everyone else in our little troupe, and said how amazing it was, and probably made them all really sick of hearing about it,” Berrier recalled of his first year organizing the festival. “But I guess enough of it stuck that Rob, who was on “The Daily Show” at the time, said, ‘Sure, why not.’”
This year the festival welcomes nine comedians to the stage, many of them returning performers, who will take aim at everything from local ski culture to Valentine’s Day.
“For those who’ve never been, we do a different show each night, with a mix of stand up, sketch and improv,” Berrier explained. “Many of the performers come out of the Upright Citizens’ Brigade Theater, and are seriously amazing improvisers, so each night we finish the show with an improv set, which to me is often the highlight.”
Thursday evening will kick off the weekend with Locals’ Night, a longtime favorite in the event lineup with performers incorporating local stories, insider gossip and ski town culture into their sets. As Friday is the much anticipated, or dreaded, Valentine’s Day, depending on your point of view, married couple Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher will perform standup sets and will offer relationship advice to couples in the audience. Audience members are advised to expect a little roasting. Saturday and Sunday will keep the laughs rolling with more high-energy standup and raucous improv performances. By the end of the weekend, you’ll either have rock-hard abs or a rib fracture.
After all these years, Berrier appreciates the art of comedy more than ever.
“It’s such an amazing thing to see a standup comedian be able to just hold an audience’s attention that way. When you see someone great doing it, it’s clear that they have worked and worked, and that it’s an art form,” he said. “Add to that the fact that standups can talk about things that are serious and address them in a way that shows the absurdity of things. We are able to laugh at ourselves, and that’s pretty darn important, I think.”