Thursday, March 16, 2006

Impromptu gigs, comebacks cap Aspen comedy fest

By Georg Szalai :: The Washington Post: "The 12th annual U.S. Comedy Arts Festival wrapped over the weekend with talk of Russell Simmons' "Def Comedy Jam" returning to the HBO schedule, awards bestowed on performers and films and, of course, dealmaking for rising comedy stars. Among other highlights, Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker raised the temperature with surprise stand-up sets late Thursday.

Stand-ups Mitch Fatel, Aziz Ansari and Kristen Schaal, sketch troupe the Whitest Kids U Know and solo performers Rick Cleveland and Eliza Coupe left Aspen with jury awards for their stage work. Goldie Hawn also was feted during the festival's AFI Star Award tribute.

In USCAF's Film Discovery Program, "Friends With Money," featuring Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand, won the award for best feature. "Keeping Mum," a Rowan Atkinson-Maggie Smith dark British comedy penned by Niall Johnson and Richard Russo, was honored as best screenplay. The audience award went to "Shut Up and Sing" with Molly Shannon, a film about a group of guys who sang a cappella in college and reunite 15 years later to sing at a friend's wedding.

Other films creating buzz included the Chevy Chase vehicle "Funny Money," which several studios are eyeing for a possible distribution deal, and the short "Angry Unpaid Hooker."

The talk about a possible HBO revival of "Def Comedy," which ran as a regular series on the pay TV network from 1992-97, began during the tribute to that Simmons-produced show Friday when Chappelle suggested that it be brought back in a format that could feature alumni such as himself in slightly longer sets."

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