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The Oral History of the 2009 Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival

Because oral history sounds much cooler than primary drunken source.

It’s been a couple of days (a week anniversary since Aspen 09 occurred, to be precise) and after much soul searching, Twitter reviewing, photo looking, and piecing together hazy memories, I will attempt to bring you my account of what happened on those legendary three days that will live forever in myth. If you’d rather live Aspen through pictures, than words, feel free to check out our Facebook gallery or Flickr feed!

As established in the soon to be legendary “Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, Day 1” post, a lack of available runways at SFO delays Annie and me’s plane to Denver by an hour. The worst part was that, even with the delay, we still miss our flight to Aspen by fifteen minutes. Our options are either wait six hours for the next flight out to Aspen, thereby missing the entire first day of Aspen, or, me and Annie decide to haul ass the three hours to Aspen from Denver in a rented SUV. As records show, we chose the latter.

There was nature involved, picture taking, braving the horrors of AM radio, and towards the end of our journey, the shrimp chip debacle. I’ll let Annie explain:

Annie Don’t Eat Shrimp Chips from Paolo Sambrano on Vimeo.

Believe me, shrimp chips are way more appetizing than that. After just missing the first show of the festival, I settle into the back of the theater to cover the NCCC semi-finals. After the first night wrapped, I get lost trying to find the site of the VIP after party of the night. Turns out Zane’s was one of those places under a set of stairs. Very crafty.

Almost immediately after entering Zane’s, I am greeted with members of the NCCC contingent singing along to the second best export out of San Jose, CA, besides the Sharks, Smashmouth’s All Star. As featured on the soundtrack to Mystery Men and Shrek. W. Kamau Bell notes, that the reason the NCCC kids remember this song, is because they were all in the 8th grade when the song came out. Hey, I was in 8th grade when the song came out to. I decide to join along, never passing up an opportunity to sing in public places. Here’s some shoddy video of the event here:

College kids singing All Star. from Paolo Sambrano on Vimeo.

I’ve heard the warnings prior to my arrival in Aspen about how a drink in Aspen isn’t just a drink, but it’s three drinks. Or was it two? Or was it more like one and a half? I decide to play it conservatively the first night, because I don’t want to be the guy that gets the 2009 Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival canceled. Don’t take my word for it, but I didn’t feel much drunker given my alcohol intake, which was disappointing, because I was warming up to the notion of being a cheap date this entire festival.

After Zane’s shuts down for the night, the after party shifts to the hotel room of me, Chris, and Andy, which I must say, wasn’t so much a hotel room, but a condo, with separate bedrooms, bathrooms, a fully operational kitchen, and not just a sitting area, but a living room. There was Natty Light and Bud Light until four in the morning to be had by all.

The following morning, after shaking off the alcohol haze of the night, we all attempt to organize a pick up basketball game in Aspen, which turns out to be postponed due to work obligations at the Wheeler (or as Lachlan Patterson will call it later that night, ‘Wheels – and you can use that’). Turns out after the fact some of the comics did get a game of basketball in, divided into two teams, to which is memory serves correctly, was between “The Fatasses” and the “United Nations”.

Fact: Wheels was also the name of a character in the Burger King Kids Club in the mid 90’s:

Some highlights of Friday include discussing the intricacies of G.I. Joe with Ty Barnett, namely why did Sgt. Slaughter get to boss around members of G.I. Joe, when he was only a Non-Commissioned Officer and most of G.I. Joe were officers? Weirdo military thing. Discussing video games with Jessi Campbell and Lachlan Patterson, and how according to Ty, there was a 9/11 coloring book on the internet, that just recently got taken down.

I’m not sure what to make of Robert Hawkins performance in Aspen. There was something about being in the wings during his hour something performance that felt like history was being made. The words, “go fuck yourself with your expensive cocks” will echo in my mind forever.

After the night’s show’s got out the second annual VIP poker tournament was a go at Jimmy’s. Me and Dylan Gadino from Punchline Magazine were crestfallen that the poker tournament was not a Magic: The Gathering tournament or a Go Fish tournament. I was through sitting on the sidelines, and decided to drink. Emboldened by last night’s lack of a significant hang over, I decide to go all in, in my own way. Vodka-tonic, followed by what I will consider one of the best Negronis I ever had in my (legal) drinking career, and shots of Jager, courtesy of Matt Braunger. Seeing Braunger’s ‘Hey Mr. porn director‘ bit at the Wheels was just amazing. I’ve been a fan of Braunger since 2005, I’ve seen him in shows featured on And in what can be considered a highlight of the festival for me personally, we sang the song he sang from episode two of Utopia together. Utopia is nearly four years old, by the way.

I found myself with the college heads from Xaiver as we trekked back to their hotel room, before going back to the after-after party, back, yes you guessed it, the condo of a hotel room of Chris, Andy, and me. In the hands down nerdiest moment of the festival, conversations about Battlestar Galactica, Watchmen, Dungeons and Dragons, video games, Magic: The Gathering, and The Hold Steady erupted for the better part of the night between me and the UC Berkeley and Xavier college teams.

Going to bed that night, my last words for the night ended up with a confession that I might vomit, to which Chris (or was it Andy) told me to think happy thoughts. I went to bed thinking in a cold sweat, that I’ve tempted the Aspen gods one drink too many, and this was it, I was going to be hungover tomorrow.

Instead, either through divine intervention or finally crossing into the functional alcoholic threshold, I woke up feeling like roses, ready to take on the last day of the Festival.

It involved live tweeting highlights from our industry panel, to sitting in on the second day of Siskel and Negro podcasts (which if you haven’t listened to, you are absolutely missing out), to covering the award ceremonies on Twitter, to getting a chance to see some of the last shows of the Festival in the balcony of the Wheels.

I’m not sure how to say this, but after seeing Chad Daniels open up the last show of the Festival, I kind of felt bad for Aspen. The two words that kept running through my head were, “soft target, soft target”. After ripping into Aspen for what seemed like most of his set, I almost felt bad for Aspen, almost. Towards the end of his end, when a “self-serving Aspen prick” in the words of Daniels, knocked over a piece of the paneling of the balcony falling into the orchestra pit of the Wheels, Daniels tore into him, and ended his set with “Suck it, Aspen” and left.

It should be noted that in an act of what could be considered karmic justice, Daniels lost his ID the following morning. It was an absolute surprise to see him at the Aspen airport later that day.

Before we left the official and intended venue of the wrap up party to head to another bar, the NCCC winners and Best of Fest awards were announced. And despite the DJ not turning it down, the air in the private room was electric as Minnesota was announced the winners of the 2009 NCCC, Andy Erikson winning MVP, Danny and the Page winning Funniest Film, and Moshe Kasher winning Best of Fest. As I was leaving, I overheard a man in a tuxedo whine to the bouncer how he was at the hundred thousand dollar wedding at the top of the mountain. I couldn’t help but laugh. Upon making our to the secondary site of the wrap-up party we were to be kicked out forty minutes later.

This only means one thing, back to the hotel room, where the official after-after party was held. I’ll admit, in my drunken stupor, I was admiring how our festival was able to get all of these big time comics partying with the NCCC heads, with VIPs, with Rooftop Staff under one roof. I doubt something like this would have happened at a bigger festival.

Before I forget, bears aren’t the only thing to be wary of in Aspen. Cougars are apparently a danger to watch out for. They’re known to hit on everybody at a party. Should be something to wary of next time you find yourself in Aspen. Thank God, Chad Daniels was there, as he arm-wrestled one of the cougars, noting to the whole party, “Who wants to fuck a guy that can beat a girl at arm-wrestling?”

The party went on all night, and while your intrepid reporter said matte at five in the morning, a last stand of comics, Rooftop staff, and NCCC party people made a last ditch effort to make this moment last forever, with or without me.

Sunday was a matter of killing time for me, and saying goodbye to those who were leaving. I never been to summer camp, but I would imagine the last day at camp would feel like this. Photos were taken, bags were packed, contact information swapped, questions of how hungover everybody was asked.

Thanks for everything Aspen, I’m almost half expecting all of this to be the dream of some autistic child.


Comment from andy
Time: June 18, 2009, 1:23 pm

“yes I said I will Yes.”

way to commit Paolito.