Telluride Comedy Fest rolls a winning #11

Telluride Comedy Fest rolls a winning #11

[click “Play” to hear Jeb’s “serious” conversation with Susan]

Jeb About 10 years ago, Telluride local, actor, comedian/talking head Jeb Berrier  was a Naked Baby, part of a comedy troupe with friends Rob Corddry, whom he first met touring with the National Shakespeare Company – yes, the Rob Corddry –  and Brian Huskey.  Corddry and Huskey are alumnae of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a Manhattan theater company where future comedy stars are processed like beef: in goes the raw meat – actors, writers, ex-lawyers and med students – and out come tightly wrapped, high-priced performers, ready for consumption by fat cat shows: “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock,” “The Daily Show,” where Corddry and Ed Helms became “correspondents” and rising stars.

When Ronnie Palamar, executive director of the Sheridan Arts Foundation/Sheridan Opera House approached Berrier in 2003 to help her ramp up an ongoing Comedy Festival, Berrier picked up the phone to his old friend. To his surprise, Corddry said yes. With Corddry on board, recruiting the rest of the actors, including Helms, was a snap. Once everyone realized they were among friends – meaning mostly Telluride’s wacky locals – Berrier’s motley comedy crew felt free to go way over the top, pounding sacred cows into cow pies. (I know, I know. Eating too much Swiss chard for bone health is affecting my metaphors.)

Laughter is a full body, respiratory response over which we have very little control. Amusement in the form of a joke or gag initiates the coordinated action of 15 facial muscles:  the eyebrows and then a series of muscles in the eyes and cheeks contract before recruiting skeletal muscles, heart, and diaphragm. (Too much of a good thing and  you rush out of the theatre to speed dial Dr. Jeffrey Ptak for Botox.) Comedy is little more than blowing a series of raspberries at the things that weigh us down: government, religion, relationships, money, psychology, our own mortality.

In a New Yorker riff, satirist Bruce McCall made a list of safe and harmless subjects for comedy routines: the British Royal family, Canada and its citizens, comb-overs, a duck walks into a bar, the farmer’s daughter, wigs, kids today and weather made the list. Guaranteed none of McCall’s safe bets will get a minute of air time this weekend, February 11 – 14, when Berrier & Friends hit the Opera House stage (well- maybe the duck). Performances are 8 p.m. nightly.

Corddry is otherwise engaged (or too big for his britches?), but Helms is back, a newly anointed national treasure, fresh from his Golden Globe win for “Hangover.” (In town, Helms should be heading for another bender, but will try to avoid losing another tooth.)

Berrier and Helms are joined by Scott Armstrong, Doug Benson, Brett Gelman, Rob Huebel, Brian Huskey, Jason Mantzoukas, Seth Morris and Tig Notaro.

In addition to reserved theater seating, eight VIP tables are available nightly ($500 per table) for Comedy Fest. The tables offer prime cabaret seating on the main floor for four individuals and a private reception with the featured comedians following Sunday night’s performance. All proceeds benefit the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Comedy Festival.

For up-to-date information on the Telluride Comedy Fest, visit the Opera House website, call 970.728.6363 or, better yet, click the “play” button  and listen to Berrier’s podcast reviewing the highlights of each night.

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