A Look Back: Aspen Laugh Festival 2017

This past February, I was fortunate enough to travel to my hometown of Aspen, Colorado and attend the Aspen Laugh Festival. This year it featured Whitney Cummings (one of my all-time favorite comedians), Margaret Cho (one of the first comedians I ever saw live), Kevin Nealon and Adam Devine – what a legendary lineup. I invited my best friend Ali to come join me in the mountains for a few days full of comedy and she quickly booked her flights out to Colorado. I invited some friends from Boulder to tag along for the weekend as well, excited to share both my hometown and my love for comedy with them. The first night of the festival there was a showcase competition, with 13 locals on the lineup, myself included. I was under the impression that I had signed up for some low-key open mic that was going to be in a small conference room on the backside of the hotel, but instead we walked into a buzzing lobby filled to the brim with over 200 people waiting for a good laugh. I immediately was intimidated not only by the crowd, but now the impending competition. I surveyed the room and then reevaluated my set, realizing that I was in my tiny hometown and there seemed to be a lot of senior citizens partying it up in the audience. I deleted most of my entire set that I had planned out, replacing my fingering material for jokes about eating yogurt in public and my cum-filled punchlines with zingers about being fat instead. After waiting my turn, #11 out of 12, my name was finally announced to get on stage and perform. Everything felt right, and I wish I remembered it better but looking out across the faces of people I had never seen and those I had known forever, I just felt like it was the correct place to be. I felt a power that I hadn’t experienced before, able to captivate the entire audience with my words and mannerisms – interesting enough to tap your neighbor to tune in, or face your chair the other way. I was lit and ended my set, while someone from the audience shouted “No! Don’t leave yet! Keep going!” This was highly encouraging, but I dismounted nonetheless and retreated into the back of the room, unaware of how well I had actually done and the good response I had gotten. As they tallied the results, I was approached by people asking me how long I had been doing comedy, and encouraging me to keep it up. I was beaming from every cell in my body, so thrilled that other people enjoyed it enough to say something, anything. They announced third place and it was me! I was stunned but accepted** the prize nonetheless. I couldn’t believe that I had just competed in something comedy related and been recognized. What a great way to start an unreal festival weekend! I am so grateful to have had this experience, because it motivated me to keep going and trying new things. I absolutely cannot wait until next year.

**I should mention that because we had already purchased tickets to all of the shows, I tried to bargain my prize pass off for a meet-n-greet with any one of the comedians for “just for even like five minutes,” I begged the woman at the box office. Although she couldn’t accommodate this request, she gave us another free pair of tickets and I ended up meeting Whitney Cummings and Kevin Nealon later that day. Unreal.

Pictured are some of the most supportive and incredible people I know: (right to left)

Ali, who flew all the way from Wisconsin to spend the weekend with me enjoying outstanding comedy and supported me from the front row at the contest.

Hassan, who encouraged me to go to my first open mic ever, joined me and suffered through hours of brutal open mic comedy just to see me try it out for 3 minutes.

Katie, who continues to inspire me to chase my passion with fervor and intention. Someone who accepts me, and encourages me to be silly by being silly themselves.

Not Pictured is Emi, who took the photo, who embraces and matches my crazy and continues to push me to live my dreams and laugh hard as often as possible.

I’m so grateful for all of these people that joined me on a truly fun and life changing weekend. Each one of them has helped contribute to my pursuit of comedy in different way and I’m so glad. Here’s to the people in life who enrich already surreal experiences and to doing what you love.

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