Punch Lines

5 Things About Aspen Laugh Festival 2020

The annual must-do for comedy lovers runs February 18–22.

By Todd Hartley February 11, 2020 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Dusty Slay will perform at the Wheeler on Friday night and at the Limelight Snowmass on Saturday afternoon.

1. Can’t-Miss Events

Colorado Comedy Night (Feb 18). Four of the state’s best up-and-coming comics—Sam Tallent, Geoff Tice, Zoe Rogers, Salma Zaky—with native Aspenite Rebecca Robinson hosting

The Second City
(Feb 19). Chicago’s famed troupe, known for its side-splitting sketch work 

Norm Macdonald
(Feb 20). The former SNL “Weekend Update” anchor is on Comedy Central’s list of top 100 comedians of all time.

Triple the Laughs
(Feb 21). National headliners Taylor Tomlinson, Adam Ray, and Dusty Slay split the bill.

Free Daily Après Comedy Hours at Silver City Saloon (Feb 19–22) and Limelight Snowmass (Feb 22)

For the whole lineup, visit wheeleroperahouse.com


2. Q&A: Dusty Slay, Comedian 

Does living in Nashville instead of New York or LA make it harder to carve out a comedy career?

 I think it keeps me closer to my roots and helps me be authentic, so in that sense Nashville is a perfect fit. And my name’s Dusty Slay. It sounds like that guy should come from Nashville. 

You have a very soothing way of speaking. Are you really that chill?

 I’m pretty laid back. I want to enjoy myself, so I’ve just kind of gone with the flow, and I think that’s helped me to not worry about what the future holds. 

How does your signature trucker’s cap help you get into character?

 I think it helps loosen me up a bit. I used to never wear it on stage, but I wore it on the local news once in Alabama, and I was like, “This is so fun, I’m playing a character,” and then I was like, “This is the me I’ve been looking for.”  

You went to community college for, in your words, “two days.” When did you realize you could make a living doing comedy?

 It wasn’t until I won a contest in 2011 and made a thousand dollars that I was like, “OK, maybe I can make a little money out of this.” In 2014 I went full-time, and I haven’t done anything else since.

You list performing at the Grand Ole Opry as a career highlight, and you love country music. Would you trade places with, say, Brad Paisley if you could? 

 It’s tough to say I wouldn’t switch with Brad Paisley because the guy’s a millionaire, I’m sure, and he’s also very funny and very nice. I did a show with him at a club in Nashville a few years back. The great thing is I’ve gotten to meet a lot of country singers, so I’m getting to live the best of both worlds. 


3. Create Your Own Aspen Joke

At what altitude do ...
When do ...
How many ...

... deer ...
... the Maroon Bells ...
... ski instructors ...


... turn into elk?
... ring out loud?
... screw in a light bulb?


You have to be pretty high for that to happen.
When forks roar.
20: one to do it and 19 to critique the turns.


4. Quick Numbers


years Aspen Laugh Festival celebrates in 2020


headliners have performed at the fest 


dollars per Trevor Noah ticket, the fest’s priciest act 


seats in the Wheeler Opera House, all of them sold out for Noah’s show this year


5. Aspen Funny Biz

Our first big-time comic star was Steve Martin, who lived here in the early 1970s and recorded the hit song “King Tut” at a local studio in 1978. From 1995 to 2007, HBO’s US Comedy Arts Festival brought stand-up, films, cast reunions, live readings, and more to venues all over town. That was replaced in 2008 by the Rooftop Comedy Festival, which featured up-and-coming comics before giving way to the original Aspen Laff Festival in 2011. That morphed (slightly) into the Aspen Laugh Festival by 2017, which has been growing in size and stature ever since.

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