'Waitress' served first at Aspen's comedy arts fest

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The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival's Film Program will showcase 30 features and 20 shorts in Aspen this year, organizers said Tuesday.

Sponsored by HBO Films, the festival's movie lineup will launch with the opening-night film "Waitress," directed by the late Adrienne Shelly. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Fox Searchlight.

World premieres featured at USCAF include Guy Shalem's "Cook Off!," Armen Kaprelian's "Closing Escrow," Frank Oz's "Death at a Funeral," Jim Pasternak's "Certifiably Jonathan" and Gary Toll's "Judy Toll: The Funniest Woman You've Never Heard Of."

The festival's Fireside Chat Series will return this year with Fox Atomic's Debbie Liebling, Netflix's Ted Sarandos, JibJab's Gregg Spiridellis and others. Also back by popular demand is the Mile High Club, which brings together industry executives and filmmakers in 12-minute "speed dating"-type meetings.

Among other film highlights are special screenings of three works in progress. One is John Landis' "The Rickles Project," a documentary about legendary comedian Don Rickles. Current footage from "The Comebacks," directed by Tom Brady, will also be shown, with Jamie Kennedy's "Heckler" rounding out the still-in-the-works offers. Kennedy will host this year's festival awards ceremony, organizers said.

USCAF's film program this year also launched an online program called Funny Picture Show, where viewers can upload, watch and rate comedic shorts.

"The films that we have selected to showcase alongside the live performances at the festival offer a diverse group of talent from different backgrounds and experiences, but all solidified in the foundation of comedy," said Kevin Haasarud, director of the USCAF Film Program. "Each year the festival looks forward to bringing together such a vast community of filmmakers, film buyers, television executives, comedians, writers and actors and giving them the rare opportunity to collaborate with each other and admire one another."

Also included as a part of the film program will be a Chuck Jones "Looney Tunes" collection.

USCAF takes place Feb. 28-March 4.
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