USCAF stage hosts edgy and veteran talent


Charlyne Yi, John Oliver, kevINda and Summer of Tears might not have the name recognition of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat or the titular character from ABC's "Ugly Betty," but if the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival has its way, it won't be long before they do. This year's event, running Wednesday-Sunday in Aspen, Colo., is making a point of tracking down those on the cutting edge.

"The lineup represents the changing media landscape -- and comedy's place in it," says USCAF CEO Bob Crestani, who promises a "particularly strong, diverse and young" roster of stand-ups this year.

They're names from every corner of America, such as Denver's Ben Kronberg, Seattle's Hari K. Kondabolu, Austin's Lisa Delarios and Mike Kosta from Ann Arbor, Mich. For the first time, USCAF has picked performers based on videotaped submissions, which Crestani admits is unusual. "But we liked them and thought we should let people see them," he says.

In another sign that new voices are key, this year's USCAF features its biggest lineup of sketch groups. Explains one agent: "Years ago, a lot of industry people at comedy festivals focused their attention mainly on stand-ups, but in recent years, sketch, improv and alternative shows have drawn bigger interest."

The sketch offerings at USCAF draw heavily from New York-based troupes such as and Pete & Brian's One Person Show but also reach into Los Angeles (for Summer of Tears). Additionally, Chicago will contribute to the lineup with a duo called kevINda, known for its racially charged political satire, and the female improv group Moist.

Lest fans of veteran comedians feel left out, George Carlin and Steven Wright will appear with new material. Meanwhile, scheduled panel subjects are looking into the next generation of comedians, with topics like "Blogging: Buzz vs. Biz" and an evening of Broadband Theater.

And as always, USCAF has nods planned to current highfliers, like Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report"), who will receive the inaugural Person of the Year Award. Don Rickles also will be honored with the event's inaugural Pinnacle Award, while the fest opens with Fox Searchlight's "Waitress," starring the late Adrienne Shelly.

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