NEW YORK, NY, December 14, 2005 –– HBO and the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival (USCAF), with the mission to discover, support and nurture new comedic talent, writers and filmmakers while paying tribute to the legendary innovators of comedy, announced the initial programming today for the 12th annual festival, which returns to Aspen, Colorado, from March 8 –12, 2006. Ticket packages are on sale now.
Highlights of the upcoming USCAF include salutes to The Larry Sanders Show with creator and star Garry Shandling and co-star Jeffery Tambor and the 15th anniversary of a Def Comedy Jam with Russell Simmons, Stan Lathan and Sandy Wernick, a special presentation of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion and a special screening of the feature film based on A Prairie Home Companion, and Jim Henson’s Puppet Improv. The USCAF, a primary proving ground for original comedic voices and new performers will also feature a full line up of stand-up, sketch and alternative performances and the only major competitive film festival dedicated to comedy film.
"We are excited to launch our 12th Festival with a lineup that reflects our mission of discovery and tribute through a broad range of programming and events," said Bob Crestani CEO of the USCAF. "From Garry Shandling and Russell Simmons to Garrison Keillor and the legacy of Jim Henson, this year’s programming focuses on the art and innovators of comedy."
"HBO is proud to present the Festival as comedy is a big part of HBO’s heritage and an important business for us," said Carmi Zlotnik, Executive Vice President of HBO. “The Festival extends our business into new areas and maintains our deep commitment to comedy.”
Salute to The Larry Sanders Show
The groundbreaking parody of life on-and-off camera at a late-night talk show, The Larry Sanders Show was one of the first comedies to seamlessly and hilariously blur the line between real life and television. A critical and popular success, The Larry Sanders Show, ran for 9 years on HBO. Among the record 78 Emmy Awards and nominations the show received, Shandling won the Emmy for best writing in a comedy series.
The show stars Garry Shandling – also creator, executive producer and writer - as “Larry Sanders,” a late-night television host who is constantly attempting to keep control over his staff of strong personalities. “Sanders” is aided by on-air sidekick, “Hank Kingsley” (Jeffrey Tambor, currently starring in Fox’s Arrested Development), who is endlessly envious of Larry’s fame, “Artie” (Rip Torn), Larry’s protective executive producer who plays on his star’s paranoia, and “Paula“ (Janeane Garofalo) the cynical talent booker. One of the first series to regularly have celebrity guest stars playing themselves such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone and David Duchovny, the influence of the “Larry Sanders” can be seen in shows ranging from “Entourage” to “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Office.”
Garry Shandling began his show business career writing for situation comedies Sanford and Son and Welcome in Back Kotter in 1977 right out of high school. Shandling made his first stand-up appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1981 and went on to guest host The Tonight Show many times. After creating and starring in the critically acclaimed It's Garry Shandling's Show for Showtime (which ran for five years), Shandling did his first HBO special in 1990, which then led to the creation of The Larry Sanders Show for HBO. Shandling is currently putting the finishing touches on a Special Edition DVD Retrospective of The Larry Sanders Show, which will include unique new footage of Garry reminiscing with former guests from the show in a raw and unedited manner. These special features capture the essence of The Larry Sanders Show and take it further in a celebration of this groundbreaking program. The Larry Sanders Show DVD Retrospective is due for release in 2006.
On the big screen, Shandling will next be seen in the independent film “Trust the Man” due for release April 6th and will follow with Dreamworks' animated feature, "Over the Hedge," which is due in theaters May 19th. Previously, Shandling wrote and starred in "What Planet Are You From?" and was featured in "Hurly Burly" with Sean Penn, and "Love Affair" with Warren Beatty. Shandling has twice hosted the Emmy Awards, most recently in 2004, leading the show to its highest ratings in 14 years, and has served as host of the Grammy Awards three times.
Salute to Def Comedy Jam
It was fresh, hip and raw, and for nine seasons, Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam on HBO was the place where undiscovered comics were given a shot at national exposure. Then-unknowns such as Chris Tucker and Cedric “The Entertainer” and many more broke through with career making performances, and the series forever entrenched the relevance of comedy into hip-hop culture. Russell Simmons, Stan Lathan, Sandy Wernick and stars of the show will reunite in Aspen to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the series and relive the electric days of Def Comedy Jam.
Beginning with his label Def Jam Records, and ever expanding with the launch of each new business venture be it in film, television, music, literature and apparel, Russell Simmons has been commonly credited with being among the best at recognizing where the tastes of youth culture were heading and matching those tastes with a vehicle. Stan Lathan began directing network television in 1975 beginning with such shows as “Sanford & Son”, “Hill St. Blues”, “Barney Miller” & “Fame”. Lathan has also directed the pilots for many successful sitcoms including, “Martin”, “Moesha” “The Parkers” & “The Steve Harvey Show”. Sandy Wernick is both a Partner and Senior Executive Vice President of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. He is the co-creator and executive producer of “Def Comedy Jam” and is currently involved in producing “According to Jim”, “Jake in Progress”, and “The Showbiz Show With David Spade.”
From the genesis of their partnership with Def Comedy Jam, through the Def Poetry series and their new television platform “DoD” – Def on Demand, Simmons and Lathan have made “Def” a brand name synonymous with “hip.”
* In addition to the special live presentation of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show, the Festival will also host a special screening of Robert Altman’s feature film based on the show.
A Prairie Home Companion
Garrison Keillor went to work for Minnesota Public Radio in 1969 on a morning program called A Prairie Home Companion—named after the Prairie Home cemetery in Moorhead, Minnesota. After working on an article for the New Yorker magazine about the Grand Ole Opry, he developed the idea for radio theater – a show with musical guests and commercials for imaginary products. And on July 6, 1974, Keillor hosted the first live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College, Saint Paul – 12 people showed up to watch. Today, A Prairie Home Companion is heard by over 4 million listeners each week on 558 public radio stations.
Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion heard on public radio stations across the country. Most recently, Keillor penned the screenplay for the feature A Prairie Home Companion, directed by Robert Altman and starring Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Kevin Klein. Born in Anoka, MN, in 1942 and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Keillor still lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter.
Jim Henson’s Puppet Improv
From the company that for fifty years has celebrated irreverence, creativity and performance comes Jim Henson's Puppet Improv, a demonstration of what happens when the perilous and provocative forms of traditional comedic improvisation are mixed with a bunch of puppets. With a motley group of characters brought to life by the world-renowned puppeteers of The Jim Henson Company, this is not your average night of improv and it is definitely not for children. But all others are welcome to enjoy the uninhibited anarchy of live puppet performance as never seen before.
Ticket packages for the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen are on sale now through the USCAF box office at 1-866-350-3369 or online at www.hbocomedyfestival.com.
The USCAF Aspen is sponsored by HBO, HBO Comedy, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, the American Film Institute and Stay Aspen Snowmass.
Home Box Office, Inc. is the premium television-programming subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., providing two 24-hour premium television services, HBO and Cinemax. Together, both networks reach approximately 39 million subscribers in the United States via cable and satellite delivery. Home Box Office’s international joint ventures bring HBO branded services to more than 50 countries around the globe.
Since its inception in 1995, the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen has become known as a primary launching pad for comedic talent and for hosting one-of-a-kind events such as reunions of Monty Python, SCTV, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Saturday Night Live, as well as of the casts of Cheers, Animal House, Waiting for Guffman and In Living Color; The AFI Star Awards to Jim Carrey, Diane Keaton, Mike Myers, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Albert Brooks, Rob Reiner, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg; the original The Simpsons Live, and the Freedom of Speech Awards which have honored George Carlin, Bill Maher, Dick Gregory, The Smothers Brothers, Michael Moore, August Wilson and Garry Trudeau.
In the past, strong USCAF performances by Ray Romano, Camryn Manheim, Jack Black, Eddie Izzard, Anthony Clark, Candy Ford, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Jason Kravitz, Loni Love and The Hollow Men among others, helped attract or solidify network deals.
The 2005 USCAF featured appearances by Jim Carey, Conan O’Brien, cast of “Waiting for Guffman,” Garry Trudeau, Aaron McGruder; Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong and World Premiers of features films Sarah Silverman’s “Jesus Is Magic” and Scott Marshall’s “Lucky 13.”
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