A Comic Horror Story from Aspen

As the saying goes, "dying is easy, comedy is hard." No one know this better than Annabelle Gurwitch, the comic actress who wrote the book Fired: Tales of the Canned, Cancelled, Downsized and Dismissed. She shares a horror story about her recent experience at the Aspen Comedy Festival.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ANNABELLE GURWITCH reporting:

Career talk with Maggie. Maggie's Door at Living Radio.

LEGAN: Contributing Writer Annabelle Gurwitch has been very busy lately.

GURWITCH: The Healthy Stuff Radio Program.

LEGAN: She's been promoting a book called Fired, screening her documentary film also called Fired, and squeezing in a few acting jobs as well. You can see her in the Tim Allen film, The Shaggy Dog.

GURWITCH: Steve King in the morning. Rip the stick and hot Henrietta.

LEGAN: A few weeks ago, Annabelle made a sales call at the Aspen Comedy Festival.

GURWITCH: So in order to save money, the plan was actress Iliana Douglas and I would share a room in a low-rent hostel, then fly down to Austin for the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive conferences and festivals. I swear, that's really the name. And we'd do signings there too. But what did it matter that we were on the budget plan? We were at the most prestigious comedy event in the country.

Iliana, can I come in?

Ms. ILIANA DOUGLAS: Ah, yeah.

GURWITCH: I'm sorry. You're taking a bath. Okay, I just wanted, I'm getting really nervous. I mean ...

I was primed, and also a complete nervous wreck. All these funny people, would they be laughing at my film? Would they laugh when we read from the book? Finally, Iliana was out of the tub and we headed to comedy headquarters, the St. Regis Hotel.

(Soundbite of crowd)

GURWITCH: There were parties and shows and parties, and on top of that the desire to be the funniest person at the funny convention. And not just for me. My friend, the writer Andy Borowitz, was having his own problems.

ANDY BOROWITZ (Writer): The main challenge for me is just to walk, you know, two feet without having a heart attack. Because we're in such a high altitude, and I get very easily winded, so I'm so much more focusing on actual respiration. I don't really even start thinking about trying to be funny, as I think I just demonstrated.

GURWITCH: Hey, you've got a big canister on your back full of hot chocolate?

Mr. BOROWITZ: Yes. Indeed, it's good to be the hot-chocolate man in one of these festivals because everyone loves you.

GURWITCH: So you don't feel intimidated at all by the fact that everybody's funny here because you've got what they want, hot chocolate, strapped on your back.

Mr. BOROWITZ: Ironically enough, most of these people aren't funny; they just think they are. I'm taking a morose tone at this point with Garrison Keillor giving me the snub. He was the guy I was hoping to see.

He walked right past me, asked me for directions. I gave him hot chocolate, he gave me no love.

GURWITCH: God, I thought, I hope he doesn't come to see my movie. Well, he didn't. I was told people who did see it laughed, but I didn't hear them. Maybe it was the altitude or just too much comedy energy, but as this film was being projected, I went hysterically deaf. It was as though my head was in a bubble, and the world and my film were far, far away in the background.

Somehow, during the closing credits, I managed to come back to earth, just in time to head over to the Belly-Up, the venue for the book reading. I walked in, and I saw that the Belly-Up wasn't a theater. No, it wasn't even a bar. It was a saloon. How is my book-reading going to go over in a saloon, at 4:00 in the afternoon no less?

(Soundbite of music)

GURWITCH: The next day at 6 a.m., Iliana and I headed up to the airport. The flight was snowed in, but my luggage took off to Austin, and due to some confusion over hotels and two women over 35 sharing a room, Iliana and I parted ways, literally. She decided to go back to Los Angeles, and I waited for a connecting flight.

Everybody just fled. I'm by myself in a bathroom in Denver, and I guess that's how the comedy trip ended, not funny ha-ha but funny peculiar.

I had no idea what would lie ahead. After a scant few hours in Austin, I arrived back at the airport to find that I had lost my driver's license and the only way I managed to get on the plane was to show them the only I.D. I could come up with, the picture of myself on my book jacket, and it worked.

Right before I boarded, I glanced at a newspaper announcing the winners at this year's Aspen Comedy Festival, and yes, I hadn't won, but I had accomplished something. I had discovered heartwarming evidence that, even in these paranoid times you can sometimes still find a little humanity, or I had exposed a serious kink in our national security that should be attended to immediately.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Annabelle Gurwitch is the author of Fired: Tales of the Canned, Cancelled, Downsized and Dismissed, and she is a contributing writer to DAY TO DAY.

And there's more from DAY TO DAY just ahead.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: