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The fourth High Plains Comedy Festival kicks off this Thursday with comedians playing Iron Comic (they have eight minutes to write a routine) and closes Saturday night with headliners Garfunkel & Oates, Kyle Kinane, and Cameron Esposito taking the stage at the Paramount Theatre. In between, about 100 comics will temporarily transform South Broadway from a hipster haven into the funniest place in the Mile High City. With so many local and national acts to pick from, we asked Adam Cayton-Holland, festival founder and star of TruTV’s Those Who Can’t, to match a participating comic to a movie. Now all you have to do now is pick your favorite funny flick and let the laughs be your guide:
The Royal Tenenbaums: The 2011 winner of the Andy Kaufman Award, given to up-and-coming comics who revel in the outrageous, Nick Vatterott dabbles in the sort of incongruous comedy that astounds, and then delights. Often deconstructing the form in his act, Vatterott makes the comics in the back of the room howl, but avoids the “comic’s comic” tag because everyone else in the room is laughing too.
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Dumb and Dumber: This classic flick is so brilliant because of its over-the-top slapstick, as well as its bonkers non sequiturs—like when Lloyd (Jim Carrey) small talks, “Big Gulps, huh?” to the two guys slugging drinks outside the 7-Eleven. Ian Karmel hits both sweet spots. Larger-than-life, loud, and enormous, Karmel hits you like a freight train, then suddenly quips a phrase so sharp you’re left wondering if the same guy said both things. (He did.)
Sideways: With guest appearances on both This American Life and WTF with Marc Maron, Chris Garcia ticks off all the right boxes for the literati. Whether talking about his father’s dementia in a thick Cuban accent or recalling watching Neil Young on acid, Garcia takes you on a long meandering ride through the wine country of his mind.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Much like the cast of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Sean Patton is just someone you want to hang out with. And he also knows his way around some blue subjects. (The guy has an hour-long special devoted to bed-wetting.) Of course, no one would watch if filth was all there was too it. Patton is so much more than a foul mouth: I enjoy nothing more than watching him present what seems like a straight-forward premise, only to wind up at the most absurd place 10 minutes later—often in the most bittersweet way imaginable.
Barton Fink: Aparna Nancherla keeps the same steady, measured tone throughout her sets, lulling you into the safest of spaces. Only then does she deliver a punch line so out there, you wonder how that just came out of a person so mild-mannered. It’s the chaos swelling just beneath the surface that makes the Coen brothers’ movies so dangerous and enjoyable; Nancherla offers the same calm, polished delivery on the most existential of crises.