After one of his stand-up sets a while back, comedian Thomas Dale was approached by an elderly Vietnam vet who had some choice words for the rising star of the comedy world.
“I don’t like gay people,” the man told Dale. “But I like you.”
Dale has made a name for himself with persona-driven and uproarious stand-up sets that mine his queer lifestyle along with his Italian family traditions, his status as a proud Long Islander and as the son of an NYPD detective.
When the old man offered his bigoted, backhanded compliment, though, Dale accepted it.
“I said, ‘I’ll take that,’” he explains. “Because if he can identify with me then maybe he might not be so mean to the next gay person he meets.”
Dale worked the New York comedy club circuit for years, and is now based out of Los Angeles where he’s headlined Catch a Rising Star and recently played “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He is among the comedians — gay and straight — performing at this year’s Aspen Gay Ski Week.
Listening to Dale’s riffs on topics like wanting to blow straight guidos on the New York subway is flat out gut-bustingly funny. But his edgy routines also are bridging the gap to straight audiences. He has a way — a dirty, light-hearted, hilarious way — of pointing out the absurdities of prejudice while making anybody within earshot laugh.
“I started in comedy because I love to perform, but I also saw myself changing the lives of straight people,” he says. “They come up to me and say I changed their opinion of gay people, really. So I find a balance between that responsibility and comedy — I mean, it’s still comedy.”
Now in its 36th year, Aspen Gay Ski Week has its own tradition of wrapping responsibility in a bawdy, rainbow-colored package.
With events running this Sunday through Jan. 20, Aspen Gay Ski Week is a fundraiser event for The Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund, which supports local and national charities promoting tolerance. It includes a world-renowned slate of happenings: the après-ski and late night parties, benefits, ski days, spa days, and the can’t-miss downhill costume parade and contest on Aspen Mountain.
Check out the full schedule of events at www.gayskiweek.com .
This year, the festivities include an expanded two-night lineup of stand-up comedy — Tuesday, Jan. 15 and Thursday, Jan. 17 — at the Wheeler Opera House featuring Dale, Brendon Walsh, Michael Kosta and Drew Carey.
Dale performs Tuesday along with Kosta, a “Tonight Show” and “Chelsea Lately” regular. Thursday night’s show features the iconic Carey, of “The Drew Carey Show,” “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and “The Price is Right,” with Walsh opening.
Locals may remember Walsh from his set at the 2010 Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, also at the Wheeler, along with his HBO comedy special and regular stops on the late night television circuit.
“Well,” Walsh jokes of being a straight comedian playing Aspen Gay Ski Week, “most of my material usually is very anti-gay. So I’ll just be doing the opposite of what I usually do.”
Also now based in Los Angeles, Walsh rose out of the Austin, Texas comedy scene, where he was named “Funniest Person in Austin” in 2004. He’s been playing shows with Carey recently, and the two are going on the road together after the Aspen Gay Ski Week benefit show.
“Not to sound too ass-kissy, but I remember watching him on the ‘Tonight Show’ when I was a teenager and I’m so excited to have gotten to know him and perform with him,” Walsh says. “He’s genuinely one of the best and one of the nicest guys in comedy.”
Michael Kosta & Thomas Dale
Tuesday, Jan. 15
Wheeler Opera House
Drew Carey Brendon Walsh
Thursday, Jan. 17
Wheeler Opera House