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What's so funny about Arosa?

Comedians have pitched their big top on Arosa's ski slopes (Arosa Tourism)

(swissinfo.ch)

Laughter has been warming the hearts and frostbitten hands of holidaymakers at the ski resort of Arosa.

Now in its 11th year, the Arosa Humour Festival is once again proving that holidaying in the Swiss Alps can be a laughing matter.

At around 2,000 metres above sea level, the snow-bound resort is one of the more unlikely places to find a bunch of comedians pitching their gags.

The audience was told to check in their skis at the door of the circus tent set up directly on Arosa's ski slopes and prepare for the unexpected.

Everyone fell silent as soon as the American performer Peter Shub took the stage and sat at a piano.

Arrestingly dressed in a trench coat and tight-fitting hat, it soon became clear that Shub was neither going to play a note nor say a word - he is a mime artist.

Confronted with such a dilemma, it was left to Shub's minimalist facial expressions to bring the house down.

Shub is one of about 40 acts from eight different countries who have been entertaining the crowds this week in Arosa.

Counting dogs

The six-legged act, "Florin and Cato", proved dogs can count and that vaudeville is still very much alive.

As Florin held up sums on a blackboard, his trusty canine sidekick, Cato, barked out the answers, much to the audience's bemusement and amusement.

Then British jazz singer, Earl Okin, asked the audience to join him for a "one-night stand".

Armed with only an acoustic guitar and a repertoire of old silky-smooth jazz numbers, the dapper-dressed gentleman delved deep into the world of double entendres.

Okin soon had the crowd joining him in a humorous number replete with sexual innuendo (see audio link). It was proof that not only does sex sell, but laughter knows no bounds or language barriers.

"This festival is unique because it takes place in the mountains at 2,000 metres above sea level," says one of the organisers, Martin Vincenz. "People can come and enjoy a show after a day of skiing. That's quite special."

Big attraction

Vincenz says the festival is a big draw. It attracts 7,000 people to the resort at a time when the winter season is just beginning and the hotels are normally empty. And it generates a lot of publicity for Arosa.

"It's the most important event in Arosa," he says. "Since this is such a high altitude resort, we have lots of snow before many other resorts and the festival is a great way of getting people to talk about Arosa at the start of the winter season."

There are few taboos at this year's festival. Clown Leo Bassi will perform his new improvisational act, "The 12th of September", on closing night.

Bassi says it is his way of expressing frustration and anger over American arrogance in the aftermath of September 11 and the ensuing "war against terrorism".

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

Arosa Humour Festival

The festival takes place over ten days and closes on December 15.
It features around 40 different acts from eight different countries.
Performances take place in a circus tent set up on the slopes and in the resort's casino.
Arosa is one of the highest ski resorts in the Swiss Alps at around 2,000 metres above sea level.

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