After years of steady progress, Bumbershoot’s comedy offerings have officially made a quantum leap. Gathering together the cream of the alterna-comedy crop—David Cross, Upright Citizens Brigade, Aziz Ansari, Todd Barry, many others—Bumbershoot 2006 is a veritable paradise for postmodern comedy lovers, with two of the most promising shows boasting both cultural-studies trappings and TV roots. Best Week Ever, VH1’s endearingly snarky, relentlessly shallow, and thoroughly entertaining pop-culture extravaganza arrives at Bumbershoot in a stripped-down stage version, while Trapped in the Closet, R. Kelly’s face-numbingly bizarre video epic hits the Bumbershoot stage with a panel of comic professionals—including Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, and a rotating “mystery guest”— who’ll whimsically deconstruct Kelly’s legendary “hip-hopera” before your very eyes.

“The setup for the Trapped in the Closet show involves a panel of experts inducting the video into the Broadcast Hall of Fame,” says Ansari, who co-created the show with fellow New Yorker Eric Appel and who’ll host each of the Bumbershoot performances. For those unfamiliar with R. Kelly’s epic, Trapped in the Closet is a 12-part (!) musical soap opera chronicling an infidelity-ridden love quadrangle, complete with cheating preachers on the down-low, compulsive gunplay, merciless melodic repetition, and, of course, an incontinent midget. “Everyone on the panel plays a different fictional character somehow involved in the making of the video,” says Ansari. “The caterer, the costume designer, the author of the novel the video was based on… At one of our L.A. shows, David Cross played the closet itself, hiding in a big wooden wardrobe with a mic placed outside the door.”

When I ask if the show is best for experienced viewers or Trapped in the Closet novices, Ansari is emphatic: “Both,” he says. “At every show, one of the panelists is someone who’s never seen the video before.” The formula seems to be succeeding: After its New York debut, the show proceeded to Los Angeles, where it landed with a bang. “Sold-out houses, tons of press, and we started getting actual participants in the video as panelists,” Ansari says. “By the end of the run, we’d had the director, the actress who plays Bridget, even the midget.” As for the Bumbershoot shows: “We’ll have a rotating panel of experts, featuring as many of the other Bumbershoot comedians as we can get.”

Unlike R. Kelly’s accidentally hilarious video epic, VH1’s Best Week Ever is designed to be funny, compiling the splashiest pop-culture nuggets of a given week—celebrity mishaps, TV highlights, “viral videos”—for elucidation and evisceration by a parade of comic talking heads. The result is a new species of TV entertainment, combining the quick-fire snark of the blogosphere with the odd comfort of instant nostalgia to create addictive comedic candy; Warhol would have loved it. Still, the question remains: How the hell can such a quick-cut clip show make it on the stage?

“Basically, it’s a stripped-down, greatest-hits version of the TV show,” says Doug Benson, creator of The Marijuana-Logues and talking head par excellence. At Bumbershoot, Best Week Ever Live! will feature Benson and two other beloved BWE mainstays—Christian Finnegan and Paul F. Tompkins—who’ll do short individual sets before getting down to ofcial Best Week Ever business. “Together we’ll be doing three segments from the show,” says Benson. “‘In Case You Missed It…,’ which is the best of TV and the internet, ‘The Sizzler,’ which is celebrity gossip, and ‘Who’s Having the Best Week Ever?’ which is usually about whatever celebrity is having a particularly amazing week, but in the live show involves finding the audience member who’s having the best week ever. The first two segments are greatest hits, the third is all new, and all improv. It’s a blast.”