May, Nichols tribute planned

Duo to be honored at U.S. Comedy Arts Festival

Comic team Mike Nichols and Elaine May will unite at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, where they will accept a career tribute from actor-comedian Steve Martin.

The award is the first of its kind for the fest, which will be held in Aspen, Colo., Feb. 9-13.

“Mike and Elaine epitomize and symbolize such unique talent,” fest executive director Stu Smiley told Daily Variety. “If you look at their careers … their influence has been so great in keeping alive sophisticated, great comedies. (They) really elevate the art of comedy.”

First partnered in 1957 as a comedy writing team, Nichols and May were quickly noticed for their keen satires of male-female relationships and biting social commentary.

The two performed with Chicago’s Compass Players (later renamed Second City) before hitting Broadway with the legiter “An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May” in 1960. That show garnered the pair a Grammy for comedy performance. Shortly thereafter, the comic duo parted ways.

Nichols turned to directing, first for the stage (“Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple”) and then for the bigscreen, debuting with the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton starrer “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1966.

The prolific helmer has earned seven Tony awards, as well as an Oscar for his work on “The Graduate.” Other critically acclaimed efforts include “Carnal Knowledge,” “Silkwood” and “Postcards From the Edge.”

May continued writing (1978’s “Heaven Can Wait”) and also added directing to her resume (1972’s “The Heartbreak Kid”).

Nichols and May reunited with the 1996 comedy “The Birdcage,” and for 1998’s political satire “Primary Colors,” both of which May wrote with Nichols producing and directing.

The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival was founded by Smiley (who also serves as exec producer of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond”) and Brian Murphy (prexy of U.S. Concepts Inc., a leading national promotion and event-marketing agency). Murphy also serves as exec director of the fest.