This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

TICKET ALERT — WHAT A JOKE: A NATIONAL COMEDY FEST SUPPORTING THE ACLU

Who: Janeane Garofalo, Subhah Agarwal, Kerry Coddett, Martin Urbano, Jenn Welch, Emily Winter, Petey DeAbreu, Josh Gondelman, Jo Firestone, Brett Davis, Langston Kerman, Mike Recine, Rob Haze, Maria Wojciechowski, Carmen Lagala, Laurie Kilmartin, Dave Hill, Jordan Temple, Rae Sanni, Chris Calogero
What: What a Joke Comedy Fest
Where: The Stand, 239 Third Ave.; the Annoyance Theatre, 367 Bedford Ave., Rough Trade, 64 North Ninth St.
When: January 19, the Stand, $40, 8:00; January 20, the Annoyance Theatre, $15, 8:00; January 21, $20, 8:30
Why: During inaugural weekend, comedians in more than two dozen cities around the country as well as in Oxford, England, will be participating in a national comedy festival that will be filled with some very serious laughs. The three-day event, held in response to president-elect Donald Trump’s continued threats on human rights, is a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union, which was founded in 1920 to, among other goals, “work to change policy as well as hearts and minds.” Here in New York City, the three-day What a Joke Comedy Fest begins on January 19 at the Stand, with Janeane Garofalo, Subhah Agarwal, Kerry Coddett, Martin Urbano, Petey DeAbreu, and event producers Jenn Welch and Emily Winter. On January 20 at the Annoyance Theater, Welch and Winter will be joined by Josh Gondelman, Jo Firestone, Brett Davis, Langston Kerman, Mike Recine, Rob Haze, Maria Wojciechowski, and Carmen Lagala. And on January 21 at Rough Trade, Welch and Winter’s guests will be Laurie Kilmartin, Dave Hill, Jordan Temple, and Rae Sanni, with host Chris Calogero. As ACLU founder Roger Baldwin stated, “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.” And that’s no laughing matter.

HOLIDAY MUSIC, COMEDY, AND THEATER

Ronnie Spector will celebrate the best Christmas ever at City Winery

Ronnie Spector will celebrate the best Christmas ever at City Winery

New York City has tons of special programs during the holiday season, some well known and annual traditions, others more cutting edge and unique. Below is only a handful of seasonal recommendations, several of which are likely not to be on most people’s radar. Keep checking this space as more Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations are added.

Wednesday, December 14
Ingrid Michaelson’s 10th Annual Holiday Hop, with Sugar and the Hi Lows, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St., $40, 9:00

Kevin Geeks Out About Holiday Specials, with Kevin Maher, Erin Farrell, Wendy Mays, Paul Murphy, and Steve Flack, Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.$16, 9:30

Thursday, December 15
The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel, with Steven Fine, Met Fifth Ave., Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St., free with museum admission, 3:00

The Oh Hellos Present: The Oh Hellos Christmas Extravaganza, with Tyler and Maggie Heath, Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 North Sixth St., $20-$22, 9:00

Thursday, December 15
through
Saturday, December 17

The 37th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration, with the Paul Winter Consort (soprano saxophonist Paul Winter, cellist Eugene Friesen, double-reed player Paul McCandless, keyboardist Paul Sullivan, bassist Eliot Wadopian, drummer Jamey Haddad, organist Tim Brumfield, Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker, and Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., $35-$95

Friday, December 16, 23
Holiday Music in Gilbert Court, A Renaissance Christmas with My Lord Chamberlain’s Consort, Morgan Library, 225 Madison Ave. at 36th St., free with museum admission, 6:30

Saturday, December 17
Brandenburgers Holiday Concert, with the Brooklyn Brandenburgers performing music by Bach, Corelli, Dvorak, Glickman, Ostyn, and Piazzolla, Old Stone House, 336 Third St. in Washington Park, $10, 2:00 & 7:00

Karen Luschar Sings “Mistletoe and Holly,” New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, free, 2:30

Saturday, December 17
Friday, December 23
Monday, December 26

A Darlene Love Christmas: Love for the Holidays, B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., $45-$82.50

Sunday, December 18
Latkepalooza!, with food, music, and family-friendly activities, Museum of Jewish Heritage, Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Pl., $10, 10:00 am

Hanukkah Family Day, Jewish Museum, Scheuer Auditorium, 1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St., free with museum admission, 12 noon - 4:00 pm

Karina Posborg is one of many filmmakers screening their Yule Log shorts at BRIC

Karina Posborg is one of many filmmakers screening their Yule Log shorts at BRIC

Monday, December 19
Yule Log 2.016, fifty short films, the Stoop at BRIC Arts | Media House, 647 Fulton St., free, 1:00 – 6:00

Harmony for Peace Holiday Peace Concert, Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, 881 Seventh Ave. between 56th & 57th Sts., $21-$100, 8:00

Tuesday, December 20
MetLiveArts: The Little Match Girl Passion, directed by Rachel Chavkin and starring Ekmeles, Met Breuer lobby, 945 Madison Ave. at 75th St., $65, 7:00

Tuesday, December 20
and
Wednesday, December 21

Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever!, City Winery, 155 Varick St. between Spring & Vandam Sts., $55-$75, 8:00

Thursday, December 22
and
Friday, December 23

Yule Shul vs. Nutcracker: Rated R — A Love Show Holiday Extravaganza, (le) poisson rouge, 158 Bleecker St. between Thompson & Sullivan Sts., $15-$35, 8:00

christmas-for-the-jews

Thursday, December 22
through
Saturday, December 24

Merry Hanukkah with Judy Gold, Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway between 49th & 50th Sts., $32.75

Saturday, December 24
A Very Jewish Christmas, with Modi, Gotham Comedy Club, 208 West 23rd St. between Seventh & 8th Aves., $25, 7:00 & 9:00

Sunday, December 25
Christmas for the Jews, with Joel Chasnoff, Dan Naturman, Cory Kahaney, and more, City Winery, 155 Varick St. between Spring & Vandam Sts., $25, 8:00

Friday, December 30
Kwanzaa 2016: Songs for the Soul, with Ruben Studdard, Dr. Linda H. Humes, and students from the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, American Museum of Natural History, Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, Central Park West at 79th St., free with museum admission, 12 noon & 3:00

BROOKLYN MUSEUM FIRST SATURDAY: ELECTION SEASON

First Saturday workshop participants can make their own “I want a president” speech based on Zoe Leonard’s original 1992 text

First Saturday workshop participants can make their own “I want a president” speech based on Zoe Leonard’s original 1992 text

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 6, free, 5:00 - 11:00
212-864-5400
www.brooklynmuseum.org

There’s no escaping the election, so the Brooklyn Museum has given in as well and is dedicating its free November First Saturday program to the upcoming vote. There will be live performances by Slavic Soul Party!, DJ Chela, and Brown Girls Burlesque (the adult Strip the Polls); the curator tour “I See Myself in You,” led by assistant curator of contemporary art Rujeko Hockley, focusing on the use of the body in art; a hands-on workshop in which participants will make their own campaign buttons; presidential pop-art talks in the American Art galleries; a workshop updating the text of Zoe Leonard’s 1992 text “I want a president,” which can currently be seen on the High Line; and Laugh the Vote comedy with Baratunde Thurston, Sherrod Small, and Christian Finnegan. In addition, you can check out such exhibits as “Beverly Buchanan — Ruins and Rituals,” “The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago,” “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas,” “I See Myself in You: Selections from the Collection,” and “Philippe Parreno: My Room Is Another Fish Bowl”; the fourth- and fifth-floor galleries will close at eight o’clock except for “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present,” which will be open all night and requires a discounted admission fee of $10.

DICK GREGORY: WHAT’S GOING ON?

Dick Gregory will talk comedy and politics at the Black Spectrum Theatre on October 22

Dick Gregory will talk comedy and politics at the Black Spectrum Theatre on October 22

Who: Dick Gregory, Onaje Allan Gumbs
What: Comedy, music, political discussion
Where: Black Spectrum Theatre, Roy Wilkins Recreation Center, 177 St. & Baisley Blvd., Queens, 718-723-1800
When: Saturday, October 22, $35 in advance, $45 at the door, 8:00
Why: This past summer, Joe Morton played comedian and activist Dick Gregory in the excellent show Turn Me Loose. Now you can see the real thing, as Gregory, who just turned eighty-four on October 12, will be at the Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens on October 22, sharing his sociopolitical musings and conspiracy rants about the state of the world; he should be in extra-fine form with the election approaching. (You can get a taste of his thoughts on Donald Trump here.) The evening will also feature a performance by Harlem-born, Queens-raised pianist, composer, and bandleader Onaje Allan Gumbs, who has released such albums as That Special Part of Me, Remember Their Innocence, Sack Full of Dreams, and Just Like Yesterday.

TICKET ALERT: NEW YORK COMEDY FESTIVAL

Bill Maher is likely to have his hands full with political jokes at New York Comedy Festival gig a few days before Election Day

Bill Maher is likely to have his hands full with political jokes at New York Comedy Festival gig a few days before Election Day

Who: Bill Maher, Patton Oswalt, Tig Notaro, Marc Maron, Bridgett Everett, Trevor Noah, Tracy Morgan, Chris D’Elia, Tim Minchin, Eric Andre, Cameron Esposito, Dane Cook, Hari Kondabolu, T. J. Miller
What: The thirteenth annual New York Comedy Festival
Where: The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Beacon Theatre, Carnegie Hall, the Town Hall, Carolines on Broadway, NYU Skirball Center
When: November 1-6
Why: You won’t be laughing if you don’t score tickets to some of the hottest shows at this year’s New York Comedy Festival, taking place at multiple venues the first week of November. Below are five of our suggestions for can’t-miss hilarity.

Patton Oswalt, Beacon Theatre, Thursday, November 3, $50-$85, 7:00
Marc Maron, Carnegie Hall, Friday, November 4, $36-$62, 8:00
Tig Notaro, Carnegie Hall, Saturday, November 5, $35-$59, 7:00
Trevor Noah, Beacon Theatre, Saturday, November 5, $40-$75, 7:00
Bill Maher, the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Saturday, November 5, $31-$146, 8:00

CaribBEING IN BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday program includes screening of Todd Kessler’s new film, BAZODEE, followed by a Q&A

Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday program includes screening of Todd Kessler’s new film, BAZODEE, followed by a Q&A

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, August 6, free, 5:00 - 11:00
212-864-5400
www.brooklynmuseum.org

The Brooklyn Museum is getting ready for Labor Day weekend’s West Indian American Day Carnival with an August First Saturday presentation filled with Caribbean energy and culture. The free events, some of which require advance tickets that night, will feature the live performance “Ganggang: Creative Misunderstanding Series” by disguise artist Alejandro Guzman, with Abigail Deville, Christopher Manzione, Clifford Owens, Elan Jurado, Geraldo Mercado, Jessica Gallucci, Marcus Willis, Sam Vernon, Tré Chandler, and William Villalongo; children’s storytelling with Linda Humes; a performance and reading by ethnomusicologist Danielle Brown from her memoir, East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home; screenings of Bazodee (Todd Kessler, 2016), followed by a Q&A with actor and soca star Machel Montano, writer Claire Ince, and producers Susanne Bohnet and Ancil McKain, as well as the classic reggae flick Rockers (Theodoros Bafaloukos, 1978); Rusty Zimmerman discussing his “Free Portrait Project: Crown Heights”; a hands-on workshop in which participants can make their own Caribbean-inspired instruments; pop-up gallery talks in the excellent “Disguise: Masks and Global African Art” exhibition; a Backyard Bashment dancehall workshop and party with choreographer Blacka Di Danca, actor-comedian Majah Hype, and DJ MeLo-X; and the interactive mobile art center caribBEING House, featuring Ruddy Rove’s “Fine Art of Daggering” photos, a participatory wall map, and the opportunity to share your own Caribbean tale. In addition, you can check out such exhibitions as “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present,” “Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective, 1999–2016,” “Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (to a Seagull),” and “Agitprop!”

TURN ME LOOSE

Dick Gregory (Joe Morton) has been pointing his finger at Americas ailments for more than fifty years (photo by Monique Carboni)

Dick Gregory (Joe Morton) has been pointing his finger at America’s ailments for more than fifty years (photo by Monique Carboni)

Westside Theatre
407 West 43rd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday – Sunday through July 17, $79-$89
www.turnmelooseplay.com

“Now, I know that many of you folks out there do read the paper. But I wish you would read all the papers. You just read some of the papers — where they callin’ me the Negro Lenny Bruce. You gotta’ read those Congo papers where they callin’ Lenny Bruce — the white Dick Gregory!” Dick Gregory (Joe Morton) declares near the beginning of Turn Me Loose, Gretchen Law’s smart, essential play about the life and career of the comedian, activist, and self-described wellness guru born Richard Claxton Gregory in St. Louis in 1932. The Emmy-winning, Tony-nominated Morton is riveting as Gregory, going back and forth between club gigs and interviews from the 1960s to the present day, when he addresses the audience directly as an old man, looking back at his failures and accomplishments. (Fortunately, the play avoids his numerous forays into conspiracy theories.) Gregory talks about his life with his wife and children, his goals for financial success and social change, and his friendships with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers. In fact, the title is taken from Evers’s final words: “Turn me loose.” As Morton ambles across Chris Barreca’s stripped-down set, consisting of a microphone, table, stool and phone, the play gets to the heart of what Gregory was and is about. “I’m out to find the truth. Expose the tricks,” he says. Discussing the ongoing battles between black and white, Muslims and Christians, Jews and Palestinians, and liberals and conservatives, he admonishes, “When you accept injustice, you become injustice. When you coexist with filth? You become filth. It’s all of those myths you’re buyin’ into.” Other gems include “Bein’ white ain’t got nothin’ to do with color,” “My tongue . . . was my switchblade. My humor was my sword,” “I believe that information is salvation,” and “When I grew up in St. Louis, I thought that poverty was the worst disease on the earth. I soon learned that racism is the worst disease on the face of the earth.”

(photo by Monique Carboni)

Joe Morton is riveting as comedian, activist, and wellness guru Dick Gregory (photo by Monique Carboni)

Law (The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of Her God, Al Sharpton for President) and director John Gould Rubin (Hedda Gabler, Playing with Fire) zero in on the key moments of Gregory’s career: being invited by Hugh Hefner to perform at the Playboy Club in Chicago in 1961, where he faced a harsh crowd of white southerners, and demanding that if Jack Paar wanted him to do stand-up on the Tonight show, he had to be allowed to sit on the couch and speak with Paar afterward, something no black entertainer had done before. He also makes brilliant use of the word “n-gger.” He celebrates the way Mark Twain employed it (“Mark Twain was so brilliant! He gave a n-gger a name! ‘N-gger Jim.’ And then white folks had to read about a black man with a name. A person.”) and confronts the audience with it. After being heckled at the Playboy Club, he turns to the Westside Theatre audience and says, “How about you all out there? Anyone out there care to stand up and call me a n-gger? Come on now. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity. Stand up! Come on. Stand up! Go ahead. Get on up. Get on up and call me — a n-gger! It’s only a word.” Of course, at that moment you could hear a pin drop, aside from some nervous laughter. (The night I went, the crowd was about half white and half black.) Morton, who has starred in such films as The Brother from Another Planet and Lone Star, such television series as Scandal and Eureka, and the Broadway plays Hair, Art, and Raisin, does not go into full impersonation mode but effectively captures Gregory’s unique spirit in his every movement. However, Turn Me Loose is not quite a one-man show; John Carlin, who is white, also appears in bit parts as various hecklers and a comic. In addition, coproducer John Legend contributes an original song. At one point, Gregory declares, “Nobody makes it out alive when they make a real change that has to do with race. Nobody!” As he often has done over the course of his life, Gregory defies convention yet again.