“What are my qualifications to write this book? None, really,” comedian Jim Gaffigan writes at the beginning of Food: A Love Story (Crown Archetype, October 21, $26), the follow-up to his 2013 bestseller, Dad Is Fat. “So why should you read it? Here’s why: I’m a little fat. Okay, to some I might not be considered that fat, but the point is, I’m not thin. If a thin guy were to write about a love of food and eating, I’d highly recommend that you do not read his book. . . . First of all, how do you know they really feel passionately about food? Well, obviously, they are not passionate enough to overdo it. That’s not very passionate. Anyway, I’m overweight.” The stand-up comic and married father of five, who has appeared in such films as The Love Guru and on Broadway in That Championship Season and has publicly shared his desire for Hot Pockets and bacon, among other edibles, will be at the Union Square Barnes & Noble on October 20 at 7:00 to read from and discuss his new book, which features such chapters as “Not Slim Jim,” “The Buffet Rule,” “Cup of Gravy,” “Salad Days,” “Kobe Beef: The Decadent Meat,” “French Fries: My Fair Potato,” and “Hot Pockets: A Blessing and a Curse.” Seating will begin at 5:00 on the fourth floor, with priority given to those who have purchased a copy of the book; the event will conclude with a signing.
After seeing the Broadway debut of Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 black comedy, This Is Our Youth, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, thankful that this was not my youth — although it could have been, since I’m the same age as two of the three characters and grew up in New York as well at the exact same time. It’s a lot funnier watching the antics onstage than having actually lived that life. It’s March 1982, and nineteen-year-old Warren Straub (Michael Cera) has arrived at the Upper West Side pad of his friend and drug dealer, twenty-one-year-old Dennis Ziegler (Kieran Culkin), with a suitcase stuffed with valuable collectible toys and records and fifteen grand in cash he stole from his abusive father. Dennis and Warren have an intense love-hate relationship, as the supposedly cool and calm dealer constantly insults his always nervous, twitchy buddy, who appears to suffer from ADHD and often thrusts his hands into his pockets to keep them from doing something strange as he tramps around the stage. “What kind of life do you lead?” Dennis says early on. “You live with your father — a psycho. . . . Nobody can stand to have you around because you’re such an annoying loudmouthed little creep, and now you’re like some kind of fugitive from justice? What is gonna happen to you, man?” Warren, who has a unique philosophical view of the world, replies, “What’s gonna happen to anybody? Who cares?” Dennis’s never-seen girlfriend, Valerie, and her friend, the fashionable Jessica Goldman (current It Girl Tavi Gevinson), are on their way over, so Dennis and Warren come up with a plan to lavish some of the stolen money — which Dennis insists Warren return to his father — on the two women, then make it back by reselling some coke. But nothing seems to go quite right for these two luckless losers.
Originally produced by the New Group in 1996 with Josh Hamilton as Dennis, Mark Ruffalo as Warren, and Missy Yager as Jessica (later versions have featured such young stars as Matt Damon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hayden Christensen, Freddie Prinze Jr., Anna Paquin, Summer Phoenix, Heather Burns, and Alison Lohman), This Is Our Youth is a searing comic portrait of three college-age kids trying to find their place in a not-so-warm-and-cozy world. Culkin (subUrbia, Lonergan’s The Starry Messenger) plays the sleazy but lovable Dennis with broad strokes, channeling Robert Downey Jr. from Less Than Zero; in fact, This Is Our Youth is sort of an extremely stripped-down, more low rent East Coast version of the 1987 film based on Bret Easton Ellis’s bestselling novel, with smart, razor-sharp, free-wheeling dialogue from Lonergan (The Waverly Gallery, You Can Count on Me). Gevinson, the teen powerhouse behind Rookie magazine, starts off a bit mannered before settling into her character, an FIT student who is (wisely) suspicious of Warren and is the only one of the three who actually cares about her family. But Cera steals the show in a bravura performance as the unpredictable Warren, imbuing him with a fidgety apprehension and a tense, jittery anxiety that is mesmerizing. He’s so wound up, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to have a conversation with him. “So how you doing, Jessica?” he asks when she shows up at Dennis’s apartment. “You’re looking very automated tonight,” to which Jessica replies, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Anna D. Shapiro (Domesticated, August: Osage County) directs this Steppenwolf production with a controlled recklessness where anything can happen on Todd Rosenthal’s (Of Mice and Men, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) spectacular set, a walk-up studio surrounded by an apartment complex so realistic you’ll wonder why you’ve never noticed it in the Theater District before. Letting out another sigh of relief, I can again confirm that I am intensely glad to have experienced This Is Our Youth as an onstage drama instead of ever having to live this crazy kind of life myself.
DAVE CHAPPELLE’S BLOCK PARTY (Michel Gondry, 2006)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, September 20, $14, 9:45
Series runs September 19-20
In September 2004, comedian Dave Chappelle put on a surprise block party in Bedford-Stuyvesant, sort of a mini-Brooklyn version of Wattstax, Mel Stuart’s seminal L.A. concert film in which Richard Pryor teamed up with a host of black musicians, including Isaac Hayes, Albert King, the Staples Singers and Carla and Rufus Thomas. Directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) and photographed by Ellen Kuras (Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Blow) Block Party is Chappelle’s Wattstax for the twenty-first century. Gondry and Chappelle take viewers on a very funny trip as the comedian wanders around his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, handing out golden tickets like a black Willy Wonka, offering everyone free transportation to Brooklyn, loading buses up with a fascinating mix of people of all races. When he bumps into a college marching band, he invites them to play at the party, joining such big names as Kanye West, the reunited Fugees, Big Daddy Kane, Common, John Legend, the Roots, and Dead Prez. Gondry cuts between the preparation for the block party and the actual festivities, an infectious blend of music and comedy that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of it all. Musical highlights include West performing “Jesus Walks” with Legend and Common, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu backing the Roots on “You Got Me,” and Talib Kweli, Common, and Fred Hampton Jr. rapping with Mos Def on “Umi Says.”
Unfortunately, the songs are not seen in their entirety, one of the film’s only drawbacks. Behind the scenes, Chappelle tickles the ivories to “Misty” and “Round Midnight,” hangs out with the bizarre white couple who live in the Broken Angel house across the street, and jokes around with Mos Def. The film avoids any overt political messages, although some of the songs deal with controversial topics. One of the sweetest moments is when Wyclef Jean plays “President” for the marching band, letting the members know they can be anything they want to be. Block Party is a shining, defining moment for Chappelle, who shortly after walked away from a $50 million Comedy Central contract, succumbing to the pressure of fame and expectation. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is screening September 20 at 9:15 as part of BAMcinématek’s “The Source360” series, honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of the influential magazine. The two-day festival also includes George Tillman Jr.’s Notorious, a biopic about Biggie Smalls; One9’s Time Is Illmatic, a documentary about Nas; The Man with the Iron Fists, followed by a Q&A with director and star RZA; and Peter Spirer’s Rhyme & Reason, which follows the history of rap music. In addition, Pass the Mic: Ladies First — A Night of Women Emcees, with Nitty Scott, Rajé Shwari, Roxanne Shanté, and Sweet Tee, takes place in the BAMcafé on September 19 and International Hip-Hop Night, with Amkoullel, Gokh Bi System, Rebel Diaz, Shokanti, AYoinmotion, and Bocafloja, hosted by Toni Blackman, is scheduled for September 20.
Tickets for the ten featured events of the eleventh annual New York Comedy Festival are currently on sale to Citi cardmembers through August 10 at 10:00 pm, then will be made available to the general public on Monday morning, August 11, at 10:00. This year’s lineup includes such big names as Bill Cosby, Bill Maher, Amy Schumer, and Marc Maron as well as such up-and-comers as Tig Notaro, Hannibal Buress, and Jessiemae Peluso. Dozens more events will be announced in the fall, but tickets for the below shows are going fast. Keep watching this space as more major shows are added.
Thursday, November 6
Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted, Town Hall, $34.50 - $54.50, 8:00
Friday, November 7
Hannibal Buress, Town Hall, $40.50 - $44.50, 7:00
Marc Maron, NYU Skirball Center, $35, 7:30
Amy Schumer: Professional, Carnegie Hall, $45-$85, 8:00
Saturday, November 8
An Evening with Bill Maher, Beacon Theatre, $50-$110, 7:00
Chris D’elia: Under No Influence, Town Hall, $34-50 - $57.50, 7:00
Jessiemae Peluso and Carly Aquilino, NYU Skirball Center, $25-$40, 7:00
Bill Cosby, Carnegie Hall, $45-$90, 8:00
Maria Bamford, Town Hall, $34.50 - $54.50, 9:45
Nick Offerman: Full Bush, Beacon Theatre, $47.50 - $57.50, 9:45
Park Ave. & 72nd St. to Foley Square
Saturday, August 2, 9, 16, free, 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
Now in its fifth year, Summer Streets takes place the next three Saturday mornings, as Park Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic from 72nd St. to Foley Square and the Brooklyn Bridge from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, encouraging people to walk, run, jog, blade, skate, and bike down the famous thoroughfare, getting exercise and enjoying the great outdoors without car exhaust, speeding taxis, and slow-moving buses. There are five rest stops along the route (Uptown at 52nd St., Midtown at 25th, Astor Pl. at Lafayette St., SoHo at Spring & Lafayette, and Foley Square at Duane & Centre), where people can stop for some food and drink, live performances, fitness classes, site-specific art installations, dog walks, bicycle and parkour workshops, ziplining, wall climbing, and other activities, all of which are free. Below are only some of the many highlights.
August 2, 9, 16
Cigna Recovery Zone classes: Bendable Body (7:00), Sunrise Salutations (7:30), Body Art (8:00), Balanced Body Yoga (8:30), Yoga Unplugged (9:00), Brazilian Burn n’ Firm Pilates (9:30), Pon De Flo (10:00), Ab Attack (10:30), Retro-Robics (11:00), Hard Knocks (11:30), Masala Bhangra (12 noon), Astor Place Rest Stop
“The Course of Emotions: A mini-golf experience by Risa Puno,” nine-hole miniature golf course in which each hole represents a different emotion, Uptown Rest Stop, 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
“Dive by Jana Winderen,” site-specific sound installation turning Park Ave. Tunnel into an underwater environment, line begins at Park Ave. & 32nd St., 7:00 am – 12:30 pm
Live music by the Poor Cousins (9:30), Yaz Band (10:00), Mecca Bodega (10:30), Robert Anderson Band (11:00), Uptown Rest Stop
Live performances by Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theatre (10:00), Salsa NY (11:00), Underground Horns (11:30), NY Laughs (12 noon), Feraba (12:30), Foley Square Rest Stop
“Matt Postal, Midtown Modern Tour,” two-hour MAS tour, Uptown Rest Stop, northwest corner of 52nd St. & Park Ave., 10:30
Food demos and talks by Veggiecation (10:30), Seeds in the Middle (10:50), Omowale Adewale (11:10), Jenne Claiborne the Nourishing Vegan (11:25), Creative Kitchen (11:45), Asphalt Green (12:07), Midtown Rest Stop
“Trumpet City: Park Avenue by Craig Shepard,” ninety-one trumpeters join musician Craig Shepard, lining up between 45th & 72nd Sts. on Park Ave., playing a one-hour piece that interacts with such natural sounds as traffic, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Live performances by Salieu Suso and Malang Jobateh (9:00), Caty Grier: NYC Subway Girl (9:30), Leah Coloff (10:00), TAANY Santaizi Troupe (10:30), Charly and Margaux (11:00), Afrikumba (11:30), Karikatura (12 noon), Uptown Rest Stop
Live performances by Salsa NY (10:00), Harmony Program (10:30), Cherub Improv (11:00), Improv 4 Kids (12 noon), Foley Square Rest Stop
Abolitionist Walking Tour, African Burial Ground, National Park Service tour, Foley Square Rest Stop, southwest corner of Duane & Lafayette Sts., 10:00 (also August 16 at 10:00 and 12 noon)
“Peter Laskowich, New York City: A Gateway,” two-hour MAS tour, Foley Square Rest Stop, southwest corner of Duane & Lafayette Sts., 10:00
“Tilt Brass by Chris McIntyre,” interactive sound installation using infrared technology and live trombones, trumpets, and drums, Foley Square Rest Stop, 10:30 – 1:00
Food demos and talks by Sally Graves the Supermarket Fairy (10:30), Omowale Adewale (11:10), Seeds in the Middle (11:25), Taza Chocolate (11:45), Midtown Rest Stop
“My (Our) Way by Nick Tobler,” interactive musical event in which Tobler will hand out between fifty and a hundred music boxes for a mass performance of “My Way,” Astor Place Rest Stop, 8:00 and 10:30
Live performances by Seya (10:00), Exit 12 (10:30), Salsa NY (11:00), Darrah Carr (12 noon), Foley Square Rest Stop
Food demos and talks by Yoli Ouiya (10:12), Creative Kitchen (10:30), Omowale Adewale (10:50), Chris Santos of Morningstar Farms (11:10), Min Liao from Culinary (11:45), and Seeds in the Middle (12:07), Midtown Rest Stop
Live performances by Matt Pana (10:30), Yung-Li Dance Company (11:00), the Vocalists (11:30), Cupcake Ladies Productions comedy wrestling (12 noon), Uptown Rest Stop
“Judy Richeimer, Public Art in New York’s Civic Center,” two-hour MAS tour, Foley Square Rest Stop, southwest corner of Duane & Lafayette Sts., 11:00
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, July 5, free, 5:00 - 11:00 ($10 discounted admission to “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”)
The Brooklyn Museum is throwing a summer party for its July free First Saturdays program, centered by a twenty-fifth-anniversary screening of Spike Lee’s Bed-Stuy classic, Do the Right Thing. In addition, there will be music from Matuto, Blitz the Ambassador, DJ Uhuru, and Nina Sky, a female comedy showcase hosted by Erica Watson, a talk and fashion show led by Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair author Michael July, a sidewalk chalk drawing project organized by the City Kids, a hula hoop demonstration with Hula Nation, an art workshop in which participants will learn figure drawing with a live model, and an interactive talk with “Brooklyn in 3000 Stills” creators Paul Trillo and Landon Van Soest. In addition, you can check out the current quartet of exhibitions, all of which deal with activism through art: “Ai Weiwei: According to What?,” “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands,” “Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago’s Early Works, 1963–74,” and “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties.”
The powerful, wide-ranging “Witness,” which has just been extended through July 13 (the other three exhibits continue into August or September), is a traveling show being held in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. More than one hundred paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations are on view, divided into eight thematic categories: “Integrate Educate,” “American Nightmare,” “Presenting Evidence,” “Politicizing Pop,” “Black Is Beautiful,” “Sisterhood,” “Global Liberation,” and “Beloved Community.” In Bruce Davidson’s “USA. Montgomery, Alabama. 1961,” a black Freedom Rider sits by a window on a bus being escorted by the National Guard. David Hammons’s “The Door (Admissions Office)” is not exactly a welcoming sight. Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood (Negro in the Suburbs)” depicts three white children and two black children stopped on a sidewalk, curiously looking at each other. Melvin Edwards’s “Chaino” evokes slavery and lynchings. A trio of cartoonish KKK members drive into town in Philip Guston’s “City Limits.” There are also works by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Jack Whitten, Faith Ringgold, Ben Shahn, Betye Saar, Gordon Parks, Jim Dine, Yoko Ono, Barkley Hendricks, Robert Indiana, Richard Avedon, and others that examine the civil rights movement from multiple angles, displaying America’s continuing shame.