Improvalooza 1997 Local improv artists turn the art of razor-sharp comic timing into a team sport as they warm up for the National ComedySportz Tournament. Their goal? A prize of no less stature than the Meaningless Cup. Houston placed third in the nation last year, but this year, with performers holding such names as Lucian "Splooshian" Smith, and Dianah "Delooney" Dulany, we can't help but come out undisputed champions, rulers of the meaningless universe. 8 p.m., Treebeards on Market Square, 315 Travis, 521-2226. $10.
The Most Beautiful Cat Contest You've always known she's the most kissably cute cat in creation. Now's your chance to convince everyone else in the world. Bring a photo of your favorite feline to the Landmark River Oaks Theatre and let them show her (or him) upstairs in the cafe. Judges from the Cat Veterinary Clinic will select a winner Saturday, July 19. Be sure to include your name and phone number on the back of the picture so, after your furry sweetie is declared "most beautiful," they'll know where to send all those exciting cat toys and free passes to the movie When the Cat's Away. Pictures can be dropped off anytime during theater hours, 4:30-10 p.m. thru July 18. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray, 850-0217. Free.
Seventh Annual Desk & Derrick Golf Tournament There are actually clubs in town whose entire purpose is to promote the professional development of people employed in the energy industry. The Desk and Derrick Clubs invite you to join them in giving an opportunity to help future landmen and engineers, wildcatters and geologists make their oily dreams come true. Today's fundraising tournament offers an opportunity for an altruistic round of golf as well as some fun with the oil guys. Support a scholarship, and get a tan and some exercise. Registration, 7:30 a.m.; tournament, 8 a.m. Cypresswood Golf Course, 21602 Cypresswood Dr. To register or for information, call Nina Milligan, 654-4141. $100 per player; includes cart, greens fees and lunch.
The Mikado Only the imperialist Victorians could gleefully appropriate medieval Japanese culture to spoof 19th-century British manners and morals with such lighthearted cultural insensitivity. But that's exactly what quintessential Victorians W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan did in their wickedly witty, politically savvy and musically ornate opera The Mikado. Legend has it that Gilbert's inspiration for his most famous opera fell, quite literally, at his feet. Brainstorming for operatic ideas, he tromped his big English shoes across the floorboards of his quiet study. A Japanese executioner's sword decorating his wall clattered to the ground before him, and in that moment the muse struck. What came afterward was the creation of some of light opera's funniest and most famous characters -- including the deliciously beautiful Yum-Yum and her handsome lover, the decidedly unfortunate Nanki-Poo, heir to the Japanese throne. There is also Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner, and of course the Mikado himself; both do everything oldsters do to get in the way of young love before all comes out fine in the end. Thru July 27. 8 p.m. tonight (see Thrills for other dates and times). Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, 500 Texas, 236-8310. $12-30.
Japanese Bookbinding and Wall Stamping The elegant art of bookbinding is so demure that most of us aren't even aware of it when we are holding a book in our hands. Discover the secrets of this modest art in a demonstration given today by Darla Hartmann, the visual artist who founded Artists Bookworks Houston. In addition, Lyle Barrett, owner of P.O. Box Rubberstamps, will demonstrate the rowdier craft of rubber stamping. Learn to stamp wood, walls, furniture -- anything but pets, spouses and children. Bookbinding demo at 10:15 a.m. & 12:15 p.m.; wall stamping demo, 11:15 a.m. & 1:15 p.m.; stamp-making demo at noon. Heights Pavilion, 244 West 19th St., 864-0656 or 861-3411. Free.
A Glenn Miller Evening What better way to enjoy an old-fashioned good-time Saturday night than with two ballrooms filled with foxtrotters and the luscious long sound of big band music? Imagine the twine of the lonely clarinet snaking down your spine, affording you no choice but to join the others twirling on the glossy floor. The lights are low, but the setups for sale on the side make the night glow bright once you've added a shot from the flask you've brought. Or maybe the music and dancing alone are enough to make the night shine. It's all legal and perfectly healthy (provided that flask isn't too big). Join Billie Ledbetter and his orchestra and dance, as they say, the night away. BYOB, 8 p.m.midnight, West Houston DanceSport Center, 14919 Bellaire Blvd., (281) 933-9970. $10, singles; $18, couples.
Use of Medication in the Treatment of Infertility Almost one in six couples in the Houston area experiences the frustration and pain of infertility. During this difficult time in a marriage, information can be both hard to come by and confoundingly contradictory. Tonight, Dr. Robert McWilliams, medical director of the Center for Reproduction at Gramercy in Houston, will present an overview of medications currently being used in the treatment of infertility. The pros and cons of drugs such as Fertinex, Pergonal, Humegon, Clomid, Estrase, Progesterone, Provera, Parlodel and Lupron will be discussed in plain old layman's language. 2-4 p.m., Columbia Woman's Hospital, 7600 Fannin, Room AB (ground floor near cafeteria), 723-2299. $2; $3, couples.
Friends of Kathleen Benefit and Fundraiser Got the sorrowful Sunday blues? Soften the slide into Monday with a slew of local blues acts, including the Sonny Boy Terry Band, Grady Gaines, Joe "Guitar" Hughes and Sweet Mama Cotton and the Sugar Daddies. Those of you familiar with "The Blues Broad" Kathleen Kern, former Sunday morning disc jockey for KPFT's Little Blue Corner, might be especially interested: Proceeds from the evening's show will help her defray the medical costs of fighting cancer. 4-10 p.m. Shakespeare Pub, 14129 Memorial Drive, 869-7746. $5 minimum donation.
German Celebration As part of the Houston Symphony's salute to Deutschland this weekend, guest violinist Kyoko Takezawa will be featured in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, and the symphony will play pieces by Bach, Brahms and Strauss. Christoph Eschenbach conducts. Pre-performance sideshows are also themed to Oktoberfest in July: There'll be oom-pah bands, costumed characters and (shudder) something termed "German cuisine." Prepare for the wurst. 8 p.m. at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, off I-45 in The Woodlands, (281) 363-3300. $8.50 and $10, reserved seating; $7, lawn.
A Night with the FBI Imagine the worst sort of fiend set loose in the nation: Would he lace the medicine bottles of children? Hide plastic explosives in the planes of dog-tired commuters? Even worse, would he threaten Mickey Mouse and all his fans by setting an Ebola-type virus free in DisneyWorld? What if he does it? Then you'd have the "Cataclysmist," current baddest of the bad guys emanating from the imagination of former FBI agent cum author Paul Lindsay in his latest novel, Freedom to Kill. This evening, Lindsay will discuss his book and maybe even some high-level national secrets. 5:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 524-8597. The reading is free; the hardback costs $24.
Numerology Mystics tell us that numbers are seriously potent. And every culture has its own ideas about the power in each of those little squiggles with which we so arbitrarily add up our lives. The ancient Chinese believed odd numbers were masculine and yang and symbolized the heavens, while even numbers were feminine and yin and symbolized the body of mother earth. The Greeks, on the other hand, thought each number vibrated its own individual variety of cosmic turmoil into our days. See how the numbers are shaking things up in your own days and nights by telling your birth date to Karl Mason, numerologist and astrologer. 2-3:30 p.m. Spring Branch Community Center, 1721 Pech Road, 932-9573. Free; sponsored by Harris County Precinct Four.
Wine Tasting Classes Are you a secret sommelier? Do you consider Bacchus an ancient relative? If so, you might be the one to answer those troubling old questions on the table tonight: Who makes a better chardonnay, France or California? How many glasses of wine does it take not to give a damn? Spend about two hours blind-tasting the wines in a Riedel glass, which you get to take home as a party favor. 7:30 p.m. Yapa, 5161 San Felipe. Call for reservations: 626-9272. $45.
Houston Golf Tournament to Benefit Crime Victims Be a crime-fighting crusader, even without Joel Schumacher and his Batcave. In fact, all you need to be a hero today is a set of golf clubs and the strength of will to play in the Houston heat. And if the temperature is too much, you can sponsor a team, or a player or even a tiny hole. If golf doesn't interest you in the least, send over the white elephants crowding your attic for the silent auction accompanying the tournament. All monies benefit the 23rd Annual National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) Conference, an international symposium on crime. Tee up at 8 a.m. Memorial Park Golf Course, 1001 East Memorial Loop, 845-1358. $150 to play or to sponsor a player; $550 to play in or sponsor a foursome; $5,000 to sponsor a hole.
Classical Encounters for Singles Ouisie's Table and the Houston Symphony have joined their formidably rarefied forces to create a evening for those single Houstonians who'd turn up their noses at a radio midnight grocery store event or, even worse, the bar scene. Swankly sophisticated singles can nibble hors d'oeuvres and lounge about ever so coolly unattached as they listen to live jazz and sip wine they've purchased at the cash bar. Reservations are de rigueur, of course. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Ouisie's Table, 3939 San Felipe, 238-1475. Free.
Carnival of Animals To perform this tale of self-discovery, Texas Mime Theatre combines the childlike magic of puppets, masks, music and that weird whiteface mimes always wear. Anyone who reads the paper can tell that the world's monarchs are having a hard time figuring out what they want to be when (and if) they ever grow up. Even King Lion, ruler of the jungle, is having a sort of midlife crisis. To escape the tired responsibilities of jungle-ruling, he runs off to (where else?) the circus. On his way, he meets a series of animal friends -- including a cancan-dancing tortoise and a tightrope-walking elephant -- who eventually lead him where he was always meant to be. 10:30 a.m. Through July 25. Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin, 520-6463. $5.
Stars and Stripes Dance Here's a strange, albeit sweetly romantic, image: ballroom dancers all dressed in red, white and blue, sweeping across the floor of a neighborhood community center on a warm and lazy July Wednesday afternoon. And all to the loopy sound of a live three-piece band. If you can see yourself in this picture, scrounge your closet for the right color clothes, bring a casserole, a side dish or dessert and don't forget your dancing shoes. 4:30-7:30 p.m. Spring Branch Community Center, 1721 Pech Road, 932-9573. $3 donation.