Hmmm... Comedic neurosis about nothing... Extensive examinations of everyday experiences with toasters, airlines, coffee shops and celibacy -- why does all this sound familiar? Oh, yeah, that sitcom with the guy named Jerry. Well, Jake Johannsen says he was doing the "nothing" shtick before Seinfeld was cool. At least the comedian doesn't do it poorly. In fact, TV Guide named Johannsen's HBO special This'll Take About an Hour one of the "50 Funniest TV Moments of All Time" and said the paranoid but professorial entertainer makes "Woody Allen seem confident and secure by comparison." Now that's a laugh. Johannsen headlines at the Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, at 8:30 p.m. tonight, plus Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Call (713)524-2333 for more information. $10, Thursday; $14, Friday and Saturday.
Jesse Lott became the "Urban Frontier Artist" when he left Los Angeles's Otis Art Institute in 1969 and found that materials were expensive, but trash was plentiful. "The new art," he decided, "must be made out of materials that will survive ... from the streets, the junkyards, the land dumps, the urban equivalent of the rural bonepile." Lott's "pinatero method," based on the papier-máche of a pinata, uses wastepaper to create colorful sculptures, but he has also been known to work with auto parts, metal wire, glass, pieces of wood and even buildings. He was one of the founders of Project Row Houses, the recycling of run-down row houses into child care centers, art studios and homes for unwed mothers. "Urban Frontier Artist" opens today at the Art Car Museum, along with "Response Time: Artists in Action," featuring work by Mel Chin, Leamon Green, Bert Long, Rick Lowe, Angelbert Metoyer, Floyd Newsum, Burt Samples and George Smith. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both exhibitions will remain on display through August 31. 140 Heights Boulevard, (713)861-5526. Free.
Bill Maher is not the pundit he purports himself to be on Politically Incorrect, the attitude-soaked ABC talk show that makes such guests as Roseanne Barr and Roger Clinton address such issues as "Are people getting stupider?" He's really a stand-up comic who spent the '80s getting laughs on The Tonight Show, Letterman and HBO comedy specials. Now Maher's travels about the country combine the best of both his personalities: He gets to perform his standup routine and search for his hit television show's latest gimmick, the outspoken everyman. Maher's one-night-only concert begins at 8 p.m. at Aerial Theater, 520 Texas Avenue. Call Ticketmaster at (713)629-3700 for tickets, $19.50, $22.50 and $29.50.
Houston's edgiest modern dance company, Suchu Dance, opens the Jewish Community Center's Summer Dance Festival with choreographer Jennifer Wood's first integrated, evening-length show, Eight Flying Dogs. "There isn't a story line, per se," says Wood, of her piece, inspired by everything from menial chores to a haute couture magazine ad, "but there is definitely an internal logic in terms of the overall psychological journey I want the audience to experience." Suchu performs at 8 p.m. tonight and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 20. Kaplan Theatre, Jewish Community Center, 5601 South Braeswood, (713)551-7255. Call (713)729-3200, ext. 3223 for performance information. $13; $11, members; $8, students and seniors.
Aurora Picture Show is celebrating its first anniversary with "Extremely Shorts II," a program of 22 three-minute videos by artists such as the Art Guys, Andy Mann and Canada's guerrilla media group, Adbusters, and a family-style "Congregational Picnic" in the church-turned-screening-venue's backyard. "Extremely Shorts II" screens tonight at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday, June 20, at 4 p.m. The picnic is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 20. 800 Aurora, (713)868-2101. $5 donation.
The most celebrated violinist in the world is returning to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, but this time Itzhak Perlman is performing as both a violinist and the Houston Symphony's conductor. Musical selections include Bach's Violin Concerto in E Major, Beethoven's Romance in G Major and Brahms's Symphony No. 4. The concert begins at 8 p.m., but at 7:20 p.m. kids can "Fish for Perlman" at the K-ARTS Jack and Jill Club, and adults can discuss the program with music scholar Ira J. Black. 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, (281)363-3300. Call (713)629-3700 for tickets, $10-$75.
Smile sweetly, apologize for not being a more obedient child, and then tell your dad that, for his Father's Day present this year, you've entered him in the "104 KRBE Father's Day Olympics." For two solid hours, your dad will ski down a mechanical slope, in-line skate through an obstacle course, climb a rock wall and change bike tires as fast as he can. Will he have fun? Probably not unless he wins the $1,000 grand prize Sun & Ski gift certificate. Will you have fun? Most definitely. 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sun & Ski Sports Expo, 5503 West FM 1960. For more information, call (713)266-1000.
With its use of African figures and symbols to inspire women grappling with the dual pressures of raising a family and succeeding in a career, Charnelle Holloway's sculpture, Fertility Belt for the Career Woman, is perhaps the most emblematic piece in the Museum of Fine Arts's newest exhibit, "Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African-American Women Artists." Curated by Dr. Jontyle Robinson of Atlanta's Spelman College and featuring the works of such artists as Carrie Mae Weems, Elizabeth Catlett, Howardena Pindell and Faith Ringgold, "Bearing Witness" explores issues of gender, ethnicity, religion and history. "Despite over 300 years of racial, sexual and economic oppression," says Robinson, "black women continue to demonstrate that their creative talents will not be suppressed ... and they, like the exhibition, are creative acts of resistance and empowerment." "Bearing Witness" is on view Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to 9 p.m. on Thursday) and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. through August 15. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, (713)639-7300, www.mfah.org. $3; $1.50 for students, seniors and children.
Are you feeling bogged down? Directionless? Confused? Tired? Well, you probably have too much clutter, says Michelle Passoff, author of the book Lighten Up! Free Yourself from Clutter. Passoff's theory is that sorting through piles of paper, throwing away old clothes and cleaning out overstuffed drawers is a form of self-discovery. Her three-hour Leisure Learning seminar is designed to help people "create the space for magic and miracles as they align their environments with their true selves and their hearts' desires!" Cleanliness, it seems, is not only next to godliness, but also akin to happiness. Passoff will teach her course from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., somewhere in the vicinity of Greenway Plaza at Richmond and Kirby. Call (713)529-4414 for registration and exact course location. $32.
Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say is moving beyond its usual respectable poetry and prose readings: This month it goes Hollywood. Sure, it's introducing two new books -- Latino Heretics, a collection of radical writings edited by NP founder Tony Diaz, and The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music by Houston Chronicle music critic Ramiro Burr -- but the real draw is likely to be the music of "Rock en Espanol" sensation Tribu de Ixchel. 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; $5 donation or book purchase. Nuestra Palabra is also hosting a pre-Showcase seminar in which music industry insiders tell local bands how to break into formatted radio and generate newspaper reviews and stories. 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; free. The group's Latino Theatre Initiative kicks off Friday, June 25, at 1 p.m. with Pain of the Macho, a one-man show featuring Rick Najera, television producer, comedian and one of Time magazine's "Top Ten Playwrights of the Year." Also, Saturday, June 26, 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 27, 7 p.m. $5-$7. All Nuestra Palabra events are at Talento BilingYe de Houston, 333 South Jensen. For information, call (713)867-8943 or (713)222-1213 or go to www.nuestrapalabra.org.