Robert Earl Keen may be playing the Verizon Theater this Saturday, but his brand of uncool isn't your only country option that night. Instead, you can hang with homeboy Hayes Carll -- our taller, younger and much wittier answer to Robert Earl, the patron saint of Aggies. And the difference in the cover charges should be enough for a few extra Shiners. We reached Carll at the luxurious $30-a-night Bavarian Inn in New Braunfels, where he's holed up writing songs for the follow-up to his breakthrough 2002 CD, Flowers & Liquor. Despite having wasted some time arguing with the cleaning staff, he has nearly finished the new album and hopes to begin recording in Nashville in January.
Carll and Keen both spin tales about misfit good ol' boys who'll drain one too many shots of Wild Turkey with their breakfasts. But Carll's edgy humor -- something Keen also had going for him back in the old days -- attracts a lot of fans. "I'm still not exactly sure what will work and what won't," says Carll in his familiar drawl. "Sometimes, though, it's best to shut up and keep playing." 9 p.m. Saturday, December 20. Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, 1031 East 24th. For information, call 713-862-8707. $7. -- Greg Barr
Don’t Cluck It Up
"When I count to three, you'll believe you're a chicken." This might be a phrase you'd typically hear from an average white hypnotist. Not so HypnoBro, the only black stand-up comedian and hypnotist in the nation -- unless you count Baptist preachers. HypnoBro, a.k.a. Leroy Williams, leads his audiences into mental territory that's more soulful than hackneyed imitations of barnyard animals. He'd rather convince them to dance like a pro (wink, wink) or belt out tunes by Aretha Franklin. And he's no one-trick pony. Williams uses observational comedy to loosen up his volunteers before he loosens their inhibitions (wink, again) with his improvisational mind games. So take heed, all you skeptics: Once HypnoBro has worked his magic, you just might be convinced that you, too, can be a playa. 8 p.m. Sunday, December 21. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $15. --
Pass the Mike
Some things can't be erased. In Steven Belber's Tape, motive and memory become maligned when Jon, an up-and-coming filmmaker, confesses a date rape to his dope-dealing friend, Vince. Jon doesn't realize that Vince has been taping the entire conversation, or that the victim is coming to dinner. The play, with its psychologically charged themes of trust and truth, garnered enough acclaim to help Belber land a gig writing scripts for Law and Order: SVU. Too bad this production of Tape doesn't star Ice-T. 8 p.m. Friday, December 19, and Saturday, December 20. Midtown Arts Center, 1423 Holman. For information, call 832-465-4563 or visit www.fanfactory.org. $8 to $10. -- Keith Plocek
According to music historian Charles Burney, Handel's Messiah "has fed the hungry and clothed the naked, fostered the orphan and enriched succeeding managers of Oratories more than any single musical production." This weekend, you can see guest conductor William Lacey perform the piece, if not the aforementioned miracles. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, December 19 and 20; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, December 21. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information and tickets, call 713-224-7575 or visit www.houstonsymphony.org. $15 to $60. -- Lisa Simon