Jake Johannsen's shtick, starting out, was the nerdy guy hesitantly stammering his way through long takes on life's little mysteries. He's canned much of the nerdiness, but he's still one of the funniest standups around. Filled with more neuroses and idiosyncrasies than would seem possible in an Iowa native, Johannsen wanders through a topic, never missing a chance to digress (an aside on Starbucks, for instance: "I know they're a big, evil corporate coffee empire and that they're taking over the universe -- but it's pretty good coffee"). He's been on Letterman two dozen times and had an HBO special, but he's a firm believer that watching standup on TV is like watching someone eat: It's just not as filling an experience. (Richard Connelly)
Jake Johannsen will perform at the LaffStop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333, August 68. Thursday night the show's at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $10; Friday and Saturday, shows are at 8 and 10:30 and tickets are $14.
Spanish director Carlos Saura has become internationally renowned for his luscious blending of music, song and dance in film, including the visually lyrical masterpieces Carmen and Blood Wedding, both of which invoked their own dark tangos with the spirit of what poet Federico Garcia Lorca termed the duende, or "death muse." And, as we know, passion, sex and death are all inextricably intertwined. Expect no less than a complete derangement of the senses with Saura's Flamenco, a vivid portrait of the magnificent art form and its practitioners. The film captures over 300 of today's greatest flamenco dancers, singers and musicians in 100 minutes of celluloid, exquisitely photographed by Vittorio Storaro (The Last Emperor, Apocalypse Now, The Sheltering Sky ). (Liz Belile)
Flamenco screens tonight at 7:30 p.m., tomorrow night at the same time, and Sunday at 7 p.m. Part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston "Sabor Latino" film series. General admission is $5. Info: 639-7531.
The Contemporary Arts Museum presents a city-wide celebration and opening events for "Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas." Whether it's great-grandma's picture on top of the television, a poster of Jimi Hendrix over some candles on a bookshelf or a magnetic Virgin Mary on the dashboard, altars are conduits for ritual communication with the supernatural, and they are part of our everyday lives. They have also been, for centuries, a means for African people and their descendants in the Americas to maintain essential elements of their religious traditions in spite of slavery and colonialism. Originating from the Museum for African Art in New York, "Face of the Gods" presents African artistic and philosophical traditions in the Americas -- from the West African and Congo civilizations to Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Puerto Rico and black and Latino North America. (Liz Belile)
"Face of the Gods" begins today, from 15 p.m., with the celebration. Family activities are from 24 p.m., with a guided tour of the exhibition starting at 4 p.m. The show continues through September 20. Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250. Admission is free.
Infernal Bridegroom Productions company member Tamarie Cooper ("the Lucille Ball of the Houston theater set") brings us Tamalalia 3, the next installment in her ongoing kitschy series. First came the 1996 hoedown at the Orange Show (Tamalalia!), then the 1997 bus tour of Houston -- highlighted, among other things, by the infamous "Mad Cow Ballet" (Tamalalia 2!) -- and now we're invited to a cocktail party in Tamarie's fantasy living room. Featuring a cast of kooky characters, including her rock-and-roll hairdresser, whose hairbrush has "healing powers," her drag-queen fairy godmother (!), and arch-nemesis the Roach King. With an original score by IBP composer William Harris and lyrics by IBP's Greg Stanley. Settle in with your martini and prepare to be entertained. (Melanie Haupt)
Tamalalia3 plays tonight at 8 p.m. and continues every weekend through August 29. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. Info, Infernal Bridegroom Productions: 522-8443. Reservations: 52STAGE (527-8243). Tickets are $9.99.
You're surrounded by Art. You just don't know it. The Orange Show is setting out to remedy that ignorance, however, with its Eyeopeners Mural Tour this Sunday afternoon. From 2 to 6 p.m., the cultural elite and others will board air-conditioned (thank God) buses to tour 125 exterior painted walls all over Houston. Subjects range from the Raisin Musicians on the side of the Guitar Gallery to the heartfelt memorials scattered over the east end, dedicated to Hispanic martyrs. The tour costs $25 for Orange Show members and $30 for the general public. In addition to expert commentary and air conditioning, organizers promise "generous snacks and beverages." Reservations (926-6368) are required. (Richard Connelly)
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Led by last year's league MVP and this year's point leader, Cynthia Cooper, and her fellow guard Sheryl Swoopes, the Houston Comets continue their pursuit of a second consecutive WNBA crown with a game against the Charlotte Sting at 7 p.m. Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza. Info: 627-WNBA. Get the latest from the Comets web site, www.wnba.com/comets/. Tickets are $8 to $38 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
Our front-running boys of summer, the Houston Astros, have a legitimate shot at being boys of late fall this year, with a high-powered offense anchored by hard-slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell, super 2B Craig Biggio and outfielder Moises Alou. The defending NL Central champions host the Milwaukee Brewers in what promises to be a two-game slug fest at 7:05 tonight and Tuesday. Keep up with the 'stros on the Web: www.astros. com. The Astrodome, 8400 Kirby, 799-9500. More info: 799-9555. $5 to $23. (Clay McNear)
The Great White Way has begun to reclaim its nickname in recent years. After years of churning out sorry, moth-eaten shows for the benefit of the tourist trade, Broadway's been on an artistic roll this decade; think Angels in America, Rent, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Kiss of the Spider Woman, those excellent revivals of Show Boat and Carousel. Another member of Broadway's new generation -- and another revival -- is the red-hot remake of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Chicago (Kander and Ebb also wrote Spider Woman). Chicago choreographer Ann Reinking won a '97 Tony for her work, drawing on Bob Fosse's original staging and his "unique and sexy dance vocabulary" for the updated version of the Roaring Twenties vehicle. Alan Thicke stars as fast-talking (and singing) attorney Billy Flynn; Belle Calaway plays his charge, murderess-turned-vaudevillian Roxie Hart. The score includes "All That Jazz," "Mr. Cellophane" and "Razzle Dazzle." Performances are at 8 tonight and Wednesday. The production continues through August 16. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-3974. $43.50 to $49.50 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700). (Clay McNear)
Purse Building Studios continues to bring cutting-edge international art to Houston with "Miki Bunge: New Works." The German visual artist, whose resume includes a stint in medical school, has performed and shown work throughout Europe for ten years. The show is part of a series of contemporary German artists through The Gallery Roesch, which was founded in 1991 in WYrzburg, and whose owner moved to Houston in 1996. Preview the exhibition on-line at www.pursebuilding.com or, better yet, come to tonight's reception from 79 p.m. The show continues through August 31 at 1701 Commerce. (Liz Belile)