Gut Buster

Ralphie May may weigh 400 pounds, but his act doesn't rest on fat jokes. "I have to address it when I first get on stage because of what I am," says May, "but then I move away from it and I never go back." May may have made an impression on you on NBC's Last Comic Standing last year, but if not, you won't have long to wait before he does. The network TV exposure has netted him a killer touring schedule (including a stop this week in Houston, his comedy hometown), a new TV gig as a correspondent on FOX's On-Air with Ryan Seacrest and, last but not least, health insurance. "Because of that I got gastric bypass surgery," says May.

Since most of his humor is topical, May's act won't change much once he slims down. "I hit every button, I hit every group," he says. "The point is that the only group you can get away with talking about now is fat people, and the bitch of it is we're the only group you can join." 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 28, through Saturday, January 31. 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit $19 to $25. -- Lisa Simon

Move Over, Schroeder
The world's most proficient pianists show what two hands can do

The pianists performing at the 21st annual International Piano Festival don't just tickle the ivories -- they tackle them, hard. Opening-night performer and festival organizer Abbey Simon boasts faculty appointments at both the University of Houston and the Juilliard School. And Hungarian-born Peter Frankl, who performs Saturday, garnered critical acclaim on his debut tours in the '60s and conducts master classes around the globe. You can witness the gifts of a lifetime of practice when septuagenarian Ruth Slenczynska performs Sunday. Slenczynska studied with performance legends such as Sergey Rachmaninoff and was once hailed by The New York Times as the "greatest keyboard genius since Mozart." Nevertheless, what makes the event most compelling is not necessarily the recitals or master classes, but its Behind the Music angle -- we recommend attending the Artists Conversation Luncheon (2 p.m. Saturday, reservations recommended). Friday, January 23, through Sunday, January 25. University of Houston Moores School of Music. For a full schedule, call 713-743-3313. $15 to $25 recitals; $15 luncheon. -- Greg Barr

Real Men Dance

It ain't easy being a man these days. Women have had to straddle the line between genders for years, but now guys are expected to be both metro and caveman all rolled up into one scruffy yet clean-cut package. What's a fella to do? Why, make up a macho dance performance, of course. In Big Brick -- A Man's Piece, Reggie Wilson's Fist & Heel Performance Group struggles with the stereotyped assumptions about what it takes to be a man. The acclaimed group will also perform Introduction, a rhythmic dance about Christian rituals in the African diaspora. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, January 23 and 24. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway. For information, call 713-223-8346 or visit $15. -- Keith Plocek

Fulking Funny

FRI 1/23

Alt-country rising star Robbie Fulks has quite the sense of humor. Having penned such honky-tonk homilies as "She Took a Lot of Pills and Died" and "Fuck This Town," he's not likely to see a lot of airplay on KILT, but so what? He's better live, anyway. 9 p.m. Friday, January 23. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For information, call 713-528-5999 or visit $15. -- Lisa Simon