When Brilliant Met Divine: A Healthy Conversation with Bette Midler

Photo by Jonathan Pushnik
Bette Midler
She sings. She dances. She acts. She jokes. She cleans up decrepit, crumbling urban properties. She wins awards for all those things. And she also, simply, talks.

In a bit of a departure from her standard high-production fare, on April 29, Bette Midler, the aptly monikered Divine Miss M, addresses the equal-parts anticipatory/participatory audience of the Brilliant Lecture Series.

"I'm happy to be doing this event. I've been doing them for a couple of years now, I kind of enjoy them," Bette Midler remarked on her upcoming Q-and-A appearance with the series which this year has also welcomed luminaries Betty Buckley, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton. "I've been to Minneapolis, I went to Niagara Falls, I mean, I've been around.

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Bill Hicks: His Ride Ended 20 Years Ago

The Goat Boy in repose.
As of February 26, comedian Bill Hicks will have been dead 20 years. Houston's favorite son (don't try to deny it) was 32.

Whether he went on to meet his version of Jesus (the guy who doesn't like crosses), descended into the infernal regions (where the Satan-worshipping family down the block with all the good albums ended up), transmuted into pure energy, or is simply moldering in the ground in the Hicks family plot in Mississippi, we'll probably never know. Still, two decades removed from his untimely death from pancreatic cancer, Hicks remains one of the most revered and influential comedians ever.

Just ask Denis Leary.

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Jamie Kilstein: "What Are You Laughing At?"

Categories: Comedy

Courtesy of Jamie Kilstein
Three years ago, progressive, feminist, vegan comic and Citizen Radio podcast host Jamie Kilstein had a hot-shot agent, big-time manager and lots of offers for television work. Then he said, "Rape jokes aren't funny," in an MSNBC interview, and suddenly he was persona non grata in the comedy world.

"Daniel Tosh, who's a very famous comedian, made a rape joke and a woman in the audience screamed out, 'That's not funny.'" says Kilstein who's appearing at Houston's Station Theater this Sunday. "Daniel Tosh very cleverly -- you can put that in italics -- said, 'Wouldn't it be funny if this girl got raped? Wouldn't it be funny if like five guys raped this girl right now?' So me, as a comic and decent human being, I said that was horrible."

Kilstein was accused of censorship and the incident became a polarizing debate over freedom of speech. "This one well-known comic said, 'Well, what if a woman in the audience got stabbed by a monkey? Am I not allowed to make jokes about monkeys?' First of all, have one in six women been stabbed by a monkey? If a woman was stabbed by a monkey, would the police be like, 'Well, were you drinking with the monkey? Did you used to date the monkey? What did you think was going to happen if you rubbed banana all over your face and then teased the monkey?'"

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Comedian Bobby Lee Talks about Stand-up, Hollywood and Life after MadTV

Categories: Comedy

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Lee
Comedian Bobby Lee
"As an older guy," Bobby Lee, the former MadTV favorite starts, "my body is changing. It's getting scarier. I look like a scallop. I look like a mythological creature. I look like Pikachu with diabetes." Comedy lovers are in for a Valentine's Day treat as Bobby Lee returns to the Houston Improv Comedy Showcase on February 14.

"Audiences from Texas are the best because their comedy palates are very evolved," the comic flatters, "you guys are sophisticated in that way." With reverence to famed Houston comedians like Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks, Lee says "a lot of comedy club in Texas have been around for a while for a reason." Lee has made the Houston Improv a regular tour stop, appearing there annually.

Perhaps better know for his eight years on Fox's unfortunately-cancelled sketch show MadTV, Lee has had renewed inspiration to perform live. "While I was on Mad, I didn't do stand-up. I didn't really want to be known as a stand-up, which is stupid. [But] stand-up is the only thing where you have complete control of your franchise. You're the boss of your own destiny."

When asked to evaluate the differences between film and live theater, he's quick to clarify that he "enjoys it all", but thinks "acting is a little bit scarier." Lee, whose film credits include The Dictator, Pineapple Express and the Harold and Kumar movies, says "the validation is quicker. I was in a movie with [Dictator star Sasha Baron Cohen] and I waited a year for the movie to come out. Some people called me to say it was funny. With stand-up, you're in it right away. [It] feels good."

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Ron White Coming to Bayou City, Stays "True to His Nature"

Categories: Comedy

Photo Courtesy of Live Nation
For stand-up Ron White, comedy is a trial of endurance. "Expect to laugh real hard. Not just chuckle, but gut laugh for an hour. It's really physical. I can't stand it any other way." Houston audiences up for the challenge can catch the Blue Collar Comedy alum working two shows at the Bayou Music Center on Friday. Houston has always been kind to White, who claims to have "worked every comedy club in the whole damn city" over his 27+ years touring the country.

A Texas native, White has many connections to the Lone Star State. "I'm never far from Texas. My mom still lives in San Antonio and my son lives in Austin. Of course, I was raised in Deer Park, which is like Pasadena without all the glitz."

White says he likes the challenge of Houston crowds, because you never know who will show up. "[Houston's got] a pretty big spectrum of people. There's doctors and oil workers. [Last time I was here] somebody said it looked like the crowd had just walked off a very nice municipal golf course."

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Comedian Michael Yo has a Houston Homecoming

Categories: Comedy

Courtesy of Metro Public Relations
Comedian Michael Yo

Stand-up comic Michael Yo and the comedians of the Hot Mess Comedy Tour will be taking over the Houston Improv on January 31 and February 1, and they promise to deliver a night unlike any other.

"Hot Mess Comedy", Yo explains, "is when you go to a show and you never know what's gonna happen next. You never know what craziness is coming up. It's like if you saw Lindsay Lohan, you have no idea what she's gonna do. That's basically what we want for this show." For audiences new to this comic's high energy, pop culture minded on-stage persona, he guarantees his comedy is "all about having a good time."

Yo has plenty of reason to be hopefully about his first time headlining at the Houston Improv. "This is my first homecoming show! We've really been moving tickets and this is all kind of a reunion for me." Yo says audiences will get the chance to watch him alongside his parents and all his "old Houston friends."

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The Shoulda Saids: 5 Things I Should Have Said to That Screaming Woman at the Bank

Photo by Manuel Calavera
Not an actual photo of the screaming lady, but not far off, either.
Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected situation that rendered you gob-smacked speechless, but then you later thought of a whole litany of retorts and snappy comebacks that would have felt so good to deliver in response?

No? And when was it that you arrived here on Earth, from a distant galaxy?

Here's the deal. Not long ago, I was doing some business in the drive- through lane at my bank. It was a nice day, weather-wise (remember those?) so my convertible top was down, allowing me to fully enjoy the fresh air, the soothing sounds of birdies tweeting, and the like.

Suddenly a car pulled in behind me, windows rolled down, and the driver was screaming. I mean, like, at-the-top-of-her-lungs screaming. Initially, it appeared she was the car's only occupant, but it soon became clear she was a-hollerin' at a small child, presumably her own spawn, huddled out of sight in the passenger seat beside her.

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The Top 7 Texas-Centric Movie Remakes Starring Jennifer Lawrence

She can do or be anything, pretty much
Whether she's comforting sick kids in a pre-Christmas visit to Kosair Children's Hospital in Kentucky, schmoozing a love-struck David Letterman, or extolling the virtues of stuffing herself with junk food, we cannot get enough of Jennifer Lawrence. Can. Not.

In fact, we'd even be OK with the ultra-real, refreshingly self-effacing Oscar winner launching her own live webcam, providing a 24/7 link to her daily meanderings. JennTV: All Jennifer Lawrence, all the time. And though none of those sick kids have been reported spontaneously cured following December's Jenn-eficent hospital visitation, it's still early. Give it time.

Creepy? So be it. She's the Anti-Kardashian.

Beyond this year's Catching Fire installment, La Lawrence is due to flex her bow again in two more Hunger Games sequels. But why stop there? How about some remakes of movies, filmed in or near Houston, all of which would be better starring our favorite actor/humanitarian?

Here's our picks:

This story continues on the next page.

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Comedian Loni Love: "Stage Time Is Key"

Categories: Comedy

Courtesy of Valerie Allen Public Relations
Comedian Loni Love returns to her "old stomping grounds" this week, visiting the Houston Improv to promote her new book, Love Him or Leave Him, But Don't Get Stuck With The Tab.

The Prairie View A&M University graduate may have a full plate for this coming year, plans that include a new daytime chat show (called The Real) and a movie co-starring Danny Glover and Danny Trejo (a sequel to the 2012 film Badass, called simply Badasses), but Loni Love lives for her stand-up.

Love says that anyone catching her at the Improv will see her in fine form: "That's the benefit of giving a show at the beginning of a new year... [I get to] recap all the events of the old one." Audiences can expect a "fun, pop-culture minded" hour that's sure to deride everything 2013 had to offer: targets that include Miley Cyrus, the "twerking" phenomenon, "Crack Mayor Rob Ford" and, as Love put it, "the whole Kim Kardashian and Kanye West video, where we didn't even know what was going on!" (No doubt Love is referring to the viral Kim-ye music video "Bound 2," which among other things featured the oldest Kardashian motorcycling topless)

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TruTV's The Tenderloins: The Tender Side of Self-Abuse

Categories: Comedy

Photo courtesy of The Tenderloins
The Tenderloins: Brian Quinn, James "Murr" Murray, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano.
Candid Camera and Allen Funt started it in the 1960s. Ashton Kutcher continued it, 21st-century style, with Punk'd. Late-night talk show hosts still revel in it. Even lovable funnywomen like Ellen DeGeneres and Betty White capitalize on the sure-fire laughs delivered by hidden cameras focusing on an unsuspecting, often-mortified public.

But innocents need not fear The Tenderloins' antics, as featured on truTV's Impractical Jokers. The onus of this particular improv-cum-sketch-comedy show, which comes to Bayou Music Center on January 17, is not on bystanders but on its cast members themselves.

"We describe the show as an upside-down prank show," troupe founder James "Murr" Murray says, sounding far more like a contributor to the Oprah Winfrey Network than the YouTube-y, reality-based truTV. "The joke is on us, instead of on the public.

Prior to their Houston show and performances in Dallas and Austin spotlighting The Tenderloins' sketch comedy strength, Murr et al. plan to film segments for Impractical Jokers at various H-Town locations. "We're going to be filming all around Texas for a full week," he warns, scouting "classic Texas locations and Texas activities -- things that, as New Yorkers, we know nothing about."

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