Above: Standup guy Kyle Grooms is among the headliners taking part in Saturday’s annual Laugh Out Loud Comedy Show fundraiser for 180 Turning Lives Around. Below, it’s a triple-header of Jim Gaffigan shows at the Count Basie.
A quadruple-whammy forecast of snow, ice, epic low temps and, uh, snow can put a klondike kibosh on the best-laid plans for the holiday-hangover weekend. But those willing to boldly go beyond home and hearth will find some entertaining people who aim to make it worth the trip or slip. All served up with a smile and a laugh — and all, we feel compelled to add, subject to schedule changes.
RED BANK: The chilly autumn landscapes of Nebraska and other Plains locales might appear downright tropical when you’re coming into Red Bank Bow Tie Cinemas from the Navesink riverside cold. But if you’re looking to defrost your extremities by the glow of a heartwarming father-son bonding scenario, you’ll need to do the hard miles with Alexander Payne’s comedy-drama road trip, through the kind of quirky relationship dynamics that the writer-director mastered in Sideways and The Descendants. 1960s Hollywood rebel Bruce Dern has his best role in decades as a drinky, distant deadfish of a dad who’s convinced that a direct-mail sweepstakes prize awaits him in Lincoln, NE — and he’s fortified by a strong cast that includes Will (SNL) Forte, Bob (Breaking Bad) Odenkirk and fellow codger contrarian Stacy Keach. At times broadly silly and bracingly sad, Nebraska nurtures a warm ember of humanity at its heart — and it’s playing on White Street with Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers’ seriocomic sojourn of an ambitious folkie adrift in the crashpads and coffeehouses of Camelot-era America. Take it here for showtimes throughout the weekend.
RED BANK: His innate mastery of blues guitar has won him international competitions and a fanbase that knows no borders — and once each month, Monmouth County’s own Matt O’Ree drops in at Jamian’s Food and Drink for a Friday night fret-fry that exhibits the easy authority of the most wizened blues wizards, supercharged with the spirit of the classic rock acolytes who studied the old masters. Matt takes it down to the crossroads (well, okay, the vicinity of Monmouth ‘n Maple) for another O’Reely Big Show that’s set to commence at 8 pm.
Saturday, January 4:
RED BANK: He’s the comic patron saint of well-intentioned but junkfood-obsessed America — a hardworking fixture of the standup stage and the screen, who’s earned a devoted following through a relentless schedule of live gigs, late-night TV, and memorable turns in everything from Flight of the Concords to Law & Order (he even turned author last year, for his family-life chronicle Dad is Fat). When Jim Gaffigan returns to the Count Basie Theatre, he’ll be booked for not one, not two, but three shows in a single day — of which the recently added 4 pm matinee looks to offer the best seating availability (although as we post this, seats are still on sale for the sets at 7 and 9:30 pm). Tickets ($39.50 – $59.50) can be reserved right here.
RED BANK: Their infrequent exhibits of art photography and paintings at McKay Imaging Gallery are traditionally some of the most highly anticipated events on the area artscape — but when Robert and Elisabeth McKay present the opening of the new group show Photography as an Element, they’ll be doing it as guest curators of the Annual Invitational Exhibit at the nearby Art Alliance of Monmouth County. As the McKays explain, it’s a sampling of stuff by talented local creatives who incorporate photographic components into works that span all types of media — be it painting, collage, 3D constructions, or Photoshop-enhanced images of the fanciful and hyperreal. Among the selections are pieces by Holly Suzanne Rader, Jill Kerwick, Gary Dates, and a McKay favorite, the late John Kochansky. The reception runs from 6 to 9 pm, with the exhibit continuing through January 28 during normal gallery hours, Tuesday thru Saturday, from 12 to 4pm.
RED BANK: For the annual Laugh Out Loud Comedy Show fundraiser at Two River Theater, the Monmouth County-based nonprofit counseling organization 180 Turning Lives Around welcomes back a pair of standups who made a splash at last year’s show — NYC cabbie turned comic Jimmy Failla, and the “viciously likable” Marina Franklin, whose many TV appearances (Leno, Ferguson, Last Comic Standing, Showtime at the Apollo) have found Marina happy harbor at the region’s premier comedy clubs and theaters. They’re joined by Paul Virzi of The Artie Lange Show, and by Kyle Grooms, whose primetime and late night successes earned him his own solo standup special on Comedy Central. It’s a fun night to benefit an org that’s dedicated to some serious work, and it offers “scrumptious light fare,” a beer/ wine cash bar from 7:30 pm, and intermission desserts by a new Red Bank neighbor, Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro’s Carlo’s Bake Shop. Take it here for tickets ($40 per person; ages 21 and over) and additional info.
Sunday, January 5:
RED BANK: An old-school Borscht Belt barnstormer who rode his bracing shtick to Broadway on a new generational wave of fandom — and an energized figure who’s courted controversy from the infamous “Finger Gesture” on the Sullivan show, to talk radio, Twitter, YouTube, and other war-torn trenches of 21st century mass media — Jackie Mason returns once more to the Count Basie Theatre on the heels of his West End London show Fearless (and its subsequent American tour). This time around, the Tony/ Emmy/ Grammy winner serves up his politically charged prune danish as an earlybird special, in a 3 pm matinee that should leave plenty of time to catch a buffet and a lights-out rerun of Diagnosis Murder. Tickets ($25 – $75) can be reserved right here.