Thrills for the week

January 23
Eastern parade: Old-style brushwork and ancient Chinese motifs collide--or maybe just blend peacefully--with modern and Western techniques and themes in this year's Contemporary Asian Art Exhibition Series, an annual show assembled by the Asian Art Coordinating Council, opening today at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Composed of two separate exhibits--the three-man retrospective Adventures of the Three Travel-Weary Loafers: New Art From the People's Republic of China and a fascinating look at what is still a fledgling art in China, Mystic Dreams, Majestic Scenes: Contemporary Chinese Landscape Photography--the series debuts with an artists' reception tonight at 7 and continues at the center through April 6. Additional events scheduled during the show's run include a lecture by AACC director Julie Segraves on January 30, a discussion on Chinese fiction by translator Dr. Howard Goldblatt on February 4 and, on February 6, a concert featuring the Beijing Quartet. For more information call 431-3939.

Laughing all the way: The weekend is young (or even embryonic), but it should be no problem getting through this one with a smile on your face. Humor, from subtle and sly to downright knee-slapping, is the main event on several bills, beginning tonight with the first of two separate area performances by The Stars of Saturday Night Live!. Featuring a bone-tickling roster of recent cast members and writers from the late-night TV stalwart, the stand-up funny fest hits CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium tonight at 7:30 and repeats at the same time Saturday in Denver at the Mammoth Events Center, 1510 Clarkson St. Admission to the Macky performance ranges from $19.50 to $25, while all seats go for $19.50 Saturday; call 830-TIXS to order tickets to either show.

Friday and Saturday nights mark the return of El Centro Su Teatro's Chicano Comedy Night!, a revue of local Latino comics that was a hit with audiences at an inaugural event last November. Proceeds from ticket sales for the comedy night, which El Centro hopes to make a recurring fixture in its annual schedule of events, will benefit the cultural center's purchase of a new boiler; for reservations or information, call 296-0219.

And wit from yet another ethnic angle can be enjoyed Saturday night at Temple Sinai, 3509 S. Glencoe St., during An Evening of Jewish Humor with national comedian Mark Schiff, who's appeared on Leno and Letterman as well as NBC's Mad About You. Schiff, known for his deadpan humor and skits about everyday life and people, will be the evening's featured performer; a dessert reception is also on the bill. The funny stuff begins at 7:30; proceeds benefit various programs of the Central Agency for Jewish Education. To reserve seats, call 321-3191, ext. 11.

January 24
Mother knows best: No argument from us--the true story of how the Polish-born daughter of a rabbi raised and sent to college twelve ethnically diverse children in New York City has got to be an interesting one. But the utter pathos with which writer James McBride imbues his memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother carries this tale beyond the level of interesting, into the tender realm of the profound. McBride stops in at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave., to introduce and read from his bestseller, newly available in paperback, tonight at 7:30; for details call 322-7727.

Buy the book: Book collecting is not necessarily a get-rich-quick scheme--like public taste itself, the value of every tome is a fickle creature that threatens to turn with the latest fad, film or fiasco. But you'll never know what you've got--unless you've got it. Beginning book-buyers and old, ink-stained hands alike have a good chance of finding something dazzling at tonight's Rare and Not-So-Rare Auction, an annual benefit bidding event thrown by the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation. On the block this year is a range of first editions, Civil War documents, children's items, artwork and more--200 fine items in all.

Merchandise viewing begins at 5:45 in the Central Library's Gates Western History Reading Room; a live auction hosted by historian Tom Noel, Denver city councilman Dennis Gallagher and book dealer Robert Topp follows at 7. Silent bidding on remaining items wraps up the evening at 8. Ticket prices, $30 to $35 ($50 for patrons), include a gratis wine buffet where you can toast your good fortune or loosen your bidding inhibitions; call 640-6375 for details.

A gay old time: Gay musical-comedy specialists Romanovsky and Phillips couldn't be more frank about who and what they are--the title of their recent live performance album, Let's Flaunt It!, says it all. But however open the closet door is for the daffy duo, the resulting show is a gentle, if prideful, stage romp for people of all persuasions. Romanovsky and Phillips prance into the Mercury Cafe, where they've previously sold out three concerts, tonight at 8; for tickets, $10 in advance ($12 at the door), call or drop by the Mercury, 2199 California St., 294-9281, or the Book Garden, 2625 E. 12th Ave., 399-2004.

Soft cels: Expect art drenched in both old-fashioned whimsy and pure, fluid movement when Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis, 3659 Navajo St., presents trained historian Eric Waldemar's Annals of Waldemar Pure and Applied Research, a film screening and art exhibition opening tonight from 7 to 10 in its Pirate's Alley adjunct. Waldemar's curious world includes miniature drawings, larger paintings and prints based on board-game themes, and frisky animation directly hand-painted onto film; his show continues through February 9. An exhibit of works by Tracey Barnes also opens tonight in the main gallery; for details, call Pirate at 458-6058.

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