Thrills for the week

May 15
Sticks and stones: Behind every great comedian, there's a guiding philosophy. For pernicious stand-up wit Bobby Slayton, it goes something like this: "If you can't laugh at yourself, make fun of other people." Be forewarned--meanness is Slayton's oeuvre. Slayton says himself that even Don Rickles apologizes at the end of his set; he doesn't. But if you think you're tough enough to take it, the corrosive American Comedy Award winner comes out with fangs bared tonight at 8 for the first leg of a three-night stand at the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St. Ticket prices range from $11.50 to $16.50; for complete showtimes and reservations call 595-3637.

Turning the tables: Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Beatles...all of them, along with their hit-making cohorts of past decades, borrowed from black popular music. Now it's time to borrow back. A Brief History of White Music, a musical revue recalling pop favorites dating from the swing era through the folk-rocked '60s, lets loose an all-black cast of three powerful singers on everything from "Blue Suede Shoes" to "Surfin' USA." Catch the soulful role reversal, which has just had its run extended through June 1 at the Vogue Theatre, 1465 S. Pearl St., at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday, or 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For tickets, $20 to $26, call 765-2771.

May 16
Different strokes: If you're in the mood for comedy that's not the patter of your run-of-the-mill joke machine at a mike, the two-weekend Stand Up Stretch Out Festival, beginning tonight at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, might be just the thing. In place of those rapid-fire routines found in comedy clubs, this fest will disseminate humor on many levels, using improvisation, storytelling, poetry, monologues and other performance vehicles to give you a laugh. Tonight and tomorrow at 8, BMoCA features an evening with multimedia performers Jafrika and guests; audience-participation improv group Playback Theater West heads the bill next Friday and Saturday, also with guests. Tickets range from $5 to $8; call 443-2122. BMoCA is located at 1750 13th St., Boulder.

Down-home is where you hang your hat: Here's an oxymoron for you: Guy Davis, Manhattan country bluesman. In this case, though, it works. Davis, the Manhattan-born son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, doesn't think anything of it--he grew up listening to a wide variety of American music and was naturally drawn to the storytelling of Blind Willie McTell, the blazing Delta simplicity of Mississippi John Hurt and the graceful ragtime finger-picking of Elizabeth Cotton. A self-taught guitarist with a great weathered voice, Davis, like fellow new traditionalist Keb' Mo', perfected his rustic delivery as an actor as well as a musician, first emulating Robert Johnson and later starring in his own self-penned one-man show, In Bed With the Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters. Davis performs tonight at 8 at the snug Swallow Hill Music Hall, 1905 S. Pearl St.; if it's any indication of where he's headed afterward, the folks at Swallow Hill suspect it's the last time you'll see him play Denver in such an intimate room. Tickets are $12 ($10 members); call 777-1003.

May 17
Walk 'n' roll: When's the last time you put on your blades and really had a chance to burn up the sidewalk? If you're used to skating along Cherry Creek or in Washington Park, which are both beginning to resemble all of Los Angeles at rush hour, it's probably been a while. Ditto for bike riders and walking enthusiasts.

Well, lucky you. There's still room to spare on the empty runways of Stapleton 2000 (formerly Stapleton International Airport), where the American Heart Association's HeartRide, Roll & Stroll benefit gets under way this morning at 8. Featuring a 3.2-mile walk, up to 62.5 miles in bicycle routes and up to 10 miles in in-line skating routes, the annual event, suitable for participants of all ages and abilities, also includes a free health expo, heart-healthy-food vendors and lots of prizes. Registration is $15, with a minimum of $15 in additional pledges required; applications and information are available at area Gart Sports stores or by calling 369-5433, ext. 250.

Menagerie friends: How many kids count storybook characters and trips to the zoo among their favorite things? We're willing to guess: lots. Book to the Zoo, happening today from 9 to 5 at the Denver Zoo in City Park, offers some of each. All youngsters bringing a new or used preschool-level book to donate will be admitted to zoo grounds free, where they'll be entertained by some of the animal stars of children's literature, including Curious George (he'll be swinging in Primate Panorama), Babar the Elephant and Winnie the Pooh. Storytelling, face painting and an animal bookmark activity add to the fun, while collected books go to Friends of Food for Thought Inc. and the Denver Department of Social Services Food Assistance Program for distribution to low-income tots. General zoo admission (for those too old to bring a book) is $3 to $6; call 436-2800 for information.

Double date: It's a great night for the laid-back and introspective. Modern music-lovers can take their pick between Jeff Tweedy's sometimes-laconic band Wilco, performing at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave., and urban-angst song-poet Freedy Johnston, on stage up the street at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. Opening at 8 for Wilco--which recently recalled the '70s on Being There, a two-disc concept album awash with Ray Davies-style musings, Beach Boy production numbers and the scathing, real-life drone of former Pere Ubu guitarist Peter Laughner--is alternative pop band Bettie Serveert; for tickets, $13 to $14, call 830-2525 or 1-800-444-SEAT. Mem Shannon, one of a blossoming new crop of electric bluesmen, opens for Johnston, also at 8; tickets for that show range from $7 to $8. Call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS.

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