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.

May 18
Twist, don't shout: Sometimes a juggling act just isn't as simple as three pins whirling through the air. When Michael Moschen is involved, it's more of an artwork in motion--visually beautiful, mysterious and not quite like anything you've seen before. Moschen, out of whom you won't hear a peep on stage, juggles everything from gleaming crystal balls to flaming torches, all with extraordinary grace and attention to the multi-dimensional compositions created. Moschen appears tonight at 7:30 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., for one performance only; to purchase tickets, $16.50 to $24.50, call 830-TIXS.

Chants encounter: There's another unusual sort of magician in the area today. Vocal virtuoso Bobby McFerrin, whose facile and adventurous pipes go places no man has gone before, stops over this afternoon at 4 for an E-Town radio taping at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder, on his way to a season-opening 7:30 show at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road. The eclectic performer's latest recording project, Circlesongs, made with a twelve-voice a cappella choir in tow, wordlessly borrows from world music traditions, traveling, tune by tune, from Africa to Asia to the Caribbean. It's what McFerrin calls "ancestral" music, and it's mighty compelling stuff, especially when given the unique McFerrin treatment. Folk/pop harpist Dee Carstensen also appears at E-Town (for tickets, $9 to $11, call 786-7030). Admission to the full-length Chautauqua performance is $22 or $25; call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS for reservations.

May 19
Trail miss: A little slice of regional history comes your way in VanAnn Moore's one-woman characterization with music, Susan Shelby Magoffin on the Santa Fe Trail. The dramatic presentation, an interesting and different view of life in the West, begins at 7 p.m. at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway; for ticket information and reservations, which are required, call the Colorado Historical Society at 866-4686.

May 20
Tin pan alley: Nobody makes a more joyful noise--or collection of noises--than Stomp, an eight-member percussion ensemble that will bang on, well, just about anything: garbage cans, hubcaps, Zippo lighters, you name it. If it can sweep, click, thump, clang or bump, Stomp--seen nationally everywhere from the Academy Awards to a Coke commercial--has no compunction about incorporating it into the act. Found-instrument pioneer John Cage must be grinning in his grave.

You, on the other hand, will be grinning, tapping, rocking and rolling in your seat when Stomp comes to town, bringing its enormously popular stage show for a six-day run at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The group performs today through Friday at 8, at 5 and 9 Saturday, and at 7 Sunday; to reserve tickets, $19 to $37.50 (all seats $19 tonight only), call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.

May 21
Snap judgments: A couple of fine contemporary photography shows, both hanging around town since April, are about to wrap up their respective runs, so if you want to see them in black-and-white--or color--mark your calendar now.

Reflections of Change, a national juried exhibition of works by women photojournalists, can be viewed free of charge at Republic Plaza, 370 17th St. A themed tribute to the feminine eye featuring an expansive scope and a variety of images, the show closes May 29. For information call 733-1868 or 595-7000.

Finishing its vibrant visit at Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, is Cuba: Siempre Viva, a hard-hitting look at modern-day Cuban life as seen through the lenses of ten photographers, eight of them Cuban and two North American. That show ends May 31; museum admission is $1 to $3 (members and children under ten free). Call 571-4401 for details.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd