Wednesday, Dec. 31
This is not a New Year’s Eve show, but a welcome Seattle return by one of our favorite touring comics. Birbiglia will finish his set in time for you to make your party or see the fireworks, yet it’s hard to imagine that he won’t indulge in a few year-in-review assessments. Perhaps best known for his monologue and movie Sleepwalk With Me, Birbiglia doesn’t generally rely on the political or the topical in his stand-up sets. He’s more the bemused observer than the irate pundit, someone who views the world with an air of good-natured impatience. As with Sleepwalk and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, there’s an autobiographical thread to much of his humor. The marathon tour he’s calling Thank God for Jokes is in some part a consideration of his own career and a rumination on craft. The communal bond between performer and audience is one Birbiglia has compared to a religious experience (he having been raised Catholic). And if that sounds too grandiose, there are also jokes about yoga and James Van Der Beek—two of the biggest trends of 2014. (With opening act Josh Rabinowitz.) The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.com. $32–$52. 8 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 2
The Sound of Music Sing-Along
Sure, some critics hated this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical when it debuted on Broadway in 1959. And the 1965 movie adaptation seemed even more out-of-step with that volatile decade. (The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael called it “the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies.”) But yesterday’s kitsch beomes today’s classic (unless it’s the other way around), and The Sound of Music is a kind of cultural juggernaut: You can’t avoid it, and the songs are embedded deeper in your hippocampus than you’d like to believe. So why not surrender to the inevitable? Songs like “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” have irresistible choruses practically built for mass participation. The Sound of Music is a bit of a machine, one that compels your obeisance—rather like Julie Andrews’ governess (or the nuns, for that matter). Music supplies a discipline, yet also a means of resistance against the Nazis sweeping into Austria. Those who can’t fight, sing; and those who can’t sing, here at least, must surrender to Maria. (Note to parents: If your daughters are still fixated on “Let It Go,” this might be a way to dislodge the tune from their heads.) And there’s no danger of forgetting the lyrics, which will be helpfully projected onscreen. (Through Sun.) 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave,. 625-1900. See 5thavenue.org for ticket price. 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 6
His famous vampire squid quote about Goldman Sachs—this in 2009, with the subprime mortgage crisis upon us and anti-Wall Street sentiment at peak rage—will one day be carved on Taibbi’s headstone. Until then, thankfully, the muckracking political journalist will find plenty more targets in Washington, D.C. Dissecting the causes of the Great Recession, when not a single banker went to jail, was one thing, but that outrage is now three congressional election cycles past. Republicans have swept the table, and the reasons are more complicated than partisan redistricting, red-state anger over Obamacare, or low turnout among young urban Democrats. What’s really going on, as Taibbi explores in The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (Penguin, $17, new in paperback), is structural. A pinched middle class, many of whose white members already had health insurance and didn’t need a new government benefit, is stuck in place, angry, and bewildered. Real wages, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were in the ’70s. And the economy’s post-recession rebound has disproportionately benefited the vampire squids of our very unequal society. Part of The Divide concerns Wall Street impunity: those who get away with everything. The other part of the book concerns the poor: those who get away with nothing, who are essentially criminalized for being destitute or black or in the wrong place at the wrong time when a cop decides to write a summons (see: Ferguson, Staten Island, etc.). Street crime, of course, is today at record low levels, while the Dow Jones index heads in the opposite direction. With two years to go before the next election, The Divide—which belongs on the bookshelf alongside George Packer’s The Unwinding—vividly describes forces that will drive voters on both the right and left. (Whether the latter are enraged enough to vote is a different matter.) Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m.