THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR DEC 7 - 13 | Entertainment Picks | Salt Lake City Weekly

THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR DEC 7 - 13 

Chris Distefano, Ballet West: The Nutcracker, Curtis Chin: Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant, and more.

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Chris Distefano
Chris Distefano provides proof that bigger can be better. His Comedy Central special, Size 38 Waist, demonstrated the point, courtesy of his self-effacing humor and the gut(s) he reveals, both literally and figuratively. His various late-night guest slots, Netflix specials, appearances on MTV, podcasts, presence on Patreon, and sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden have made him a veritable superstar in the comedy world. Granted, he has an edge, but his ability to connect with audiences foregoes any hint of angst or intimidation. He's more or less an Everyman—one reason why Jimmy Kimmel tapped him to host his newest TV venture, the Super Maximum Retro Show.

A devoted baseball fanatic, Distefano is nevertheless unafraid to embrace his feminine side, even admitting that following a break-up, he took it so hard he drank Pinot Grigio and listened to Michael Bublé to ease his anguish. On the other hand, who else would quibble with a little kid over the youngster's sophisticated taste in ice cream, make fun of his aging father's twisted dialect, or share an awkward encounter with comedian Tracy Morgan? Then again, Distefano is a master of the matter-of-fact, finding humor in obvious incongruities and frivolous foibles. Thankfully, he's also fond of foolishness, which gives the rest of us an excuse to laugh it off entirely.

Chris Distefano performs at Wiseguys' Gateway location (190 S. 400 West on Thursday, Dec. 8 and Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets cost $45 - $55; visit wiseguyscomedy.com for tickets and additional event information. (Lee Zimmerman)

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  • Beau Pearson

Ballet West: The Nutcracker
William Christensen's celebrated choreography of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker has become a generations-spanning tradition for Ballet West and for families throughout Utah, yet it's still easy to lose track of how significant it is on the national stage, as well. After all, it's not just any company that gets invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as Ballet West did with its Nutcracker during this past Thanksgiving weekend—it's fourth such invitation to one of America's premiere performing-arts showcases.

That's quite a warm-up gig for its return to delight local audiences for the 2023 holiday season, but a well-deserved honor for America's longest-running Nutcracker production. The beloved story—based on E.T.A. Hoffman's 1816 work The Nutcracker and the Mouse King—takes spectators on a fantastical journey from a Christmas party into the dreams of a young girl, centered around her beloved toy nutcracker. With dances celebrating sweets from around the world, and a production filled with wonderful sets and costumes, The Nutcracker, as Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute puts it, "is a great introduction to people who have never seen ballet, but remains substantial and filling for people who know and love this multi-faceted art form."

Ballet West's presentation of The Nutcracker takes up residence at the Capitol Theatre (50 W. 200 South) Dec. 8 – 27, with performances Tuesday-Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday-Saturday at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m., and Sunday at noon and 5 p.m. Tickets start at $36; visit arttix.org to purchase tickets and for additional event information. (Scott Renshaw)

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Curtis Chin: Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant
Curtis Chin has exactly the kind of biography that tracks as an example of the "American Dream"—a child of immigrants who has become an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker, even co-founding the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York City. But as is usual for such stories, the reality is more complicated, incorporating many of the ways that one can feel "other" in America.

In his new memoir Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant, Chin chronicles growing up in 1970s/1980s Detroit, where the Chinese restaurant operated by his family became a place not just for learning about food, but for learning about the world, as it was one of the few restaurants in the segregated city that served Black customers. It's a tale of finding one's way in a world of "code-switching," but also about being gay and not being sure about how to come out to your family. In an October interview with NPR, Chin observed, "No matter how confident you are that your parents are going to love you and accept you for who you are, there's always this 0.001 percent chance that you might be wrong, right? ... So even though, you know, my parents always exhibited positive feelings towards gay people, ... and they never said anything homophobic, I just couldn't take that chance."

Curtis Chin visits Under the Umbrella bookstore (511 W. 200 South, Suite 120) for a reading and signing of Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public; visit undertheumbrellabookstore.com for additional event information. (SR)

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