Name a funny celebrity — Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Horatio Sanz, Maya Rudolph — and chances are they got their start in standup comedy. The fast-paced, script-free genre forces participants to think creatively on their feet, leading to wacky scenes that never play out the same way twice. And for four days this week, Miami's long-standing comedy center, Just the Funny (3119 Coral Way, Miami), will celebrate improv with dozens of comedy groups from around the country. The Miami Improv Festival brings comedians from as far as Chicago, New York, and San Francisco to mingle with Florida-based troupes, sharing the stage in back-to-back performances this Thursday through Sunday. Performers can also level up their skills in a series of workshops led by experienced instructors. Shows run nightly, beginning at 7 p.m. Individual show tickets start at $10, and a full festival pass costs $175. Visit themiamiimprovfestival.com.
Long-stem roses, be warned: You will be cut this week and placed in the mouths of dancers in downtown Miami. The Prism Creative Group, intent on elevating culture in Miami, is doing just that by bringing Tango al Fresco to Miami. The Argentine dance classes will take place on Biscayne Green, a pop-up promenade right on Biscayne Boulevard. Ten years ago, few would have thought this most structured of dances would be touted as par for the course on a little strip of downtown Miami. But in 2017, the promenade opens up shop thanks to the Downtown Development Authority and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal is to make it into a pedestrian paradise for three weeks through community and wellness events, an outdoor movie theater, and other activities. The Argentine dance is being taught by Diego Santana Tango and served alongside cuisine from the South American nation by Gaucho Ranch and Fufi Empanadas. There will even be the appropriate red wine and cocktails by Acme Lounge. Organizers encourage you to keep it green and take Metromover to the Bayfront Park station. Tango al Fresco at Biscayne Green takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday on Biscayne Boulevard between SE Second and NE First Streets. Admission is free. Visit prismcreativegroup.com.
Friday: Get your Gatsby on during Art Deco Weekend.
Photo courtesy of Art Deco Weekend
Miami Beach is architecturally a special place. Sure, there's Wet Willie's and plenty of sand and waves, but the art deco era is well preserved in the buildings that now house boutique hotels and Banana Republic. That's why every year, the nonprofit Miami Design Preservation League puts on Art Deco Weekend, showcasing the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District. Founded in 1976, the group strives to ensure this architectural style doesn't fall into disrepair and distant memory. The weekend-long event is celebrating "40 years of fabulous" with art, music, vendors, and plenty of activities for the family. A highlight of the weekend for the four-legged is the Bark Deco Dog Show, so fluff up your pups for showing off. Antiquers will find fare for their abodes, classic car aficionados can check out five blocks of cool rides at the Classic Car Show, and there will be tons of musical attractions, especially for those fans of the Gatsby era. While you're on la playa, don't forget the official guided walking tour, so you can look like you actually know something about the city in which you live when you next have out-of-town guests. The festivities run Friday from noon to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Ocean Drive between Fifth and 13th Streets in Miami Beach. Admission is free. Visit artdecoweekend.com or call 305-672-2014.
Sci-fi is the "it" genre of the 21st Century. From Star Trek to Interstellar to Avatar, mind-bending science fiction on film isn't just for nerds anymore. And for those who enjoy imagining what tomorrow will look like (we hope better than today), the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival celebrates all things futurism in a weekend-long extravaganza. The fest will screen 60 features and short films, dole out awards, explore social gamer fandom, talk sciencey stuff, and host field trips. From international flicks such as This Giant Papier-Mâché Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy, to a screenplay workshop with an Emmy nominee, to a free, family-oriented screening session, the lineup is jam-packed with options for sci-fi fans of all stripes. So don your Princess Leia tribute dress, pop in for a flick or two, and — as Willy Wonka might say — get lost in a world of pure imagination. The event runs at various times Friday through Monday at the Flamingo Theater (905 Brickell Bay Dr., Miami) and Hyatt Regency Miami (400 SE Second Ave., Miami). Tickets start at $35, and Saturday-morning programming is free. Visit miscifi.com or call 323-909-2795.
Laugh your way into a fabulous 2017 with some of the most exciting names in comedy at the Miami Festival of Laughs. The annual tradition returns for a third year to the James L. Knight Center (400 SE Second Ave., Miami) this Saturday with riotous routines from Mike Epps, Arnez J, Jay Pharoah, Felipe Esparza, Michael Blackson, and Benji Brown. You'll recognize Epps as Day-Day Jones in Next Friday and Black Doug in The Hangover, but it's his stellar standup performances and deadly delivery that nabbed him the role of Richard Pryor in an upcoming biopic. See for yourself what gets audiences doubled over. The mike will be hot as soon as he steps onstage thanks to warm-up sets from Arnez J, a man so funny Prince personally called his cell to request his services as an opening act. You've seen Jay Pharoah bring the lols for six seasons on Saturday Night Live, and astute comedy fans will remember Felipe Esparza from the 2014-15 season of Last Comic Standing. Benji Brown will kill 'em all with his gender-bending, lovable hood-rat alter ego Kiki, and straight from Ghana, it's the "African King of Comedy," Eddie Murphy-inspired, hilariously outrageous Michael Blackson. Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets cost $54 to $127. Call 305-416-5970 or visit jlkc.com.
Saturday: Festival of Laughs brings Mike Epps to Miami.
Five words, three hyphens: all-you-can-drink beer. What else do you really need? The suds will flow at Marlins Park (501 Marlins Way, Miami) for the fifth-annual Miami Beer Festival. The event will show off dozens of craft and international breweries, as well as South Florida's best brewmasters. To name a few participants: Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Lagunitas, Bell's, Concrete Beach, Gravity Brewlab, Islamorada Beer Company, Wynwood Brewing, and Brooklyn Brewery. In addition to the free-flowing beverages, there'll be concessions (including food for sale to soak up the brew), a video DJ, a photo booth, and lawn games. Think of it as a carnival, but instead of stuffed animals, your prizes are refreshing libations. The fest runs Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets start at $45 per person. Visit miamibeerfestival.com. See page 29 for more about the fest.
Gatsby was Gilded Age goals, flapper style is sexy as hell, and a 1920s orchestra can be improved only when a little Latin flavor gets thrown into the musical mix. So it's great to hear news of the Jazz Age Lawn Party's expansion to South Beach. The party just wrapped its 11th year in New York, welcoming 4,000 people per day to Governor's Island. This outdoor venue is where it began as a tiny niche event and grew over time to a three-day bash beloved by the city's cocktail culturists and artistic elite. Now it's coming south to Miami, bringing Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra, the official orchestra of the event, with the Ziegfeld-inspired Dreamland Follies dance troupe providing choreographed entertainment and lessons for the whole crowd. Throwback cocktails and gourmet picnic fare will keep guests sustained through the day. The Miami version of this event will veer away from its northern counterpart in terms of setting, Latin influence, and nightlife. Organizers plan to make the most of the South Beach backdrop, from putting the dance floor on the sand to renting cabanas for VIPs. With Art Deco Weekend going on all around, expect a decidedly deco aesthetic. Cuban flavor will show up in the cocktails, the food, and onstage, where the jazz will be a mix of classic Jazz Age and Latin jazz. The party runs Friday through Sunday along Ocean Drive in South Beach from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $65 for general admission up to $5,000 for a double private VIP cabana. Visit jazzagelawnparty.com.
It's all about pride in Little Havana — Cuban pride, Latino pride, and, this weekend, gay pride. The second-annual Gay8 Festival will take over Calle Ocho (SW Eighth Street from SW 14th to NW 17th Avenue, Miami) for a day of music, arts, and, of course, dance parties. Nearly 17,000 party people attended last year's inaugural street fest, and even more are anticipated to hit up La Pequeña Habana for 2017. More than just a celebration of pride, the event will bring the diverse communities of the 305 together and embrace everything that makes Miami the Magic City. Enjoy tasty food from local vendors, live music from favorite local artists, pop-up art performances, cigar tastings, and other fab surprises. There will also be free historic walking tours and LGBT film screenings courtesy of the Miami International Film Festival and Miami Dade College. (The walking tours will depart from the Tower Theater every hour on the hour, and the film screenings will take place at the Tower Theater beginning at noon.) More than just a day of fun, the highlight of this year's festival will focus on the issue of gun violence and feature an art exhibit by the Stonewall National Museum & Archives related to the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Don't miss Gay8 this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free. VIP passes cost $100 plus fees via gay8festival.com and include free drinks and admission to pre- and post-Gay8 festivities.
The Beautiful Game will take over Lockhart Stadium (5201 NW 12th Ave., Fort Lauderdale) this Sunday when Brazil's Vasco da Gama takes on Ecuador's Barcelona SC in a win-or-go-home showdown of the 2017 Florida Cup. Vasco, led by world-renowned midfielder Nene, brings a wealth of experience and winning tradition from Rio de Janeiro, having won Brazil's national championship four times, as well as the Copa Libertadores in 1998. Barcelona, meanwhile, is the defending national champion of Ecuador and boasts its own star midfielder in Segundo Castillo, who led the national team on its improbable 2006 World Cup run, where it was able to reach the second round for the first time in team history. The two teams will join Argentina's River Plate and Colombia's Millionarios in the tournament's playoff to see who will come out on top as the fútbol champion of the Sunshine State. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased at floridacup.com.
Sunday: Gay8 Fest celebrates love and Latin culture.
Photo courtesy of Felix Becerra
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"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of wisdom and influence. Through his words and actions, he became the face of the civil rights movement and helped put an end to racial discrimination in state and federal laws. This week, the nation will celebrate the birthday of the freedom-fighter. And in Miami — the first city in the United States to organize such an event, in 1977 — locals will honor MLK Jr. with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. In Liberty City, on NW 54th Street from NW 12th to NW 32nd Avenue in Miami, the streets will be flooded with locals, politicians, union leaders, and activists from across the 305 in celebration of equality. In true parade fashion, expect to see high-school marching bands, athletes, cheerleaders, and even carnival dancers on foot, floats, cars, and fire trucks. Once the procession makes it way down the 20-block stretch to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park (6000 NW 32nd Ct., Miami), the celebration will continue with food, kids' activities, vendors, and entertainment. Don't miss the extravaganza this Monday at 11 a.m. Admission is free. Visit miamiandbeaches.com or call 305-835-2464.
There hasn't been much reason to cheer for the Miami Heat lately. All the fallout we feared in the wake of Dwyane Wade's departure has come to fruition. Miami lacks a superstar presence to help Hassan Whiteside, and the young guns seem to have hit a sophomore slump. Making things worse, the team has suffered a string of injuries to key players. Guess the basketball gods hate us now. But the Heat is still a scrappy bunch that plays hard till the final buzzer sounds. So although the team seems to be more likely to get a lottery pick in next summer's draft than a playoff berth, these guys are still worth watching, simply because they don't quit — they play hard and work diligently at trying not to suck. And if that's not enough of a selling point to go see them, there's this: Tuesday, the Heat will host the Houston Rockets and their MVP candidate, James Harden, a man who has been setting the NBA ablaze with his basketball prowess and his magnificent beard. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at heat.com.