Minneapolis comic Jeff Gerbino will work for a paycheck anywhere he can. One time, he even broke away from his left-wing leanings and wrote 25 jokes for Minnesota's Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, who got laughs with them at his state party's nominating convention. Gerbino collected $1,200. "People asked, 'Why'd you go work for him?'" recalls Gerbino, who brings his stand-up routine to the Funny Stop this week. "'Cause he was paying me!"
But money isn't as tight as it used to be. Gerbino's daughter just graduated from Columbia University and has followed in her dad's comedic footsteps. She's now writing gags for Conan O'Brien's show. "I may have been a mutt, but I raised thoroughbreds," says Gerbino. "I know she's made it because she's stopped taking my calls." Showtimes are at 8:30 p.m. tonight and 8 and 10:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at the Funny Stop (1757 State Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls). Tickets: $7-$12. Call 330.923.4700 or visit funnystop.com. - P.F. Wilson
Nearly 15 years of spinning house, hip-hop and soul tracks has taught Cleveland DJ Q-Nice how to keep his dance floors thumping until last call. He'll show off his skills at the debut of his monthly Urban Chic club party at Anatomy tonight. "When people hear a certain record, they sing along," says Q-Nice, who'll share turntable time with DJ Tom Noy. "And when the guys are pulling their girlfriends onto the floor, that's when you go, 'OK, you got 'em.' And to keep them, you give them a good mixture of music and keep the beats pretty much the same to make a smooth transition to the next piece."
With the So Electric jazz trio adding guitars, bass and drums to some of his strictly vinyl mixes, Q-Nice will fuse several musical elements to create "a culture and a movement" aimed at an upscale nightlife that "will not only move your soul but your body as well." You can do your part in the revolution by looking in your closet. "Come basically dressed in your finest attire," says Q-Nice. "With fashion these days, you can mix and match by taking a good pair of comfortable jeans or Converses - whichever you choose - and mix it with a nice blazer or jacket with a button-down shirt and a tie."
And strap on a Rolex, because Q-Nice's parties promptly start at 9:06 p.m. "It's something different that we wanted to do," he says. "It throws people off a bit. But we're giving individuals who work really hard here in Cleveland a time to laugh, let the hair down, play and network. And the vibe is to take them back to really good dance music again." Get your chic on at 9:06 p.m. at Anatomy Ultralounge (1299 W. Ninth St.). Admission: $5. Call 216.363.1113 or visit anatomycleveland.com. - Cris Glaser
Bay Village writer Peter Chakerian schmoozed for more than a year in the Cleveland Muni Lot before he wrote The Browns Fans' Tailgating Guide. And rightfully so. He knew that the 10,000 or so fans who set up camp on Sunday mornings to party before every home game wouldn't let him slide. "This is one of those things that you don't want to get wrong," says Chakerian, who'll be in North Canton today for the second of eight book-signings he's lined up through the holidays. "There is a certain amount of 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' that happens in Cleveland tailgating. I didn't want this to be a tell-all. I wanted to delve into the cultural anthropology behind it."
There were certainly enough specimens to choose from. For starters, Chakerian tracked down Lakewood artist Debra Darnell, whose beehive hats, cats' eyes sunglasses and orange-painted station wagon earned her the title of "the Bone Lady." He checked out Parma's Braylon Bunch, whose frat-like parties include a beer bong that can service eight chuggers at a time. And there's Roy "the Brownie Elf" Maxwell, whose yummy soups-of-the-week mask his disgust for a despised former team owner. "Roy's a grizzled fan, for sure," says Chakerian, who's the managing editor of Coolcleveland.com. "The thing I like about him is that he makes no bones about his anger toward Art Modell. He says he's going to have a party in the Muni Lot when Modell dies. I've got no reason to think he's not being serious."
The book also doubles as a how-to on tailgating. Tips range from drinking beer in opaque cups (better to avoid the cops' attention) to yelling "asshole!" every time the opposing team's fans walk by. Chakerian even offers an "Absolutely Cleveland" song list to blast from your speakers. The tunes include Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks," the Michael Stanley Band's "My Town" and Bobby Vinton's "Too Fat Polka." "I never imagined people would crank up polka down there," he laughs. "But it's a pretty special thing to hear fans yell "She's too fat for me!" at the top of their lungs at 11 in the morning while drinking beer. Only in Cleveland."
Chakerian says his research confirmed what he's known since his first tailgating party in the late '80s, when he was a student at North Olmsted High School: Browns fans are the most loyal in the NFL. "Football is in the blood in the life of Cleveland," says Chakerian. "If you go to a football game in Phoenix, they'll say "Let's go for a bike ride' if their team is losing at the end of the first quarter. In cities around the Great Lakes, they're always going to be hardcore about football. And Browns fans are at the top of the list at how passionate they are." The book-signing is from 2 to 3 p.m. at Borders Books & Music (6751 Strip Ave. N.W. in North Canton). Admission: free. Call 330.494.4776 or visit borders.com. - Glaser
SIXTEEN FLOORS ABOVE THE GROUND
A dozen poets team with a handful of artists to raise some coin for 29 African refugees at tonight's Sixteen Floors Above the Ground poetry-reading and art auction. One-named wordsmith Bree is targeting a $1,000 goal to help the Sudanese Lost Boys of Cleveland with their education and citizenship tests. "Sudan is their home, but they can't go back because it's just constant bombings, terrorist threats and kidnappings," she says. "They've formed their own allegiance not to make that happen."
The first wave of expatriates arrived in Cleveland in 2001 after 18 years of enduring Sudan's civil war between its Arab North and Christian South regions. While a dozen of them now work in the Whole Foods store in University Heights, says Bree, they still struggle to make ends meet.
That's why she named the benefit after a line in Langston Hughes' poem "Life Is Fine." "It's a little ballsy of me, but it's a poem about wanting to die," she says. "You're pinned against the wall. But every time you think you're going to do something to yourself, you realize how great life is. If these men didn't have that attitude, I'm sure they wouldn't have made it." The benefit starts at 7 p.m. at the Lit (2570 Superior Ave.). Admission: $5. Call 216.694.0000 or visit the-lit.org. - Glaser
The Dive Bar in Cleveland's Warehouse District is expecting a crush of customers for today's Pigskin Classic, an Ohio State-Michigan party geared toward fans who can't make it to Columbus for the teams' 111th annual showdown. Manager Brian Lanigan has made sure that the club's 42 beer taps will go with the flow by the noon kick-off. "There isn't much to be said about this game and what it means to both sets of fans," he says. "With the crowds, trying to accommodate everyone is a challenge in itself. But we always seem to manage."
The bar is also home base for the Young Buckeyes of Greater Cleveland club, which helps run an outdoor street bazaar with cornhole tournaments, concession stands and impromptu choruses of "Hang On Sloopy." "Ohio State-Michigan week has become way more than a football event to so many people that going all-out isn't seen as going overboard," says Lanigan. "When OSU wins, it's definitely worth it." Buckeye fever heats up at 10 a.m. at Dive (1214 W. Sixth St.). Admission: free. Call 216.621.7827 or visit divebarcleveland.com. - Chad Felton
SHIPWRECKS AND SCUBA
All's not lost if you failed to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day in September. For marine enthusiasts with wet suits at the ready, the Erie County-based Bay Area Divers chapter is hosting today's Shipwrecks and Scuba series of seminars on diving safety and nautical-disaster history. The day starts with an 8:30 a.m. course on medical tips for underwater-diving injuries. A 1 p.m. workshop includes diver and author Cris Kohl discussing ships that have sunk in the Great Lakes. And after a 6:30 p.m. chicken-and-beef banquet, explorers Dave Trotter and Jim Kennard will talk about their latest deep-sea hunts for lost ships like the Milan, H.M.S. Ontario and the W.P. Gilbert. The workshop starts at 8:30 a.m. at Sawmill Creek Resort (400 Sawmill Creek Rd. in Huron). Tickets: $12-$33. Call 419.732.1728 or visit bayareadivers.net. - Charles Cassady Jr.
THE FASHIONABLE PARTY
Sunset Lounge's red carpet gets a workout tonight, when models strut the makeshift catwalk to showcase the designs of five Cleveland fashionistas and an Akron hair stylist at the Fashionable Party. Organizer Tony Harris says he wants to help stock wardrobes that have run low on the latest winter styles. "A lot of people are interested in wearing clothes made by this type of talent in Cleveland," he says. "The quality is just as good and they've been creating a buzz around the city."
The show is the last in a string of nine collection debuts this year. The finale will spotlight Stephanie Nunn's Nadira knitwear line, Andrea Thompson's DruChristine seasonal couture, Walter Glover's Jer'Z sweaters, Marcus Turner's M. Pénash menswear and Oveda Goulde's Christ Couture collection of "sexy evening wear." Akron hair honcho Michael Oliver will also do up some 'dos for the blowout. "A lot of these folks will work with patrons one-on-one and design something that says, 'Hey! This is me!'" says Harris. "I want the audience to go away saying, 'Wow! I need to contact one of those designers. I want something in my closet that's made just for me.'" Doors open at 7 p.m. at Sunset Lounge (1382 W. Ninth St.). Admission: $15 in advance ($25 at the door). Call 216.535.0001 or visit sunsetloungecleveland.com. - Glaser
Whatever you do, don't call Food Network bombshell Sandra Lee "the new Martha Stewart" when you see her at today's bake sale and "sweet soirée" at Joseph-Beth. Unlike Stewart's "it's-a-good-thing" mantra for a glamorous lifestyle, Lee's "70-30 semi-homemade philosophy" - in which she combines 70 percent ready-made products with 30 percent creative touches - is targeted at folks with little money and even less time. "I think [Stewart is] very high-end," she says. "I think you have to be more creative when you have less to work with. It's really easy when you can throw a ton of money at something and have 500 helpers behind you. Then you can do anything. But most of us don't have that."
To back her claim, Lee is promoting her three latest books of money- and time-saving recipes and home-improvement tips: Semi-Homemade Money Saving Meals, Semi-Homemade Fast Fix Family Favorites and Semi-Homemade Desserts 2. She'll sign all of them at a "sweet-and-simple" bake sale this afternoon, which benefits the Share Our Strength food bank for hungry American kids. Tonight, Lee will host a cocktail party where she'll stir up José Cuervo golden Margaritas. She'll also pass on turkey-roasting tips just in time for Thanksgiving. "Do smaller turkeys, like 10 to 12 pounds," she advises. "Big and huge turkeys? Leave that to Wolfgang Puck. Who needs the headache, right?"
A smaller bird also saves you money. "Honey, I'm frugal but not cheap," says Lee. "I'm smart about how to spend money. We all have to be. If you know how to do it, you don't have to give up quality to eat like a king." The bake sale starts at 2 p.m. and cocktails are served at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, (24519 Cedar Rd. in Lyndhurst). Admission: free. Call 216.691.7000 or visit josephbeth.com. - Glaser