Josh Blue has been "rolling like a rock star" ever since he scored the top prize on the fourth season of Last Comic Standing in 2004. For the past seven months, he's been juggling his role as a first-time dad while playing on the U.S. Paralympics soccer team. And when he's not crisscrossing the country's comedy-club circuit, he found time to make a couple of movies: Ca$h with The Lord of the Rings' Sean Bean, and a yet-to-be-titled, direct-to-DVD flick that he helped produce. "The big-budget movie was so clean and crisp," says the 29-year-old Blue, who's in town this weekend to riff on his cerebral palsy. "But we were basically writing our horror film as we were filming it. I look at it as Making Movies 101."
Born in the West African nation of Cameroon, where his dad taught at a university, Blue grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now based in Denver, he refuses to plant roots in Southern California, where the potential movie roles are. "I'm not real fond of L.A.," he says. "The traffic is ridiculous. The people are pretty ridiculous too. If they need a guy with cerebral palsy, they know where I'm at." Showtimes are at 8 tonight, 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Hilarities (2035 E. Fourth St.). Tickets: $20-$25. Call 216.241.7425 or visit pickwickandfrolic.com. - P.F. Wilson
Margaret Cho, who brings her Beautiful tour to Lakewood Civic Auditorium tonight, promises to show local fans some love for sending Barack Obama to the White House. After all, it's the first time she ever actively pushed for a presidential candidate. "When he got Ohio, we knew he was going to win, because the state is always the big indicator of who our next president will be," says Cho. "I'm so proud of Ohio and all the work I got to do on his campaign."
With the election over, the 39-year-old comedian is back on the road with a show that focuses on society's obsession with beauty. The material is payback at TV executives who told her she was "too fat and too Asian" for her short-lived 1995 sitcom, All-American Girl. "A lot of my work is about feminist issues, about a society that places demands on women to look a certain way," says Cho. "I ventured into comedy so that I wouldn't have to be judged on those standards. Television was a really rude awakening that I would have to lose all this weight just to play myself."
But Cho hasn't completely written off the small screen. These days, she stars in the Lifetime comedy Drop Dead Diva about a thin woman who dies and comes back to life as a fat one. She can be also seen in VH1's The Cho Show, where a camera crew follows her around in "pseudo-reality" situations with her parents, friends and assistants. Both shows explore the many sides of beauty. "It's [about] how youth-oriented looks are considered legitimate, especially for woman," says Cho. "It's oppressive. And if you only have one vision of what beautiful is, it's sad. You're missing out on other opportunities to appreciate it." Cho goes onstage at 8 p.m. at Lakewood Civic Auditorium (14100 Franklin Blvd.). Tickets: $28.50-$45.50. Call 216.529.4081 or visit lkwdpl.org. - Cris Glaser
A weekend of heavy salivating begins today, when the I-X Center transforms into a ginormous dining room for the third annual Fabulous Food Show. Food Network faves Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Curtis Stone and Cleveland's Michael Symon headline a mix of cooking demonstrations that can save time in the kitchen and money in your pocket.
The show's epicenter rocks with Restaurant Row, which features samples by dozens of the region's top restaurants, like Twinsburg's Blue Canyon and Lakewood's Swingos on the Lake. Wine experts from around the country will offer visitors vino from France, Italy and California. And Momocho's Justin Herl will duke it out with Pier W's Jack Ahern in a battle of precision and skill to see who's the best sous chef in Northeast Ohio. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the I-X Center (1 I-X Center Dr.). Tickets: $25. Call 216.265.2665 or visit fabulousfoodshow.com. - Glaser
At least 1,000 mixed-martial-arts fans are expected to squeeze into an Elyria roller-skating rink tonight to watch 20 amateur bouts at War in the Heartland. Promoters promise that the matches - featuring grapplers from the Midwest, New England and Canada - won't be the kind your dad saw back in the day. "Boxing has kinda fallen off in popularity, and mixed-martial arts are pitting guys with rounded skills," says Paul Goins, who trains a 40-man team at Powerhouse Gym in Elyria. "You have to fight with your feet and on the ground, and you have to be able to punch, kick, wrestle and know your submissions. There's just a big vacuum of fighters and fans right now."
The main event features Mentor's Reggie Griffin and Lorain's Tony Rottari in the 170-pound division. Other fighters include 21-year-old Dominic Jones of Amherst battling Brian Karmolinski of Indiana in a 155-pound duel. And Indiana's Lou Armezzani will take on Elyria's Josh Gregorik in the 185-pound class. "Josh is your typical ground-and-pounder," says Goins. "He's gonna take you to the ground, get on top of you and pound you."
The matches are designed to draw new fighters into the ring too. But before you sign up, make sure you're at the top of your wrestling game. "It's the most important foundation," says Goins. "It's also a combination of karate, jujitsu and boxing. Once you've learned all these different disciplines, you're ready to do combat." First bell is at 7:30 p.m. at the Elyria Roll Arena (908 Cleveland St. in Elyria). Tickets: $30-$50. Call 440.309.4459 or visit superiorcagefighting.net. - Glaser
For nearly a half-century, Chuck Schodowski starred in three locally produced and massively popular TV shows. Up until a few years ago, he really couldn't see an end to it all. But then money-hungry broadcasting execs virtually killed the possibility of another Big Chuck & Lil' John. "The business and the viewers have changed so much," says Schodowski, who signs his autobiography, Big Chuck!: My Favorite Stories From 47 Years on Cleveland TV, in Mentor tonight. "They have 150 channels to look at, and the business no longer cares about local programming. In the early days, that was their stamp on the community. Now everything is syndicated, and that's really why I gave it up."
The book chronicles the inception of the groundbreaking Shock Theater and Ghoulardi shows in the mid-'60s. When host Ernie Anderson split for L.A. in 1966 to be the voice of ABC-TV, WJW-TV 8 station managers paired Schodowski with weatherman Bob "Hoolihan" Wells on the Hoolihan & Big Chuck show. After Wells quit in 1979, jeweler "Lil' John" Rinaldi stepped in as co-host until Big Chuck & Lil' John's last episode aired last year. Along the way, the program's guest stars ranged from Imogene Coca and Andy Griffith to Northeast Ohio natives Burgess Meredith, Tim Conway and Don King.
Schodowski remained a full-time news director at the station while the shows were on the air. "Nobody realized that, for all those years, I had two jobs," he says. "I was working 65 hours a week. I don't know how I did it. I must have been Superman."
Off-camera, Schodowski captained his All-Stars sports teams that played for charity. His "King the Wonder Dog" skit - with his Rhodesian ridgeback, Rowdy - captured the first-ever locally awarded Emmy in 1969. Schodowski even pulled the first winning Ohio Lottery number in 1974. Despite the temptation, he turned down Anderson's offer to join him in Southern California to work on a Della Reese TV show. "I was a big fish in a small pond here," says Schodowski. "When I went to L.A., I knew I was a little fish, and it just wasn't me. It sounds corny, but Cleveland is a great city." Schodowski's retirement won't slow him down. By Christmas, he'll sit through 13 book-signings to promote his tell-all. "I'm thinking that there are four or five more stories that should have gone into the book," says Schodowski. "If I remember 15 more, we'll be thinking of volume two." The book-signing is from 2 to 3 p.m. at Borders Books & Music (9565 Mentor Ave. in Mentor). Admission is free. Call 440.350.8168 or visit borders.com. - Glaser ANIME SOCIETY FALL MARATHON No matter how high tuition skyrockets, coeds always clamor to get into college for one reason or another. At Case Western Reserve University, Joe Recht suspects it's the school's annual Anime Society Fall Marathon - which runs for 10 hours today with screenings of such Japanese-cartoon faves like Great Teacher Onizuka, Full Metal Panic and Princess Tutu. The films share fest time with anime-trivia contests, Go! board-game tournaments, Kendo sword-fighting demos and an Otaku costume party. "We have two rooms showing anime, and we'll have a bunch of homemade Japanese food," says Recht, the group's president. "There will be good capacity without being too far from the screen and - best of all - stadium seating." The screens light up between 2 p.m. and midnight at Case Western Reserve University's Nord Hall (10900 Euclid Ave.). Admission is free. Visit anime.case.edu for details. - Charles Cassady Jr.
Picture humorist Sarah Vowell in her favorite Greenwich Village watering hole. Suddenly, the ghost of 17th-century Bible thumper Anne Hutchinson walks into the bar to talk about her 1638 trial, in which she was convicted of "lewd and lascivious conduct" for inviting both men and women into her home for Sunday religion classes. What would Vowell say to her? "She thinks she hears the voice of God, and I would be one of those people who would say she was insane," she says. "But her trial is a landmark in both brilliance and stupidity. She completely outwits her accusers, and she has a Bible verse to back up her actions. But she can't shut up about predicting the future and being filled with the Holy Spirit. I would ask her, 'What were you thinking?'"
Vowell, a This American Life regular, recounts the trial in her fifth book, The Wordy Shipmates, about New England Puritanism in the 1600s. And she's in town today to talk about Massachusetts Bay Company Gov. John Winthrop, minister John Cotton and Rhode Island founder Roger Williams. She'll also tell you that the Puritans left a quirkier legacy than the history books portray. "Some of their sermons were so rock 'n' roll in their intensity and emotion," says Vowell, whose 2005 book, Assassination Nation - about cemeteries where three murdered U.S. presidents are buried - topped The New York Times' bestsellers list. "They're so dramatic with devils walking the streets in chains, and their lives seem so mythic and dire. Their passion for the written word is also kind of endearing."
So is Vowell's fascination for the time period. Because she was "hyper-aware" about writing a potential yawner of a bio, she sprinkled her brand of humor into the stories to make them "coherent, readable and juicy" for her readers. "I wanted to keep it snappy and lively," says Vowell. "Their circumstances are not dry and dull, and their passion for religion was dramatic. I just want to stick up for them as thinkers." The talk starts at 2 p.m. at Cleveland Public Library's Main Branch (325 Superior Ave.). Admission is free. Call 216.623.2800 or visit cpl.org. - Glaser
Shaker Heights native Jill Bialosky's book Intruder includes a poem that recounts her Northeast Ohio roots. "The Poet Returns Home for the Holidays" sums up her sentiments as she gears up for a reading in Akron today. "It has some feelings for Cleveland," says Bialosky, who's an acquisitions editor for a book-publishing company in the Big Apple. "I write about the simple life, which I associate with Cleveland. New York is very active. It doesn't have the quiet moments I remember growing up."
Bialosky can trace her zeal for writing prose to a sophomore-year poetry workshop she took at Ohio University in the early '70s. Since then, she's published two novels and three collections of poems; Intruder, she says, contains "the most imaginative risks." "It's about the intrusion of the imagination, art and Eros on the ordinary life," she says. "I'm challenging the self to recognize the different layers of reality we inhabit. I find it to be an interesting trope that I've continued to explore." The reading starts at 12:30 p.m. at Our Lady of the Elms High School, 1375 W. Exchange St. in Akron. Admission is free. Call 330.867.0880 or visit theelms.org. - Glaser
"METROPOLIS REVISITED: CLEVELAND IN THE PRE-WAR YEARS"
Cleveland was a happening place in the 1930s, when Elliot Ness fought gangsters and the Great Lakes Exposition rivaled the World's Fair. There's also the story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, who created Superman in a Glenville apartment. Urban historian John Grabowski will talk about this period at his lecture "Metropolis Revisited: Cleveland in the Pre-War Years," which is part of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage's exhibit on the golden age of comics, Zap! Pow! Bam! "Superman didn't fight aliens or monsters," says Lynda Bender, the museum's education director. "His first foes were criminals and corrupt politicians. He was the first hero to live and fight crime in the setting of a real city. [Grabowski] has many fascinating stories about Cleveland neighborhoods and the people who made them tick." The program starts at 7 p.m. at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (2929 Richmond Rd. in Beachwood). Tickets: $8 for museum members ($10 for nonmembers). Call 216.593.0575 or visit maltzjewishmuseum.org. - Katherine Fulton