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Event picks for this delightful week in Cleveland

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Friday | 02

Too Big to Ignore

Get Schooled by Ralphie May

I just want to say that it is an honor and a privilege to be coming to Kent," comic Ralphie May tells us during a recent phone call. "To walk in the footsteps of those brave student protestors [from May 4, 1970] is like walking on a battlefield of the Revolutionary War." He isn't joking. But if you think that's an unusually heavy topic for a funny guy, you don't know Ralphie: The super-sized comedian mines the most emotionally charged topics — racism, sexism, immigration policy — for satiric laughs. On abortion: "You wanna shrink government? Let's start by getting politicians out of women's vaginas!" On gays in the military: "What, you don't think they can march without sucking dick?" In fact, at 40, the Nashville comic's political beliefs run so deep that he's planning an eventual bid for Congress. At the core, though, May calls himself an educator. "I make them laugh, and while their minds are open I fill them with what I believe: that we're all in this together, like fingers on the same hand." May brings his big, topical self to the Kent Stage tonight at 7:30 as part of his Too Big to Ignore tour. His Comedy Central special by the same name debuts on Sunday, March 4. Tickets for the 18-and-over show are $20 to $32.50; get them by phone or online. — Elaine T. Cicora

175 East Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005, Thursday | 01

Funny Stuff

America's Happiest Comic Hits the Improv

Maybe it's because he went from the boring world of computer programming to a career as a stand-up comic, but Rob Little is all laughs — not that you'd expect anything less from a guy whose tagline is "pure optimism." Bald, baby-faced, and well upholstered, the Detroit native makes his Cleveland debut this weekend at the Improv, on the West Bank of the Flats, with a routine that pokes fun at himself, his family, and his love of food. ("I'm a crazy fool for diners," he tells us. "Someday I'd like to own one!") Much of the material we'll hear this weekend is slated for an upcoming CD. Also, Little says he's shopping around a pilot for a TV show on history. "I call it A Little History With Rob Little!' Isn't that adorable?" The adoration begins tonight at 7:30; tickets are $17. Additional performances happen Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Reserve a seat by phone or online. — Cicora

1148 Main Ave., 216-696-4677,

Picture That

Through History's Lens

Cleveland photographer Allen E. Cole was about more than just capturing pretty images, says Cole's chronicler and former curator, Samuel W. Black. "As the dean of black Cleveland photographers, when Cole picked up his camera, he understood that he was documenting history." Those documents — nearly 6,000 prints and 30,000 negatives — today make up the Allen E. Cole Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society, and provide a perfect peephole into African-American life in the Cedar-Central neighborhood during the 1930s and '40s. "Without them, that period of black life in Cleveland would be sort of an empty slate," says Black, who has just published a book — Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole — exploring the man, his times, and the importance of his work. Today, Black and his co-author, Regennia N. Williams, will be at the History Center, signing their book and talking about Cole and his historical significance. The free talk and reception runs from 5 to 7 p.m. It's open to the public, but reservations are requested at the number below. A related exhibit of Cole's photography continues at the History Center through May 25. Learn more on the website. — Cicora

10825 East Blvd., 216-721-5722 x 1502,

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