You can get your weekend off to an amusing start at Chief Ike's Mambo Room (202-332-2211) when Washington Improv Theater begins a run of improvised comedy. But don't fret if you can't make it, as WIT will be there Fridays and Saturdays through March 1. Also on Friday, as part of the National Symphony Orchestra's intriguing Soundtracks: Music and Film series of concerts and other programs at the Kennedy Center, Buster Keaton's "Steamboat Bill Jr." will be screened in a free show on the Millennium Stage, with music by chamber ensemble Anne Watts & Boister (202-467-4600).
Saturday, check out the jazz piano of Kenny Werner at Blues Alley (202-337-4141). He's been performing since the 1970s and is known for his improvisation. On that same show will be Toots Thielemans. Quincy Jones once called him "one of the greatest musicians of our time," so that alone should tip you to how talented the 80-year-old Thielemans is. He's won numerous awards for his harmonica work, but he also plays guitar and is a mean whistler.
Tuesday brings a nice two-fer treat to the 9:30 club (202-393-0930) if you appreciate songwriting craft. Neil Finn and Rhett Miller will both be performing. Some of you may recall Finn from his days in Split Enz until the mid-'80s and later his band Crowded House. He's been solo for a few years now, but still writes lovely melodies and detailed lyrics. Miller is no slouch lyrically, either. As part of the Old '97s he turned out some brilliant alt-country rock. On his solo project he's sounding more pop, but no less sharp.
One of the charms of this city is the number of famous and powerful people who can make you laugh. Of course, that usually isn't their intention, but on Wednesday some of them will actually intend to provoke guffaws at the 10th Annual Funniest Celebrity in Washington Contest (301-294-4690) at the National Press Club. Among the celebs competing for chuckles are expected to be Letitia Baldrige, Sen. Tom Daschle, Ted Leonsis and Cal Thomas. The cost is pricey (individual tickets are $250, while tables go for $5,000), but it's a benefit for Work, Achievement, Values and Education Inc. The Great House Concert Tour featuring Tom Prasada-Rao, Eric Schwartz and Freebo is coming to town. The name stems from the acts being regular performers on the house show scene and a package tour they're currently doing of stops on that circuit. But they're getting out of the house Wednesday at Jammin' Java (703-255-1566), and you should too.
-- Curt Fields