5 Awesome Free Things to Do in L.A. This Week

A Very Robot Christmas
A Very Robot Christmas

The holidays can be a trying time, especially for your wallet. But if you want to indulge in some fun, free events, then you've come to the right place. Borrow party tips from Jazz Age icon Dorothy Parker or laugh at dating survival stories from Anna David and Co. If you'd rather get in the holiday spirit, this week's roundup also includes a traditional tamale festival, a winter market and a robot Christmas spectacular.

5. A Robot Christmas Show

If, when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, visions of pop art robot portraits don't immediately dance in your head, maybe that needs to change. Melding the curatorial vision of Coagula's Mat Gleason with the multiplatform artistry of robot overlord Dave Pressler, A Very Robot Christmas is part pop-up shop, part fine art show, part merch heaven, part family-friendly game-time and part grown-up nerdgasm. Between the books, paintings, prints, award-winning TV shows and vinyl toy-modeling, Pressler's unhealthy level of obsession with talking tin cans transcends the confines of cartooning to create a universe of avatars having profoundly human experiences. Pressler's "robromance" is infectious -- and when you throw in an all-out Christmas theme, it's downright irresistible. Kids are the focus of the afternoon's G-rated party; the evening opening promises to be much less child-friendly, with live music by twoversusone and a litany of adult beverages and cheekier early work on offer. Of course, the gallery next door is still trussed out as a wine bar for children, so the lines might get a bit blurry. But that's the point, isn't it? To merge fantasy and reality, nostalgia and sci-fi, high and low style and, of course, people and the 'bots they love. If there's going to be a war on Christmas, at least let it be an intergalactic robot war! Red Pipe Gallery, 978 Chung King Road, Chinatown; Sat., Dec. 14, 7-11 p.m.; exhibition continues Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m., through Jan. 4; free. (310) 663-1296, --Shana Nys Dambrot

4. True Tales of Lust and Love

Disaster dates, cheaters, sexual dysfunction ... we've all been there. Sometimes the only way to deal with a broken heart is to open it up and spill. True Tales of Lust and Love, which started as a one-night show in 2012, is Anna David's mission to find the comedy in romantic triumphs and failures. David (author of Party Girl) started by reading her essays, supported by a team of funny ladies with their own bawdy, shockingly funny stories to tell. After spawning both a podcast series and a book anthology, the popular tour now includes comedians of both genders, such as Dave Anthony, Greg Behrendt and Erica Schickel. These dating veterans might regale you with their sexual fantasies about the Apple Genius Bar, fake engagements, acid-fueled ménages-a-trois or the time they tried to seduce a police officer after being arrested for shoplifting. You know, normal relationship stuff. M Bar, 1253 N. Vine St., Hlywd.; Thurs., Dec. 19, 8 p.m.; free. 
--Sarah Diamond

3. Tamale Food Festival

It wouldn't be Christmas without tamales, and this year's Taste of Tamales Food Festival puts hungry tamale maniacs in the perfect place to enjoy them: El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Tamales -- stuffed with meat, cheese, chiles and masa dough, all bundled up in a steamed leaf wrapper -- were pioneered by the Mayans and today are celebrated here by tens of thousands of people eating, listening to music and watching the generous spectacle of 10,000 free gifts being given to the kiddies on hand (first come, first served). Today's hours of epicurean ecstasy include pork, cheese and jalapeño tamales from Mexico, vegan and red sauce varieties from Nicaragua, chocolate atole and green sauce delights from El Salvador, chicken and sweet corn masterpieces from South America, and the beef and chicken supremacy of Central America. And just in case you were shy about delving deeply into tamale consciousness -- you don't really have to eat the wrapper. Placita Olvera, Main Street & Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, dwntwn.; Sun., Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; free. (818) 734-2701, --David Cotner


2. Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide and Tour

Dorothy Parker, the brilliant, tragic and devastatingly funny writer/poet/brat, is favored with a fine, fizzy new literary treatment in Kevin C. Fitzpatrick's just-published Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide. An elaborately structured appreciation framed around Parker's diligent dipsomania, it's essentially a selection of entries centered on the cocktails and characters who helped define Parker's marvelously wicked persona (the first thing she did every morning was "brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue"). Following Parker from Manhattan speakeasies to Hollywood cocktail lounges, it's an offbeat and boundlessly amusing cultural safari. The 4 p.m. reading at Book Soup is preceded by a two-hour bus tour of the writer's local homes and haunts, led by Fitzpatrick and sponsored by Jazz Age L.A. and the Dorothy Parker Society. Parker, a twice Oscar-nominated screenwriter, spent a considerable amount of time in Tinseltown and, of course, hated Los Angeles for decades even before the ghastly 1963 suicide of her husband, Alan Campbell, in West L.A. One of the legitimate titans of American literature, Parker herself offered perhaps the best assessment of a chronically bittersweet life, writing, "This would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment." Tour departs from Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat., Dec. 14, 1:30 p.m.; $49. (310) 659-3110, Book signing at Book Soup, 4 p.m.; free, book is $16.95. --Jonny Whiteside

1. Winter Market Crafts

The Renegade Craft Fair is back for its fourth annual Winter Market! Saturday and Sunday at Los Angeles State Historic Park, the self-sewn craft village will offer beautiful and creative handcrafted goods from more than 200 makers. Screw and forget Target, Costco and Cyber whateverdays -- buy your holiday gifts from people who actually make things locally, with their own hands. Not only is it the best way to get something beautiful, it's also politically subversive; the most powerful vote is, of course, done with the almighty dollar. And this voting booth is super fun. In addition to handcrafted wood furniture from Against the Grain, hip leather purses from A. Adams and bird-call necklaces from Small Adventure, there are delicious sweet and savory treats from food trucks including Brasil Kiss, Cambalaches and Front Porch Pops. And to spread the "make your own stuff" power to the people, screenprinting demos will be given by The Unincorporated Life, a creative collective and design firm based in Los Angeles. There's lots to love about the Renegade Craft Fair. One visit, and you'll get it. Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N. Spring St., dwntwn.; Sat., Dec. 14, and Sun., Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; free. -- Rena Kosnett

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