Hello Kitty says "hi" at the Sanrio Store in Japanese Village this weekend.
Hello Kitty says "hi" at the Sanrio Store in Japanese Village this weekend.
Lina Lecaro

11 Cheap and Free Things to Do in L.A. This Week

The Sanrio store returns to Japanese Village, They Live screens at the New Bev, violinist Joshua Bell performs with the L.A. Phil, and more to do and see this week for $10 or less. 

iO, the famed improv institution that helped launch the careers of Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mike Myers and many others, hosts its inaugural Summer Competition Series. Each week through September, three teams of improvisers fight for comedic supremacy. Teams get 20 minutes apiece to perform according to various rules — suggestions from opposing teams, suggestions from audience members, suggestions based off someone's iPod playlist — for a chance to win valuable prizes including flowers, bath soap, name tags or just bragging rights. Tonight's lineup features Spice Goats, Boo Boo Bears and Absolutely Not. iO West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; free. (323) 962-7560, io-west.com. —Siran Babayan

Japan's most famous feline export (besides the cat that waves at you in convenience stores) returns to L.A. as Sanrio hosts the grand reopening of its Japanese Village outpost. The front of the store has remained the same — with all the fun Sanrio store stuff from pencil cases to plushes featuring characters like Little Twin Stars, Keroppi and, of course, Hello Kitty — but the back has been transformed into Sanrio Kawaii Mart, Sanrio's take on a convenience store inspired by the brand's pop-up grocery store in Hong Kong. This second weekend of festivities includes appearances by Hello Kitty herself on Friday and Saturday, and an appearance by disgruntled office-working metalhead Aggretsuko on Sunday. Sanrio Japanese Village, 115 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, downtown; Sat., Aug. 26, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. (also Fri. & Sun., Aug. 25 & 27); free, RSVP suggested. facebook.com/events/840973036065875. —Gwynedd Stuart

One of the most mindbogglingly enjoyable cult flicks of the 1980s, John Carpenter's They Live has only gained momentum since its original release, accruing a fan base that worships it variously for its bizarre premise, its Reagan-era capitalist critique and its muscular performance by former wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. The New Beverly Cinema will screen it at midnight to a sold-out house, but the rabidly curious might want to take their chances in the standby line. OBEY. New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax; Sat., Aug. 26, 11:59 p.m.; $8. (323) 938-4038, thenewbev.com. —Nathaniel Bell

If you enjoy watching aging men with stick-on sideburns swivel their pelvises, the Elvis Festival in Garden Grove is the place for you. The King of Rock & Roll died 40 years ago this month, and for 18 of those years, a dedicated group of fanatics has hosted this annual day of tribute bands, tribute art and tribute peanut butter–and-banana sandwiches. Besides the slate of professional impersonators, this year's fest features the Crème de la King Finals, a karaoke contest featuring the top 12 singers from previous semi-finals. There's also a gallery of Elvis tattoo art, Elvis collectibles, the King of Cadillacs car show and a performance by Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies, which may be the best band name ever. Elvis would approve. Main Street between Garden Grove Boulevard and Acacia Parkway, Garden Grove; Sun., Aug. 27, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; free. (714) 267-4657, facebook.com/elvisfestival. —Gwynedd Stuart

UCLA concludes its extensive John Huston retrospective with the director's last two films. Prizzi's Honor, an intricately plotted, pitch-dark comedy about two mob assassins (Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner) who fall in love and marry, features a showstopping role for Huston's daughter, Anjelica. The Dead, adapted from James Joyce's short story, was directed from a wheelchair as Huston was dying of cancer. It's a deeply moving swan song for one of the most successful careers ever forged in Hollywood. UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Sun., Aug. 27, 7 p.m.; $10. (310) 206-8013, cinema.ucla.edu. —Nathaniel Bell

In his new book Hollywood Obscura: Death, Murder and the Paranormal Aftermath, author Brian Clune digs into the dirty details of a dozen of L.A.'s most notorious deaths, from the murder of Biggie Smalls to the accidental death of Thelma Todd (or was it an accident?). As the book's subtitle indicates, Clune also details the ghost stories and spooky goings-on that have been reported in the wake of the deaths, for instance, the woman seen peeking out of the window of the Los Feliz mansion where a doctor killed his wife and then himself in 1959. Clune discusses his research at this free event — the squeamish need not apply. The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., downtown; Mon., Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; free, RSVP requested. (213) 488-0599, lastbookstorela.com. —Gwynedd Stuart

You might have seen the YouTube video in which renowned violinist Joshua Bell busks in a Washington, D.C., metro station for about 45 minutes, unrecognized by all but one of the 1,000-plus commuters who hurry past him. Unlike some classical musicians, the Indiana native and New York resident doesn't take himself too seriously; he has appeared as himself in several episodes of Mozart in the Jungle and even backed Scarlett Johansson on the austere pop ballad "Before My Time." This evening, Bell ignites Édouard Lalo's sunny Symphonie espagnole with the L.A. Phil, which redoubtable British conductor Bramwell Tovey bookends with Igor Stravinsky's short-but-startling augury Fireworks and the ever-ebullient ballet Petrushka. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood; Tue., Aug. 29, 8 p.m.; $1-$154. (323) 850-2000, hollywoodbowl.com. —Falling James

The Hammer Museum hosts a special screening of Dee Rees' Pariah, the 2011 Sundance winner about a Brooklyn teenager's painful journey for sexual fulfillment. Shot in bold, saturated colors, the film is an impressionistic, emotionally authentic depiction of growing up black, gay and female. The screening will be followed by a discussion with writers Tisa Bryant and Ernest Hardy (both teachers at CalArts). UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Tue., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (310) 206-8013, hammer.ucla.edu. —Nathaniel Bell

At McSweeney's 50th Issue Release Party, authors Brian Evenson, Carson Mell, Kevin Moffett, Corinna Vallianatos and Sarah Walker appear to read new work that commemorates and celebrates 20 years of some of the best contemporary writing from the McSweeney's house of publishing, founded by Dave Eggers. Expect another fine issue of stories, manifestos, comics and other shouts from the abattoir from 50 contributors — everyone from Jonathan Lethem to Sherman Alexie to Carrie Brownstein — gracing this epic monument to artistic creativity that makes the world somewhat bearable sometimes. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Tue., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; free, book is $30. (323) 660-1175, skylightbooks.com. —David Cotner

This week the popular dance film series Shake It Off spotlights a college-bound street dancer and a male stripper. The emerging hit Step has put stepping back in the spotlight, but while the current film focuses on young females striving for college, 2007 hit Stomp the Yard captured the world of stepping competitions in the story of a troubled male street dancer whose college fraternity is deeply involved in stepping competitions. The 2015 film Magic Mike XXL is a sequel to the original story of male strippers, this time blending dance with a buddy road film as the title character comes out of retirement and rounds up a crew for a final finale performance, targeted toward pleasing a primarily female audience. UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Stomp the Yard, Wed., Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Magic Mike XXL, Thu., Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu. —Ann Haskins

For every cute video of a cat playing a musical instrument on YouTube, there's a sad video of a cat battling osteoporosis. NerdMelt's new monthly show Follow That combines live comedy with screenings of all kinds of emotional clips from the Internet usually involving handicapped animals, servicemen reuniting with families or babies being able to hear for the first time, in addition to commercials or scenes from film and TV. Hosts Matt Lieb and Jason Webb will ask the audience to pick a video category. Then comedians Mike Lawrence, Sofiya Alexandra, Taylor Tomlinson, Matt Kirshen and Andre Hyland will watch the video and perform stand-up in eight minutes or less inspired by the video, which may or may not reduce them to tears. Bring tissues. Nerdist Showroom at Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Thu., Aug. 31, 9-10:30 p.m.; $8. (323) 851-7223, nerdmeltla.com. —Siran Babayan

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