This weekend is jam-packed with wonderfully wacky events: catch old-time comedy duo Laurel and Hardy on the big screen tonight, then check out the second annual #UGLYCON on Saturday, which celebrates “ugly” as unique and special (read: awesome), before hopping on your bike for a pedal-powered, L.A.-geared rendition of The Odyssey. On Sunday, a preview show brings some of New York's famous comedy-improv memorial extravaganza, the Del Close Marathon, to jealous Angelenos. Mellow out during the work week with a Tuesday night chat on the history of that most beloved of all quick breakfasts, the cream cheese bagel.
5. Step Back in Time
There's been a serious revival lately in restoring and appreciating the films of comedians Laurel & Hardy – chiefly at the Laurel & Hardy Preservation Fund at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. But that effort wouldn't have been nearly as strong without the staunch enthusiasm L.A. revival houses have shown for the pair in the past 70 years. Hence the weekend's Laurel & Hardy Festival of shorts at the Old Town Music Hall, one of the last theaters devoted to regularly screening the duo's films. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the innocent/blowhard dyad of comedy, transitioned from silents into talkies and from shorts to features, and have become an integral part of the city's DNA. Many of those self-same shorts preserve a vision of Los Angeles as it existed almost a century ago, and the stairs at 925 Vendome in Silver Lake are now known as the Laurel & Hardy stairs, so rock-solid is their legacy. With accompaniment on the Mighty Wurlitzer, one of the distinct delights of moviegoing in L.A. Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond St., El Segundo; Fri., June 20, 8:15 p.m.; Sat., June 21, 2:30 & 8:15 p.m.; Sun., June 22, 2:30 p.m.; $10, $8 seniors 62 and older. (310) 322-2592, oldtownmusic?hall.org. – David Cotner
4. Get Ugly
The good people of Giant Robot Magazine's GR2 Gallery fondly remember the day in 2002 when Uglydoll creator David Horvath showed up with a handmade prototype of what soon would become a plushy global phenomenon of weird toys for weird kids and even weirder adults. There is something sweetly compelling about these adorably creeptastic misfits, who have captured the hearts and imaginations of current and future artists the world over. For the second year in a row, #UGLYCON kicks off a multimedia art show tribute with an all-day fan appreciation party, 10th birthday celebration for the one and only Ice Bat, and custom plush carnival of merch at Uglydoll's hometown launchpad, GR2. Besides the eclectic exhibition, lovers of everything Ugly can expect games, toys, prizes and surprises, and take advantage of neighborhood food and drink specials all afternoon – in both kid and adult varieties. Giant Robot, 2062 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; Sat., June 21, noon to 8 p.m.; free. Exhibition continues through July 9. (310) 445-9276, giantrobot.com/events. – Shana Nys Dambrot
3. Ride Your Bike
L.A. demographics can be divided roughly into those who gravitate toward sports, entertainment or the arts. Angelenos who defy easy categorization now have a chance to experience all three with an ingenious new approach to mass bike-riding that is part theater, part workout and completely unforgettable. Sponsored by Metro and a collaboration between bicycle-theater group Bike Odyssey L.A. and nonprofit organization C.I.C.L.E., or Cyclists Inciting Change thru LIVE Exchange, the Pedal Powered Street Theater Ride is a mobile event that has cyclists riding along to a performance of The Odyssey, reinterpreted and relocated in 21st-century Los Angeles. Even if you've never read Homer's epic poem, you can still enjoy it in a new and unexpected way. The story's themes of alienation, integration, friendship and solidarity reflect L.A.'s cultural heritage, but instead of ancient Greece, the journey takes place along the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area. As cyclists reimagine Odysseus' journey, the car takes the place of a Cyclops, and instead of sirens, there's a Coke commercial. Riders are invited to wear togas, laurel wreaths and any other examples of classical finery while becoming immersed in the famous piece of literature that follows the voyages of Odysseus back to Ithaca after the fall of Troy. Meet at Metro Orange Line Sepulveda Station, 15430-15432 W. Erwin St., Van Nuys; Sat., June 21, 6 p.m.; free. (323) 509-4905, cicle.org. – Tanja M. Laden
Turn the page for two more great events, featuring improv comedy and bagels.
2. Remember to Laugh
For more than 30 years, improv master Del Close was a mentor to some of the biggest names in comedy, including John Belushi, Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. After Close's death in 1999, Upright Citizens Brigade in New York began the Del Close Marathon, an annual two-day, multivenue improv-a-thon, which features more than 600 shows, international performers from as far as Finland and celebs (this year, they include Poehler, Nick Kroll, Aubrey Plaza, Ellie Kemper and Saturday Night Live's Bobby Moynihan). For Angelenos too broke and too precious about sleep to experience this endurance test, our very own UCB will stage the Del Close Marathon Preview Show as a sort of second-hand thrill. So before they kick East Coast ass next week, come and help send off local improv teams Best Man Speeches, Cat Ladies, Clothing Swap-Prov, The Koch Brothers Anti-Obamacare Improvtacular and White Women, which consists entirely of African-American men. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd.; Sun., June 22, 9:30 p.m.; $5. (323) 908-8702, losangeles.ucbtheatre.com. – Siran Babayan
1. Get Some Cream Cheese with That
Rabbi Jeffrey Marx of the Santa Monica Synagogue is an author, historian and, yes, cream-cheese expert, who loves to talk about the soft, full-bodied cheese that we all know so well. For a presentation called The Whole Schmear: How America Brought Cream Cheese to the Jews, he visits the Skirball to discuss how cream cheese traveled from Tudor England to the United States and why Philadelphia cream cheese wasn't actually made in Philadelphia. He also explores how late – 19th/early – 20th century advances in mass production, packaging, advertising and transportation contributed to the “spread” of this tasty cheese. Along the way, he examines when and why bagels, lox and cream cheese came together to form a staple of Jewish cuisine in America, especially since, he reports, bagels and cream cheese were never meant to be together. Finally, Rabbi Marx illustrates how Jewish immigrants took an American ingredient, made it Jewish and gave it back to America in the form of cheesecake and of course, as a must-eat topping on dense, delicious, ring-shaped bread. Yum. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Tue., June 24, 8 p.m.; $8, free for members. Reservations recommended. (310) 440-4500, skirball.org/programs/readings-talks. – T.M.L.