Blue humor is the easy way out for comedians of dubious talent. On the flip side is Chris Rock. As much political animal as comic, he uses racy language and imagery to drive home points on race relations and politics in his sharply honed bits. The Saturday Night Live alum, comic actor, occasional political correspondent (for Politically Incorrect, of course), and host of his own HBO show sees what he calls "a civil war going on out there" between "civilized" black people and those who terrorize their communities with drug dealing and gang violence. He uses humor to point out the inanity of the situation, with mocking, stereotyped images of blacks meant to satirize blacks who take pride in being ignorant for the sake of "keeping it real." And Rock takes equal-opportunity jabs at whites, as a sample from his debut book, Rock This, illustrates: "White people don't know how to tell the difference between one black man and another," he wrote. "They see two black men together and it's a crowd. A dangerous mob. To white people, even Ed Bradley and Bryant Gumbel waiting to cross the street is potentially scary." In a rare set of club dates, Rock will perform new material tonight through February 9 at the Comedy Corner, 2000 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $25. Showtimes are 7 and 9 p.m. tonight; the complete schedule is in "Comedy" listings (page 32). Call 561-833-1812.
The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was one sick puppy. The French writer, whose full name was Comte Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, was preoccupied with sex. So were plenty of other famous artistic types, but from his name comes the term sadism. In Sade's case, we're talking about more than just a little bedroom spanking. And not only was he into the pain/pleasure thing, he also showed a predilection for bestiality. His writings were so nasty that he was jailed several times and spent his final years in a loony bin, where he coerced fellow inmates into performing his X-rated plays. Playwright Doug Wright has cleaned up some of Sade's perverse fantasies and combined them to create Quills, a humorous drama about Sade's days in the asylum. Florida Stage (Plaza Del Mar, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan) presents the play, which includes graphic language and partial nudity, through March 7. Tonight's curtain is at 8 p.m.; see "Stage" listings for complete showtimes. Ticket prices range from $28 to $34. Call 561-585-3404 or 800-514-3837.
Not long after Peter Himmelman left the popular Midwestern rock band Sussman Lawrence, his father died, prompting him to record the stark, compelling This Father's Day, his first solo effort, in 1986. He let his true emotions flow into his music just in time. "There were some psychics in Minnesota who told me that if I wasn't more true to my muse I would die... literally," recalls Himmelman, who now lives in California. He's since followed the psychics' advice, combining personal insights and elements of Jewish mysticism with folk-rock instrumentation. On his latest album, Love Thinketh No Evil, his muse evidently told him to branch out with trip-hop melodies and a T.Rex-ish rocker called "Eyeball," which features former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna. Himmelman plays in an intimate, coffeehouse setting at 8:30 p.m. at the Kaplan Jewish Community Center, 3151 N. Military Trl., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $15 or $18. Call 561-689-7700. Love Thinketh No Evil is reviewed in "Short Cuts" in this issue.
Can't get to Paris for your fresh vegetables, poultry, and baked goods? Don't worry about it. Beginning this weekend, the French Green Market will be open every Wednesday and Sunday in downtown Hollywood and every Saturday in Miami. The red, green, yellow, and white canopies set up in the parking lot of Young Circle Park (Hollywood Boulevard and Young Circle, downtown Hollywood) were made in Paris by the Bensidoun family, operator of dozens of farmers' markets in France, including one at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where 600 vendors serve 35,000 shoppers every morning. In founding Bensidoun Group U.S.A., the family has begun to cash in on the popularity of French-style markets in the United States. "People are really tired of the mall and the supermarket," Sebastien Bensidoun, a third-generation green marketer, claims in a thick French accent. "[Supermarkets] are so impersonal. They want the ambiance of the French market." That ambiance includes fresh chickens and vegetables roasting on rotisseries, specialty retailers from France selling pate de foie gras, the folks from Miami's Epicure vending caviar and French cheese, and retailers offering sunglasses, designer clothing, and crafts. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. Call 954-921-3016.
The members of the Kalichstein/Laredo/ Robinson Trio were already established players when they hooked up as a trio, and their debut performance was a doozy. Pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo, and cellist Sharon Robinson played their first gig together in 1977, performing at Pres. Jimmy Carter's inauguration. They've now been together for more than 20 years, but critics still hail their partnership for keeping the music fresh. Classical music pundits say the same about the Emerson String Quartet, which has also been at it for more than two decades. Members of both prestigious chamber groups will get a break from routine when the two groups perform together for the first time tonight at 8 p.m. at the Kravis Center For the Performing Arts (701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach). The players will mix in various combinations to play selections by Haydn, Schubert, Dvourak, and Brahms. Ticket prices range from $15 to $25. Call 561-833-8300.
You'll see Michael Ray Charles' works as powerful, controversial, or downright offensive, depending on your point of view. The black artist creates paintings using stereotypical images of African-Americans derived from popular culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In one set of works, for example, he portrayed Aunt Jemima as the Statue of Liberty, Rosie the Riveter, and Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. He's attempted to educate viewers about the ridiculous nature of racism with irony, but Charles' work is often criticized as inappropriate by those who feel that recycling negative images of blacks serves no purpose. Others, however, get the point, among them Charles collector Spike Lee, known for his own controversial statements on race. Lee has commented that Charles' work "is cinematic. His works are one-sheet posters for movies that the Hollywood studio system would not have the nerve to make, exploring class, race, and sex in this country." Charles' images are on view at the Schmidt Center Gallery in Stereo Typocal Errors: Michael Ray Charles and Joyce J. Scott, which runs through March 21. The gallery is located at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Admission is free. Call 561-297-2966.
Before it went to press, John Berendt's novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story was criticized by one of his agents as being "too regional." Needless to say, the guy is no longer Berendt's agent. Not only did the book kick ass, saleswise, in the United States, the story about a writer who moves from New York to Savannah and stumbles onto the murder of a wealthy socialite has been published in more than a dozen foreign languages and continues to sell in hardcover after almost five years. Berendt will appear at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Plantation (591 S. University Dr.), where he'll read from and sign copies of his book. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. event is free. Call 954-723-0489.