Local News Matters Arts & Entertainment newsletter

End your week with a bit of culture to unwind and refresh. Sign up for our surprising and inspiring options in our weekly newsletter, delivered on Thursdays with news about Bay Area arts and entertainment.

The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.


Unique Derique, aka Lance McGee, puts on his “Fool La La: Holiday Tune Up” show Thursday and Friday, as well as Dec. 29, 30 and Jan. 2 at The Marsh in Berkeley. (Photo courtesy Eric Carmichael)

Some goofy goings-on: The merry Bay Area-based clown who goes by the moniker Unique Derique is opening a family-friendly run of his “Fool La La: Holiday Tune Up” show at Berkeley’s Marsh Theater at 1 p.m. Thursday. The one-hour program will repeat at the same time on Friday and also on Dec. 29, 30 and Jan. 2. Otherwise known as Lance McGee, the comedian, juggler and hambone artist (which means he deploys his body as a percussion instrument, to hilarious effect), will conclude each of his shows with a workshop demonstration of his juggling and hambone techniques. Tickets, $10-$100 on a sliding scale, can be had at themarsh.org or (415) 282-3055. For those reluctant to venture into the theater, even with safety protocols in place, the website also offers a link to stream the show from home for a mere $15.


San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performs its “Home for the Holidays” three times on Christmas Eve at the Castro Theatre. (Photo courtesy SFGMC.org)

Ho-ho-home for the holidays: The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, all suited up like a superabundance of Santas, returns to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco for three separate “Home for the Holidays” concerts on Friday. This year’s version will include special guests and numbers for all to enjoy, including “Festival Gloria,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Los Peces en el Rio” and “Over the River.” The wildly popular 70-minute show (performed here for more than three decades now) is sold out for the 5 p.m. performance, but seats remain available for the 7 and 9 p.m. repeats. Tickets are $35 general admission. Find more info at sfgmc.org or call (415) 392-4400 to order tickets.


The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir brings its annual Christmas Eve show to the Great American Music Hall this year. (Photo courtesy the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir)

A holiday tradition carries on: It’s been an only-in-the-Bay-Area kind of event for some three decades: the world-renowned Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir delivering a holiday version of its heavenly harmonies from inside a rock music joint every Christmas Eve. After skipping last year, the event is back but with a key change. The shows were held for years at Slim’s, the San Francisco venue founded and operated by singer-songwriter and guitarist Boz Scaggs, but the club closed down in 2020. So this year the event has moved to another iconic, historic San Francisco nightclub — the Great American Music Hall. The building, known for its ornate interior design, has housed a burlesque show and a jazz club, and served for a time as a lodge for the Loyal Order of Moose. It has operated as the Great American Music Hall since the 1970s. Of course, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir — founded in 1986 and still led by the irrepressible Terrance Kelly — could perform its rollicking, uplifting music pretty much anywhere, and it would be a memorable show. Over the years, the group has shared the stage with Joshua Nelson, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. It has also recorded tunes with MC Hammer and Linda Ronstadt, among others. The choir performs at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday; proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the theater. Tickets are $18; go to gamh.com.


Bay Area comedian Lisa Geduldig is bringing back “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” as a streaming show this year. (Photo courtesy Lisa Geduldig)

Kosher laughs: Speaking of revered Bay Area holiday traditions, “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” is back for its 29th year this weekend — though, unlike most years, it won’t be held in a Chinatown restaurant. The annual joke fest organized by Bay Area comedy impresario Lisa Geduldig will once again be offered as a streaming show, featuring performers Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s former comedy, game and trivia show “Ask Me Another”; Jessica Kirson, known for her crazy-character videos and the “Call Girls” album (consisting of prank phone calls); Gelduldig, and her 90-year-old mother, Arline Geduldig, who became a fan favorite during her daughter’s long-running series of pandemic-prompted online shows titled “Lockdown Comedy.” San Francisco viewers can even order takeout Chinese food from the Lazy Susan restaurant (details are on the show website). Some of the proceeds from “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” will benefit Shalom Bayit (a nonprofit fighting domestic violence in Jewish homes) and the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. Livestreams are available at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25-$50; go to koshercomedy.com.


Bay Area singer Clairdee is performing a concert titled “Soulful Sounds of the Season” on Thursday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. (Photo by Dimitry Loiseau/courtesy of Clairdee)

A Clairdee Christmas: The winter holidays have long been important to the talented and charismatic Bay Area singer Clairdee. Her second album in 2002 was a Christmas recording, and she has contributed to several holiday albums and collections. So you know she’ll be charged up to take the stage Thursday at the Freight & Salvage to perform a concert titled “Soulful Sounds of the Season.” Clairdee, who’s equally at home performing jazz, swing, soul, gospel and R&B, has reportedly prepared a brand new set for this gig, which also features the extremely talented singer Kenny Washington and singer/keyboardist Janice Maxie Reid. The trio will be accompanied by a band including pianist Ken French (Clairdee’s husband), bassist Ron Belcher and drummer Deszon Claiborne. Expect a wide-ranging collection of holiday songs and perhaps a cut or two from Clairdee’s 2020 album “A Love Letter to Lena,” inspired by one of the singer’s longtime heroes, the late entertainer and activist Lena Horne. Thursday’s show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22-$24 ($12 for attendees under 21). Proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the theater. Go to thefreight.org.

Subscribe to our weekly arts & culture email