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What better way to kick off the first week of the new calendar year than by laughing it up? The city's weekly comedy rooms regularly serve up yuks, whatever the season, usually for the price of a drink -- or less. Jo-Anna Downey's Wednesday open-mike night at Spirits Bar and Grill (642 Church, 416-967-0001) has been the birthplace of many a classic bit. With free admission, a cozy atmosphere where pros rub shoulders with newbies and the gritty-voiced Downey -- "Just call me Mama" -- introducing each act, it's a great midweek treat. This week's (January 9) lineup is especially hot, with Jessica Holmes, Pete Zedlacher, Debra DiGiovanni, Carolyn Meehan, Tara Smith and others sharing the mike.
Over at the Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way, 416-343-0011), meanwhile, the weekly Tuesday-night ongoing improv show, Pop. 282, enters a new year with its zany cast of A-list improvisors (Albert Howell, Melody Johnson, Lisa Merchant, Doug Morency and Janet Van De Graaff) riffing on small-town clichés.
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Talk about losing your head. John the Baptist does it for real in Richard Strauss's opera Salome when the title character demands his head on a silver platter because he rejected her advances. It's usually a stretch for the star soprano to dance the part believably, but for this January 18 production the Canadian Opera Company has cast Helen Field, a former Royal Ballet dancer.
The company revives Atom Egoyan's 1996 production, with plenty of film segments interspersed with the live action. Dancemakers' Serge Bennathan choreographs the slinky dance of the seven veils.
You can explore that unusual mix of song and dance at Opera 101, an informal talk and Q-and-A session featuring Field and Bennathan.
Since it's in the NOW Lounge, you'll have the chance to drink and discuss duets at the same time. There are also ticket and merchandise giveaways. Free. Wednesday (January 9). 189 Church. 416-363-6671.