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Photo courtesy of Neal Brennan

Three-time Emmy nominated writer, director, producer, and standup comedian Neal Brennan (The Daily Show, co-creator of Chapelle’s Show) has become a force in the comedy world. He recently released his latest Netflix comedy special, Neal Brennan: Blocks.

Photo courtesy of Fortune Feimster

Fortune Feimster: Live Laugh Love!

A stand-up comedian, writer, and actor, Fortune Feimster first made a name for herself on Chelsea Lately. Her one-hour special, Sweet and Salty, is now streaming on Netflix. She is also well known for her role of Nurse Collett on The Mindy Project, frequent appearances on Lights Out with David Spade, and her half-hour special released as part of Netflix’ The Standups.

Photo courtesy of Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry Live: The One About TV/Film

Monét X Change, Miss Congeniality of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10, and Bob The Drag Queen, winner of Season 8, are not actually siblings, but they are the comedy duo with chemistry behind the hit podcast Sibling Rivalry. This show will feature a battle royale of lip-syncs, costume changes, and low blows.

Photo courtesy of Sam Morril

Sam Morril: The Class Act Tour

Sam Morril is one of today’s fastest rising stand-up comics. Throughout his career, he has performed multiple sets on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Late, Late Show with James Corden, and Conan. He’s also had stints on Last Comic Standing, America’s Got Talent, @midnight with Chris Hardwick, and Inside Amy Schumer.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Bernhard

Sandra Bernhard: Bern it Down

Sandra Bernhard: Bern it Down

Actress/performer/comedienne Sandra Bernhard will present a night of comedy and music as part of her Bern It Down tour.

Photo by Greg Gorman

Groundbreaking, gay-canonized filmmaker John Waters knocks over the Christmas tree on Austin tour stop

Please, John, not on Christmas!

Another year has gone by under the shrewd gaze of Gay Father Christmas Meltdown, legendary filmmaker John Waters. The iconoclastic, charismatic fast talker made a career out of celebrating extremes (in movies like the shocking Pink Flamingos, and the mostly mainstream Hairspray), ultimately developing the cinematic benchmarks of camp for many admirers, whether they realize it or not. Not for the first time by any stretch, Christmas is Waters’ muse in his annual standup performance, “A John Waters Christmas,” which he's bringing to Austin's Paramount Theatre on December 5.

In the same way straight viewers love claiming Die Hard as a Christmas movie, gay viewers have John Waters to thank for images of a Christmas tree toppling onto a shrieking mother in Female Trouble. They may be surprised to learn this episode sprung from Waters’ actual early Christmas memories, which include the year the tree fell on his grandmother. Since fame shifted the way the world interacts with the filmmaker, he has garnered plenty of festive new stories to tell, from nieces and nephews accidentally picking lewd shirts from his collection of uncensored press mailers to details on the blacklisted dangerous toys he buys himself.

Every year, Waters rewrites his standup Christmas show to make sure the content stays fresh, and while the holiday season is propped up against 70 minutes of rude jokes, the writer makes it clear it’s all out of love. CultureMap chatted with Waters ahead of his upcoming tour, discussing what’s too vulgar — even for him — on Thanksgiving; where to steal Christmas presents; and the genre-defining nerve of individuals with a vision. (Editor's note: This conversation contains sexual language, and has been edited for length and readability.)

CultureMap: Do you think it's important or just fun to have an alternative Christmas canon?
John Waters: Well, I think it's important to have a plan for Christmas, no matter what it is, because even if you hate it or love it or whatever, you can't avoid it — it's coming at you. This year nothing works anymore … and I think Christmas is the same. So rather than despair, I'm going to tell you how to fix it in a more ludicrous way … even though most people might not follow my advice.

CM: I think Austin will listen to you, because Austin loves being weird.
JW: Austin’s always been a great audience for me, so I’m happy to be coming there again. … I’ll always be the Chainsaw Massacre fan while I’m there. When I first was there, I met [Tobe Hooper], and he gave me a skull from the movie that I still have sitting right here on my desk.

CM: What’s one of the weirder holiday traditions you’ve seen that’s not yours?
JW: In Maryland, they always have sauerkraut for some reason. When I grew up and had Thanksgiving somewhere else, I was [wondering] where’s the sauerkraut? I don't know why, I guess maybe there's German people? I find it a little creepy to see mothers fist-f*cking turkeys with stuffing ... I always look away from that. It's too much for me.

CM: Do you remember a really wonderful gift, or a terrible gift — or both — that you've received?
JW: I can remember both, because Divine once gave me a beautiful cashmere throw blanket that he might have stolen, that I still have. And I used to say, ‘Are stolen presents better?’ But it depends where you stole it from. If you stole it from a large chain store that has [homophobic] politics, then yes; if you didn't, and stole it from a little shop, it's wrong. The worst present sometimes can be fun. We used to do a sort of thing where you drew a name and then … you pick the present they would hate the worst, and it's a really fun way to have a Christmas.

CM: Do you remember what that was, for you?
JW: Yes, I got two soundtracks to both Rocky movies. And I did throw them out the window, which was a mistake because I lived on the seventh floor of a high rise at the time. I don't think it hit anybody, but it wasn't very responsible. Suppose on Christmas Eve you had been murdered by a flying Rocky soundtrack.

CM: You said that the Christmas season doesn’t change, and you can’t change that it’s coming. How has the Christmas show changed over the years?
JW: I completely rewrite it. I just finished it yesterday. It always has to be up to date, because things change so much. The last show had COVID in it, but people are sick of talking about COVID. There can be a [current events] joke in there that happened that morning on the plane. I try to keep it very up to date, because a lot of people come every year. I want to give them a new show every year.

CM: How many newcomers do you think come each year?
JW: I think they get younger and younger. My audience gets younger and younger, which is the ultimate flattery.

CM: I heard that sometimes you said parents will bring their kids.
JW: Well, that's what’s really weird. When I was younger, parents called the police … and now they bring their children. My sisters used to say to me, ‘I’m not sitting next to Mom when you say that shit.’ I always warn people when they bring in their kids, you might not want to. Because, do you talk about rimming with your children? I work blue. That’s what they used to call it. People always say, "My parents gave me Pink Flamingos." I say, "They did?!" My parents never even saw Pink Flamingos, and they paid for it, and I paid them back.

CM: What do you do when you’re not in the mood to write? How do you get into the Christmas spirit?
JW: The Christmas spirit and writing are very different. I write Monday to Friday because that’s my job, and if I don’t, I’d have to go get a real job and work for somebody else. I’m like a drag queen on Halloween. I’m working if it’s Christmas. But then right when the tour is over I go with my family … so I do have a private-life Christmas that’s fairly functional. But it’s weird when I’m on the tour and I look out and see and think "God, it’s Christmas for real. It seems like this play I’m in, or something."

CM: Which part of it feels surreal to you?
JW: Well, that’s a word that’s so overused these days, and I know what you mean, but it’s just — I’ll be in an airport and I’ll see people rushing and I think, where would I go Christmas shopping. In an airport? … There is no time off. I don’t live in the real world. And people say, ‘How is it?” I don’t know what it’s like; I’m never in it.

CM: This is a one-man show, and you’re known for having a muse, but you’re writing about a huge tradition. What inspires you about individuals?
JW: Individuals: that they have the nerve to do something, that even though most everything that changes in the arts is originally hated, and got bad reviews, and it outrages the public. And I don’t mean we’re shock value, it’s just — I mean, minimalism, think about that, just really infuriated people when they first saw it. Andy Warhol with the soup cans. He put abstract expressionists out of business in one night! Just like the Beatles did to Motown. So I’m always amazed at people that have the nerve, like Cy Twombly, that just gave people those scribble drawings when he was young…. Little did they know they’d be worth millions of dollars, and be so beautiful later.

CM: Do you ever feel burdened by having to carry the weirdness for other people?
JW: No, because I don’t concentrate on that all the time. Ever since Pink Flamingos came out, I never tried to top that ending. I never did. That was it. Then, you’re trying too hard, and that’s the ultimate sin.

CM: I read that you have a lot of books in your house. Do you have any favorite Christmas books and movies?
JW: I have one called How to Eat Your Christmas Tree, and it’s for real. It’s brand new. But my all-time favorite book ever is called Extreme Ironing, and it’s pictures of people, like, ironing on speed boats or on mountain tops. I’m still completely perplexed by it. I have it down where my housekeeper is. She sees it and laughs. And every time I see her ironing I say, "Are you sure you don’t want to go out and do that on the top of the car while I’m driving?"

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John Waters is visiting Austin for “A John Waters Christmas” on December 5 at 8 pm, at the Paramount Theater. Tickets (starting at $25) are available at austintheatre.org.

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H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.