Jeff Dunham: Being the most sought-after ventriloquist in the country sounds a little like being the world's champion hula-hooper--nice work, if you can get it. But 32-year-old Dallas native Jeff Dunham has managed quite a comfortable life for himself, touring all over the country for most weeks of the year and taking advantage of the near-dead stand-up industry, which is surviving only on one-person shows and people with talents or gimmicks other than just standing up there and chatting. Although Dunham, inevitably, names the late great Edgar Bergen as an influence, he really fell in love with ventriloquism watching Jay Johnstone make the wooden guy squawk on Soap. The guy is fun to watch, mostly because he isn't above using his characters (especially the crab-faced Walter, who Dunham created himself using his own face as a model) to be as rude as hell. Jeff Dunham performs with co-stars at 8 pm in the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm. For ticket information call 373-8000.
Mary Matalin and James Carville: With 1995 just around the corner, it's safe to cite Mary Matalin and James Carville's presidential election-saga All's Fair: Love, War, and Running For the President as one of the most annoying, self-serving nonfiction titles of 1994. The 1992 presidential campaign was certainly one of the most bizarre and watchable in recent memory, with some new unsavory character (the two Jennifers, Ross Perot, etc.) popping up almost every day. The Republican incumbent's top presidential advisor falling in love with and and marrying the Democratic challenger's top advisor sounds like a Hollywood movie (and, in fact, soon reaches theaters as Speechless, with Michael Keaton and Geena Davis, although in this case she's the liberal and he's the conservative), and Matalin and Carville launched a self-publicity campaign to rival their top-dollar efforts for the politicians. While struggling to maintain that strange bedfellows mystique, they obscured the most fundamental fact about their professions--both are hired guns, free-lance mercenaries for whom ideology takes a back seat to issues of career and personal direction. Indeed, you could make a strong case that political media strategists are contributing mightily to the public's cynicism by peddling every dirty ad hominem attack in the book. Matalin is deeply distrusted by many in the Republican Party for her criticisms of the Religious Right, and Carville is just plain shifty, as anyone who's seen D.A. Pennebaker's unrevealing documentary The War Room can attest. When Carville refused to take an on-camera swig of some very expensive Southern bourbon he'd just been handed, that summed up both the film and the man's biggest quality--never let 'em see your humanity. Think of them as the Regis and Kathy Lee of partisan politics. Matalin and Carville speak at 7:30 pm at Casa Manana, 110 E Third in Fort Worth. Tickets are $20 and can be obtained by calling 373-8000.
The Light Crust Doughboys: Garrison Keillor loves The Light Crust Doughboys, but that's not their fault. Since 1931 this musical outfit has been gracing movies, TV, and performance halls all across the country with its staunchly traditional brand of Western swing. Not to be missed is The Doughboys Brass and Reed Ensemble, who'll be tooting out some "Cool Yule" selections for your consumption. The Light Crust Doughboys perform at 7:30 pm at Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E Mockingbird near Central Expressway. Tickets are $9. Call 821-1860.
Joy to the World: The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is calling its 1994 Holiday season "Joy to the World." Although all the usual amenities are here to be enjoyed--66 acres of holiday-colored pansies, hollies, and evergreen, a gift shop, Victorian Christmas music, and various events including a Children's Tea Party on December 4--the real reason to go every year is to check out the DeGolyer Estate, where the Women's Council of the Dallas Arboretum has assigned a different Dallas designer to redo each room in the holiday spirit. Some of the rooms are gorgeous, others look like an M.J. Designs supply plane crashed inside them. "Joy to the World" is open daily through December 31 at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, 8617 Garland Rd. Call 327-8263 for complete information on event dates and times.
Voices of Change: Dallas' nationally lauded 20th century chamber ensemble Voices of Change offers the city a southwest premiere by a major national composer as a highlight of its second concert for the '94-95 season. The title of the Benjamin Lees piece, Contours For Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello, and Piano, which debuted in New York City three weeks ago, is self-explanatory as far as the instruments goes, but starts off a bit vague with the word "contours." In this case, they are three distinct musical themes which develop throughout the piece, stretching and flowing like lines on a Richter scale. Gregory Hustis, the principal hornist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, sits in as a special guest. Composer Lees addresses the audience shortly before the performance. Voices of Change performs at 8 pm in Caruth Auditorium on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $12-$18. Call 520-ARTS.
Lines & Wonders: Pay too much attention to the arcane lingo of the art criticism world and you'll soon be driven crazy by all the loop-de-loops. When thinking about the kind of work showcased at Webb Folk Art Gallery in Waxahachie, just remember the distinction between two very general words. "Folk art" is a wastebasket phrase in which everyone who's received no formal training and exists outside the urban-centered art markets of the world is tossed. A sub-category of "folk art" is "outsider" art, which is really a red alert among collectors and critics to indicate this stuff is edgy, obsessive, deeply personal, distinguishing itself from traditional, celebratory pieces. Lines & Wonders is a show featuring the work of five "outsiders"--three illustrators and two sculptors hailing from Texas, Wisconsin, and Virginia. The opening reception for Lines & Wonders is December 3, 5-9 pm. The show runs through January 8 at the Webb Gallery, 107 N Rogers in Waxahachie. It's free. For information call 938-8085.