The Laugh Tract: Rants aplenty, plus free shows

Lewis Black and Joel McHale are here to rescue us from politics as usual.

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It's April, and the election season is already being defined by bizarre anger and destructive chaos. Strange debates, heated rallies and harsh accusations have become the standard fare on cable news channels.

Clearly, we need Joel McHale and Lewis Black.

McHale, the former host of Talk Soup, brings a snarky cynicism and a pop culture sensibility to his comedy. Black is known for his apoplectic rants, even when things are pretty calm. If anyone can make sense of the nonsense that will be playing out until November, it's these guys. And both are in town this weekend, holding court on separate stages on Saturday night.

They're not alone, of course. There's a full slate of comedy shows at clubs, bars and other venues. And some of them are absolutely free. So check your schedule and have a laugh, even as our Forefathers weep.

Here's this week's lineup:

Theaters and Special Events

Lewis Black. Black's epic rants seem tailor-made for an election season as crazy as this one. You can expect an evening full of opinions on the current chaos, delivered with his trademark finger pointing, hilarious anger and layered critiques that are both comedic and thought-provoking.
$59.50-$79.50. Sat., 8 p.m. The Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. 727-791-7400. atthecap.com.

Joel McHale. McHale's something of a pop culture expert following his long-time gig hosting The Soup. But the Community star is also a longtime improvisational artist and stand-up comedian, and his quick-witted talents will be on display Saturday night before plenty of fans.
$46.50. Sat., 8 pm. The Straz Center, Ferguson Hall, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. 813-229-7827. strazcenter.org.


Comedy Clubs

Lewd, Crude and Tattooed. This showcase of inked comedians (a couple of them are professional tattooists) promises plenty of adult laughs. Kyle Ruse, Matt Fernandez, Brian Barganier and Jesse Rae Robinette will each share their unique outlooks, and maybe even some of their tattoos as well.
$5. Wed., 8 p.m. Tampa Improv, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa. 813-864-4000. improvtampa.com.

Ian Bagg. Thoughtful and sometimes controversial, the recent Last Comic Standing finalist is somehow both easy-going and deliberate on stage. But his material suits both styles, going from logical to absurd in seconds and built on a foundation of fast-paced wit.
$17-$20. Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; Sat., 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and Sun., 7 p.m. Tampa Improv, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa. 813-864-4000. improvtampa.com.

Swannee. Swannee is more than just a comedian: He's a comedy producer. He regularly schedules shows at The Improv. Expect a full slate of comedians (you might see a half-dozen or more), as well as a set from the man himself.
$20. Sun., 9:30 p.m. Tampa Improv, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa. 813-864-4000. improvtampa.com

Josh Blue. Yes, Blue has cerebral palsy. If you didn't know that, you would have found out just by listening to his material. But while the accomplished comedian (he's a previous winner of Last Comic Standing) makes it a part of his act, he has plenty of other premises which have evolved over the years. He serves them all up with a likeable, casual presentation during these special event shows.
$18-$20. Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m; and Sat., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Side Splitters, 12938 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. 813-960-1197. sidesplitterscomedy.com.

Rahn Hortman. Hortman's a local talent, but doesn't spend too much time in the area. His mostly-clean, family-oriented observations are in high demand across the country, but the comedian and author will headline his home club Sunday night.
$10-$12. Sun., 7 p.m. Side Splitters, 12938 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. 813-960-1197  sidesplitterscomedy.com.

Darryl Rhoades. Musical comedy always offers something different, and Rhoades is both an accomplished comedian and musician. He can make you laugh with jokes or songs, and you might just get a bit of both this weekend.
$12. Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Snappers Grill & Comedy Club, 36657 U.S. Highway 19 N., Palm Harbor. 727-938-2027. snappersgrill.com

Tim Moffett. "The Dairy Farmer" is away from the farm and on St. Pete Beach all this week. He serves up down-home comedy with folksy charm.
$18-$25. Wed. and Thurs., 9:30 p.m. Coconuts, 5501 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-360-5653. coconutscomedyclubs.com.

Sonya White. White's Southern, down-home style is comfort food for your funny bone. It also allows her to get away with saying some outrageous things (in a friendly way) while keeping the audience smiling. 
$18-25. Fri. and Sat., 9:30 p.m. Coconuts, 5501 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-360-5653. coconutscomedyclubs.com

Tony Gaud. Gaud's sarcastic outlook touches on everything from his own history, to politics and religion (his last name is Gaud, after all). he presents all of it with a cal, casual demeanor that carries a lot of thought and wit behind it.
$10. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Palms, 2950 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater. 727-400-6920. 2palmstampabay.com.

One-nighters and Independent Shows

Traci Kanaan. The "Princess of Parodies" brings her trusty keyboard and adult ditties to this monthly free show. Expect plenty of familiar tunes, except with unfamiliar (but funny) adult-oriented lyrics. And some stand-up thrown in for good measure, of course.
Free. Fri., 7 p.m. Niagara Tap, 11950 Seminole Blvd., Largo. 727-581-5331. theniagaratap.com.

Fox and Hounds Comedy Showcase. This bi-weekly event includes sets from locals, capped off by a more-established, working comedian. This week, Tony Gaud (see above) closes things out. You'll get a variety of performers each time out, and the whole thing is free.
Free. Thurs., 9 p.m. Fox and Hounds, 229 E. Brandon Blvd., Brandon. 813-438-8913. foxandhoundsbritishpub.com

Gutterballs Comedy Cabaret. This bi-weekly event follows a showcase format with a more-established anchor in the middle of the show and closer to finish things on a high note. This time around, Drew Schlatter and Rio Paris take on those roles.
$7. Fri., 8 p.m. Gutterballs (inside The Alley at Southshore), 10221 Big Bend Rd., Riverview. 813-672-8353. thealleyatsouthshore.com.

Steve Netta. Netta's Italian background is a springboard for his fast-paced, no-nonsense style. His family stories and pop culture references might change over time, but the comedian has kept audiences laughing for 25 years.
Free. Sat., 9 p.m. Peggy O'Neill's, 13910 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. 813-749-7192. peggyoneillsoldsmar.com

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