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Jeff Dunham

Laughing matters

One way to beat the winter cold is to laugh yourself silly. To that end, this mid-January weekend offers two opportunities, on either side of B-N's borders. To the east, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Paula Poundstone takes to the stage of downtown Champaign's Virginia Theater with her distinctly wry brand of self-deprecating humor. Tickets are $49.50-$58.50. Then, to the west, at 5 p.m. (yes, 5 p.m.) Saturday, comedian-ventriloquist Jeff Dunham headlines in the Peoria Civic Center Arena in Peoria, via his current "Passively Aggressive Tour," with tickets priced from $46-$59. Joining him will be his usual band of dummies, including Jose Jalapeno, Peanut and JD’s own mini-me, Little Jeff.

Top brass

Direct from New Orleans to the Twin Cities for the first time comes the Rebirth Brass Band, bringing their horns of plenty to the stage of Bloomington's Castle Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Founded 35 years ago, the eight-man ensemble — a longtime Tuesday night fixture at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street — is renowned for fusing traditional Big Easy brass band music with funk, jazz, soul and hip-hop. In 2012, they won the first Grammy Award given in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category. The RBB has also been a key component of HBO's "Treme" series, both musically and as on-camera performers.

Singing praises

Among the Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday observances going on Monday is the 28th edition of Illinois Wesleyan University’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday Gospel Festival, featuring area choirs and singers from 5 to 8:30 p.m. in Westbrook Auditorium on campus. Among the more than dozen choirs on the bill are the United Community Gospel Singers of Bloomington-Normal Mass Choir. Admission is free; for more information call 309-556-3429.

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