Phoenix has its very own live version of The Gong Show: Beat the Buzzer at the Paper Heart Gallery on Thursday, August 28, and the last Thursday of every month. Much like that late, great '70s game show, there's a lineup of performers trying to outdo each other with their talents. But instead of Chuck Barris, we get hosts Mr. Jimn and JRC, who've each paid their dues onstage (Mr. Jimn as a slam poet and JRC as a performance artist). Anything is fair game -- telling jokes, singing, dancing or even playing air guitar -- and 10 performers each get five fleeting minutes to impress a panel of judges or risk getting buzzed. Five folks are picked to go on to a second round to compete for the top prize, cash. There's a mystery prize for second place, and the third-place winner gets to be one of next month's judges. Admission is $2 (whether you want to be in the audience or on stage), and showtime is 8 p.m. at the Paper Heart, 222 North Fifth Avenue. To find out more, visit www.thepaperheart.com or call 602-262-2020.
Firday, August 29
What 21-year-old director and ASU student Zachary Yoshioka lacked in funds he made up in ambition to create Synthetic Truth, Ballistic Entertainment's first feature-length film. Working with an extremely low budget and a volunteer cast and crew (including star Dirk Been, who was in the original cast of Survivor), the guerrilla filmmaker pushed his creativity to the max to come up with a dark coming-of-age story. See the result of Yoshioka's hard work on Friday, August 29, at the movie's première. Screenings are at 8 and 10 p.m. and admission is $5 at Tempe Cinemas, located at the southeast corner of McClintock and Elliot in Tempe. For details call 602-953-2728.
Saturday, August 30
In a sense, comedian Gary Valentine's dramatic career change took him from one family business to another. After college, he spent a few years working for his family's insurance sales team. But Valentine's mom recognized her son's true calling and signed him up for an open-mike night at a local comedy club. Now, after a successful 13-year career doing standup, Valentine's involved in the other family enterprise -- show biz. He's currently a series regular on the popular CBS show The King of Queens, along with star Kevin James, who's Valentine's real-life brother. Valentine appears at the Tempe Improv Thursday, August 28, through Sunday, August 31. Showtime is 8 nightly, with additional 10 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $14 to $17 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 480-921-9877. The Improv is located at 930 East University in Tempe.
Sunday, August 31
Although it's a holiday, Labor Day still reminds us of labor: back to school, back to work and the end of vacation season. Wrap up summer the right way with loud dance music, a few cocktails and a wild night out at the Labor Day Bash at Axis/Radius on Sunday, August 31. Besides, you're sleeping in tomorrow, right? As incentive to start the party early, drinks are only a buck until 10:30 p.m. DJ Swerve spins the vinyl all night, and the evening's highlight is a special hip-hop dance performance by the fabulous b-boys and b-girls of the Furious Styles Crew. The action happens from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Axis/Radius, 7340 East Indian Plaza in Scottsdale. There's no dress code or cover charge. For table reservations, call 480-970-1112.
Monday, September 1
'Tis the season for public pools to close up shop, so get wet and wild one last time on Monday, September 1, at Chaparral Pool's Labor Day Luau. Take time off from your Labor Day picnic to swim for free from 2 to 4 p.m., and enjoy a variety of games and giveaways. The pool is located at 5401 North Hayden in Scottsdale. To find out more, call 480-312-2361.
Tuesday, September 2
Writer Wendy Dale's youth has been filled with the weirdest kind of wanderlust, and she wittily describes it in her memoir, Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals: Adventures in Love and Danger. Forget about the stereotypical "Grand Tour" of Europe -- Dale has ventured fearlessly into much riskier territory, from Beirut to Cuba to Costa Rica. And along the way, she's fallen in and out of love with some charismatic but unlikely characters, including a charming Colombian who's in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Full of humorous recollections of downright difficult situations, Dale's book captivated the editors at USA Today, who dubbed it one of the summer's best travel books. On Tuesday, September 2, Dale signs and reads from her new release at 7 p.m. at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. Call 480-730-0205 for details.
Wednesday, September 3
Now that it's September, Phoenix Coyotes fans are getting anxious for the first preseason games at the end of the month. To help them make it through those final, excruciating weeks before they're back in hockey heaven, the team's promoting the APS Power Play Tour, a free, fan-centric festival starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, September 3. There's a player autograph session, games, prizes and hockey tips, plus a celebrity fashion show for the unveiling of the team's new logo, with Coyotes players Shane Doan, Daymond Langkow, Ladislav Nagy, Paul Mara and Ossi Vaananen hitting the runway to model new uniforms. The fun takes place in the food court at Arizona Mills, located at the intersection of Priest and Baseline in Tempe. For information, visit www.phoenixcoyotes.com or call 480-563-PUCK (7825).