Madison calendar, November 2 through 8

Slowdive, Ilana Glazer & Phoebe Robinson, Kamasi Washington, Tales From Planet Earth, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Ian Adcock, Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, John McCracken, Erica Motz, Mike Noto, Caleb Oakley, Grant Phipps, Chali Pittman, and David Wolinsky




Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.


Lady Laughs Comedy Festival. Multiple venues, through Nov. 5

Madison’s been in need of a decent comedy festival for a while now, but comedy festivals are a massive pain to put on and all but guaranteed to lose money. The Comedy Club on State attempted it back in 2014 with the first and so far only Madison Comedy Festival, but that ended up being more a collection of thoroughly established headliners than the usual fest format, which highlights financially riskier up-and-coming talents. I hesitate to say that The Lady Laughs Comedy Festival, returning for its second year, is the best that Madison has to offer, since it seems a bit ramshackle in its execution, but for now it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Over the course of four days you’ll be able to catch almost 100 performers at various locations around town including Plan B, Art In, Brocach, and the Comedy Club. One-day tickets are $12 and a three day pass (Thursday through Saturday) is $30, but those don’t include admission to events featuring headliners Lizz Winstead (co-creator of the The Daily Show) and Mary Kennedy (of Showtime’s Shameless), which can be purchased as either standalone tickets, add-ons to day-passes, or part of a $55 VIP deal. This year organizer/performer Dina Nina Martinez added a panel discussion about navigating the industry, which will feature guests Melissa Hahn (booker for Asheville, North Carolina-based Modelface Comedy), Eve Paras (co-owner of the Comedy Club on State), and the aforementioned Winstead. Thursday’s lineup opens, interestingly, with an all-male show called, aptly enough, “He’s Not A Lady.” Once the guys are outta the way, though, you’re locked in for hour after hour of pun-tastic (dare I say… punderful?) show titles including “HER-Larity,” “You Joke Like A Girl,” and “Hoo-HA HA’s” featuring standup, improv, and sketch comedy performers from all over America. The rating system on the festival’s site ranks them as either “clean,” “dirty,” or “raunchy,” to help the audience members from going in expecting dirty when they may actually be getting a comic who is… [leans in and whispers] …raunchy. Representing Madison are Clare Dickerson (who started here but lives in LA now), Christine Hect, Vanessa Tortolano, Margaret Leaf, Shawna Lutzow, and “Yes Ma’am” (the ladies of Monkey Business Improv). With 80-plus performers listed, more than a third of whom are commuting in from Chicago, it would have been nice to see a bit more of a local focus, or at least a Madison-centric stage to give the hometown crew more shine. But other than that it’s hard to hate on the far-reaching cast of comics the festival is offering. —Chris Lay

Ex Nuns, Twelves, Sex Scenes. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m.

Minneapolis band Ex Nuns refer to themselves as a post-punk outfit, but that’s an amusing dodge. Rather than sounding like any number of poetic depressives with atmospherically saddened guitars and quietly implacable bass lines, Ex Nuns make bruising noise-rock with the precise, hammering, sneering anger that characterizes the tighter and less artsy styles associated with noise-rock. On their recent self-titled EP, Ex Nuns are at times a bit reminiscent of fellow Minneapolis band Animal Lover’s earlier, more aggressive releases, as well as the thudding sarcasm of Chicago’s War Brides: there’s a similarly caustic guitar tone and a comparable enjoyment of sledgehammer dynamics, though Ex Nuns are more concise than War Brides (nothing on the EP is over three minutes) and less strangely menacing than Animal Lover. Guitarist Ian Littleson’s aggrieved, resentful yell is buried just under the sour riffs and overdriven, edgy bass—true to microgenre requirements, it’s intended to work as one more bitter instrument rather than as a voice delivering lyrics, and it’s effective. There are unconventional musical ideas and small dashes of humor in different places throughout the release, and they work together to distinguish what might have otherwise been monotonous. The affectionate parody of grindcore, complete with blastbeats and drooling grunts, that opens “Better Off Dead” is a cute touch, the viciously bent guitar on “Last Lick” is honestly aggressive, and the seasick breakdown that appears out of nowhere during “What’s On My Face?” helps to make the mock-tragic details of a terrible hangover far more tangible for the listener. Ex Nuns appear at the newer venue North Street Cabaret with the enigmatic, theatrically surreal math rock of Madison’s Twelves and the hilariously sleazy and sloshed punk of Milwaukee’s Sex Scenes. —Mike Noto

Wisconsin Book Festival. Multiple venues, through Nov. 5 (free)

The Madison Public Library hosts author events year-round under the umbrella of the Wisconsin Book Festival, but the majority of the festival’s events are wedged into four days in the fall. From November 2 through 5, writers from around the country come to Madison to enhance the literary community in the city.  The festival sprawls across Madison to include readings and talks in libraries, bookstores, terraces, community spaces, and more for the weekend. This year’s highlights include: Paul Yoon’s expansive collection of stories joined across continents, Welcome To Night Vale creators’ extraordinary science-based noir, Angela J. Davis’ comprehensive guide to the Black Lives Matter movement, Melanie Radzicki McManus’ triumphant story of hiking the Ice Age Trail, Scaachi Khoul’s witty and enduring collection of essays about modern life, and Danez Smith’s newly released collection of poetry that examines life in America as a black queer person and imagines a world where healing is prioritized over violence against black bodies. Apart from book readings, there will be performances and more interactive presentations all over the city. The festival is packed with numerous talks and readings, far too many to detail, and allows the city to take some time and do something for the better—pick up a book. —John McCracken


SLUGish Ensemble. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.

San Francisco based composer and multi-reed instrumentalist Steven Lugerner collaborates around the country, tying together musicians from California to New York to Chicago and performing adventurous work that fit loosely under the jazz umbrella. He performs here with his SLUGish Ensemble, which operates in the realm of freely improvised music as well as orchestrated and layered composition. Their 2014 release, For We Have Heard, spans improvised and orchestrated material based around Gematria, giving the album a character that’s both expressively algorithmic and unpredictable, perhaps even disorienting. The track “Be Strong And Resolute” begins with metrically mixed unisons in the form of a crazed march, before dissolving into a puddle of succulent piano. Lugerner ultimately joins in on alto saxophone with an equally fluid texture that expands into an elastic, melodic line. —Emili Earhart

Nestle, Lovely Socialite. Memorial Union Play Circle, 7:30 p.m. (free)

Madison’s Lovely Socialite orchestrate jazz and classical characteristics in an groovy, adventurous rock sextet. Their punchy, brass-driven melodies meet glassy vibraphone lines and psychedelic guitar outbursts, bringing across both intensity and a playful, humorous spirit. The disparate styles, backgrounds, and characters of the sextet are particularly evident in “Glass,” the first track from their latest EP, DoubleShark. The sprightly yet minimal vibraphone line paired with the driving drum lines set up a backdrop for the brass and guitar to switch off, while also working together in creating a mood at times ominous, expressive, dramatic, whimsical, or totally off the wall. Nestle, a Midwest-based improvisatory trio made up of bassist Rob Lundberg, percussionist Ryan Packard, and guitarist Cyrus Pireh, are equally personable in their performance. Nestle create bold textures of sound sustained by a collective patience or punctured by colorful and abrasive splashes of personality and emotion. Packard and Lundberg both have a knack at extracting a range of sound from their instruments (Packard using a drum machine along with his kit), as well as having equally energetic and hulking elements to their playing. Pireh hones in on a specific range of frequencies that he pulls from his guitar through homemade amplification, while welcoming more of a meditative stasis through quick yet unwavering playing. A listener might at once actively direct their attention to the decisions each member makes, or find themselves joining the musicians, marinating in the sounds interacting in the space before them. Nestle’s performance here celebrates the release of a new album, Hoffman Estates. (Full disclosure: Lundberg is a co-organizer of Tone Madison’s event series.) —Emili Earhart

Ex Libris. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)

In addition to serving as the finale in UW Cinematheque’s miniature “Documentary Pioneer” retrospective on the influential Frederick Wiseman, Ex Libris (2017) is a prominent feature premiere here in the Midwest. This all-encompassing 197-minute observation of the New York Public Library’s Manhattan hub at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street—as well as its 92 branches across the five boroughs—may be regarded as a perfect amalgamation of Wiseman’s two prior films, National Gallery (2014) and In Jackson Heights (2015). National Gallery‘s graceful tour of the esteemed museum in Trafalgar Square, London, exposed every public and private facet through extended scenes of benevolent discussion and erudite lecture; and In Jackson Heights expanded beyond the walls of an arts institution to document the struggles and triumphs in one of America’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods (in Queens). In unifying these approaches to subject matter, Ex Libris is perhaps even more inclusive and involving, as the NYPL has become such a vast community resource in this country’s most densely populated city. It’s also Wiseman’s intention to redefine the public library as a reliable space to educate and train through independent learning and collaborative workshops alike. This actively challenges libraries’ 20th-century reputation as quiet study spaces and mere repositories for tomes. In watching bibliophiles in the film host chamber concerts, poetry readings, and reach out to others in need of basic information or substantial job tutoring, Madisonians will likely draw comparisons to our own Madison Public Library system and its vital central branch, which was revitalized through a remodel in 2013 and awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Science in 2016 . —Grant Phipps

Tales From Planet Earth. Through Nov. 5, multiple venues (free)

The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies’ “Tales From Planet Earth” film festival has historically featured films that introduce global environmental issues by telling human stories. This year’s theme, “Land is Life,” focuses on the work of largely indigenous communities to preserve and protect land resources under threat from mismanagement or destruction due to the (often interconnected) influences of bigotry and financial incentive. Awake: A Dream From Standing Rock (2017) follows the experience of an individual protester of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota, as well as how the community rallied together to support the movement (trailer below). In The Opposition (2016), a New Guinean community fights to stay on the land they’ve lived on for generations while the government tries to evict them and construct a five-star hotel. When Two Worlds Collide (2015) presents real footage from the 2009 crisis in Peru, in which 23 Peruvian police officers were killed and over 100 indigenous activists were injured or killed in protests. The violence was precipitated by a free trade agreement with the United States that threatened exploitation of Amazonian land. This year’s festival kicks off with a keynote address from environmental and native women’s rights activist Winona LaDuke, and also features LaDuke in conversation with Wisconsin based Native American activists. Patty Loew, a UW doctoral alumna and Northwestern University journalism professor, will moderate the discussion. All of the screenings are free and unticketed. See the full film schedule and locations here—Erica Motz


Slowdive. Cherry Glazerr. Barrymore, 7 p.m.

Slowdive, the co-progenitors of the dreamy, effects-heavy “shoegaze” style of music that was so prevalent in 1990s indie rock, broke up in 1995 but kicked off a productive reunion in 2014. The UK band’s new, eponymous album—and first since their odd, experimental release Pygmalion in 1995—was released in May of this year on Dead Oceans. Slowdive the album is decidedly more pop in the style of 1993’s Souvlaki and less ambient-oriented than Pygmalion, and benefits a ton from the contributions of sound engineer Chris Coady, who has an extensive résumé of engineering shoegaze/dream-pop/indie rock acts. Still, given how much they depend on manipulation and distortion, Slowdive’s live set here is bound to sound so much dreamier than anything recorded music can approximate. The catchy, noisy outfit Cherry Glazerr, who played in Madison early this year, open this show. —Chali Pittman


Cribshitter, Sat. Nite Duets, Tippy. Crystal Corner Bar, 9:30 p.m.

Putting Madison’s Cribshitter and Milwaukee’s Sat. Nite Duets on a show together essentially convenes a summit of Wisconsin bands that conceal a lot of craft behind their smart-assed exteriors and have respectable presences on weird Twitter. (Or at least bad-joke Twitter.) Sat. Nite Duets would be the subtler (?) of the two, making gloriously scrappy rock and write lyrics that dance along the border between introspection and playful absurdity (though it must be said the band has gotten a bit more reflective with time). “TAFKA Salieri,” from last year’s album Air Guitar, combines bittersweet, jangly guitar figures with a character sketch of a hack musician: “Oh baby won’t you hit me with that divine inspiration / I might be short on soul but not on motivation.” With Cribshitter, it’s more of a full-on spectacle, complete with bizarrely tacky stage getups, originals like “Where You Goin’ With That Hard-On,” covers like their Steve Albini-approved butchering of JJ Cale’s “Cocaine,” and lush pop arrangements that are as considered as the humor is demented. Cribshitter’s last proper release was the 2015 concept album Acapulco, but they recently taped a performance on Wisconsin Public Television that’s worth watching in its own right. It featured the staged walking-off of drummer The Fucking Lion, who actually left amicably and has been replaced by Joe Bernstein (The Kissers, El Valiente). —Scott Gordon

Half-Stack Fall Showcase. Art In, 8 p.m.

Half-Stack Sessions, a Madison group that aims to create a supportive network for female-identifying, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ musicians, will be using its fall showcase at Art In to benefit Proud Theater. The theater company, started in Madison in 2000, creates a judgment-free community of supportive peers and adults for queer youth actors, writers, etc. to perform their own stories. The showcase features Minneapolis-based Cult of Lip as well as three Madison-based acts: experimental duos Glassmen and And Illusions, and Heather The Jerk, a solo project from Heather Sawyer of The Hussy and Proud Parents. Cult of Lip’s most recent EP, Your Feedback , was released on Madison tape label Rare Plant. One standout track, “Skin,” blends psych-y, fuzzy tones that would fit on a shoegaze record but carry a lot more energy, and Kim Gordon-esque vocals bleed through the feedback on another, “Burnt Hair.” —Erica Motz

Richard Goode. Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Concert pianist Richard Goode was the first American musician to record the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, and performs here behind a discography spanning more than 30 years. Goode’s recordings, mostly released on Nonesuch, highlight his interpretations of classical and Romantic-era composers, namely Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven. For this program, he will perform Beethoven’s Sonata No. 28 In A Major—a particularly playful work from Beethoven’s more personal, introspective late period. This pairs interestingly with the Second Viennese School member Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata (1910), an early work from the composer, and a demanding and emotionally disorienting piece for the listener. Goode will also perform selections of J.S. Bach’s second book of the monumental Well-Tempered Clavier, as well as a Chopin Mazurka and Nocturne. Chopin Mazurkas, essentially interpretations of traditional Polish dances, are repetitive in nature, and appropriately bookend the program behind the inventive, contrapuntal nature of Bach’s Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Chopin Nocturnes pair nicely with the sweeter qualities of the impending winter—perfect music for the dropping of leaves or the first snowfall. —Emili Earhart


Ilana Glazer, Phoebe Robinson. Barrymore, 7 & 9:30 p.m.

Two of the most explosive emerging voices in comedy and real-life friends Ilana Glazer and Phoebe Robinson join up here as part of their YQY (Yas, Queen, Yas) stand-up tour. Glazer is best known for co-creating, writing and directing the Comedy Central show Broad City with Abbi Jacobson, currently in its fourth season. Robinson’s main claim to fame is Two Dope Queens, a stand-up podcast co-hosted by Jessica Williams, though she has also released the book You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have To Explain), and is working on a second. Though this is the duo’s first time touring together, they’ve collaborated on the podcast Sooo Many White Guys, hosted by Robinson and executive produced by Glazer. In addition to releasing hilarious material in multiple mediums, the duo are on a mission to create a space and boost the voice of a new generation that is increasingly intersectional, racially diverse, and queer. Sooo Many White Guys features one token white male per season, Two Dope Queens shines the light on lesser-known comics of color alongside more famous voices, and Broad City has been praised for its inclusivity and sex-positivity, with Glazer herself playing a Jewish, polyamorous bisexual. Expect some excellent stand-up and exchanges about celebrity crushes, “45,” and abreevs. BYE-Q-BYE, bee bees. —Caleb Oakley


Headless Death, Essex Muro, Mellow Harsher, The Central. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)

Seeing Mellow Harsher live is one of the most unique and hilarious show-going experiences any Madisonian can have. On record, the Stoughton grindcore trio are seasoned practitioners of the form: lightning-fast songs that often end in half a minute or less, untrammeled aggression, deliberately indecipherable and intense roars and howls from Steve “Steve-O” Halvorson. There is also well-concealed musical craft and accomplishment; guitarist/backing vocalist Graem Menzer and drummer Scott “Goatlord” Roark are easily capable of switching from warp-speed chops-flashing to plodding mono-riff sludgery in the space of a beat. Onstage, however, Mellow Harsher has practically developed into performance art. Most grindcore sets don’t tend to last very long, due to the nature of the form. But the band deliberately stretches out between songs, often delving into what can only be called scabrous, improvised standup routines with no fixed end in sight. It’s not unheard of for the band to keep playing chicken with the crowd for at least four minutes until one of the members finally decides to start off a song… that lasts for 30 seconds. Then, the comedy resumes where it left off. This would be absolutely insufferable if the band members weren’t very funny people, and didn’t have a natural sense of just how long they could push their luck. But the group’s comic timing and genuinely amusing antipathy for their audience and other bands they’ve played with means they get away with it most of the time, with deeply funny results. Mellow Harsher doesn’t play live very often anymore—Halvorson recently became a father, and Menzer moved to Chicago a few years ago—so every local appearance tends to be a notable occasion. They appear here with the Australian grindcore band Headless Death, the North Carolina hardcore band Essex Muro, and the local, hyper-technical and fascinatingly experimental duo The Central. —Mike Noto

Bully, Big Ups. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.

Pulling from sounds and styles that could remind anyone of Nirvana, PJ Harvey, or The Breeders, Nashville trio Bully shamelessly hone in on various elements of ’90s alternative rock. They recently released their sophomore album, Losing, on Sub Pop after recording at Electrical Audio, where guitarist/vocalist Alicia Bognanno once interned with engineer Steve Albini. But while embracing the Sub Pop legacy and capturing that iconic Electrical Audio analogue sound, Bully are still their own entity in 2017, thanks in large part by Bognanno’s angular yet catchy songwriting and expressive, powerhouse vocals. New York’s Big Ups play here as well behind their 2016 release Before A Million Universes. Big Ups take on moody, post-hardcore elements that weave in and out of slower, contemplative spaces and fuzzier, coarser sections. Often mathy and always emotionally raw, Big Ups might recall Slint and Shellac sensibilities. —Emili Earhart


Mayhem, Immolation, Black Anvil. Majestic, 8 p.m.

For as long as there have been gloomy photo shoots of black-clad bandmembers in corpse paint and a mainstream fear of black metal, there has been Mayhem. The band formed in 1984 in Olso, Norway and more or less created the realm that we now think of as Norwegian black metal. The early years of Mayhem were exciting for the genre, but also alarming for the music world. The Mayhem mythos is filled with outrageous live stunts, media panic, skin-crawling ideologies, and the violent deaths of members. The band has released five studio albums, five live albums, and an abundance of projects through their timeline. Their more modern albums have gained a lot of attention, including their 2007 release Ordo Ad Chao, their highest charting album to date. This release delves into a more experimental approach to songwriting and thematic lyrical content. Mayhem is joined here by New York death metal band Immolation, who are known for their complex songwriting and grueling vocals. Their legacy spans 10 studio albums, including their 2017 release Atonement. Black Anvil is a comparably younger black metal band that starts the show with their blend of modern black metal and raw thrash metal, as captured on the new album As Was. —John McCracken

Foo Fighters. Kohl Center, 7:30 p.m.

Even in 2017, many folks unfairly truck in all sorts of expectations and attitudes about Dave Grohl’s band of the last 24 years just because he was in that other one for a far shorter (if transformative) period in the early 1990’s. It’s a comparison that barely merits mention but only seems relevant in that Foo Fighters’ recently released ninth album, Concrete And Gold, signifies the band’s comfort level with the identity it’s settled into in the time since its first two records. Live, “crazy” is the main word Grohl used to describe almost all the songs from Concrete they debuted at concerts all over the globe this past summer—the band no longer has to prove they can rock, that they can do softer songs, too. Just a glance at the album’s guests—Paul McCartney and Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman, just to name two—demonstrate that band is ready to be who they are, and not at all apologetic about the Rolodex their star power affords. Although there are brighter and bigger marquee names associated with the album, producer Greg Kurstin of synthpop duo The Bird And The Bee is perhaps the most intriguing: Grohl and Kurstin were mutually fascinated in working with each other, as the latter had never worked on a heavy rock album and the former had never worked with a pop songwriter. It sounds like a readymade PR puff quote, but both have since remarked this is the sort of album they both have always wanted to make but could not have made without the other. Grohl has also previously confessed a lack of confidence in his writing and especially his lyrics; this album was borne out of a self-imposed hiatus from the band, during which he spent some time alone to focus specifically on writing. Grohl says Concrete represents his ruminations on his feelings about the United States today, “politically, personally, as a father, an American, and a musician.” Since the band is bursting back three after their last album, and this is intended to be a more centered, more focused, and more personal record, that gives us hope for a perhaps “crazy,” but more importantly revitalized, performance here at the Kohl Center. —David Wolinsky


Jonathan Richman. Union South Sett, 8 p.m. (free)

Decades after forming and swiftly destroying the massively influential group The Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman has created a massive discography of disarmingly simple and often painfully personal music. His unique mixture of stripped-down early rock & roll influences and unironic songwriting about mundane topics results in sweetly eccentric pop music. Whether it’s delivering a wistfully romantic paean or a plea for people to be kinder, Richman’s songwriting voice is always one of wide-eyed innocence. Though Richman’s music is nostalgic for a simpler, happier time, don’t expect a greatest-hits nostalgia act. Richman’s shows are legendarily unpredictable; he’s as likely to wander off into the audience mid-song as he is to wander through a version of one of his classics like “I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar.” Seeing him perform at the already awkward Sett probably won’t make any new fans, but when else are you going to see Jonathan Richman play while dipping your fries into some Sett Sauce? —Ian Adcock

Kamasi Washington. Majestic, 8:30 p.m.

Kamasi Washington is a jazz composer, producer, director, and saxophonist who has worked with many high-profile artists, including Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat. His 2015 triple album The Epic and recent performances with Kendrick Lamar and Run The Jewels garnered him mainstream attention, but he is not new to the scene. Washington has been playing saxophone since he was 13, studied ethnomusicology while performing in college, and led big bands in the following years. The Epic saunters between approachable and groundbreaking in an expanding saga that blends bebop, R&B, hip-hop, and mind-boggling jazz. Washington’s latest project, Harmony Of Difference, is a six-song release that internally builds on itself. The first five tracks are played separately, then the final track is a culmination of the last five that also builds on itself. This complexity in songwriting is a science that Washington has perfected—it results in work that’s harmonious, staggering, and even accessible to a new jazz audience. His most recent video, for the Harmony Of Difference track “Truth,” fuses different cultures, masculinity, and family into a visually stunning experience. —John McCracken

Bassem Youssef. Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Bassem Youssef, a former surgeon, launched his comedic career on YouTube shortly after the Egyptian revolution of 2011 with the satirical The B+ Show, which millions of viewers in mere months. Egyptian viewers were anxious for an alternative to government-run television, which undercut the grievances of the Egyptian people towards a police state that ignored its citizens’ rights to free speech, assembly, and economic security. In fall 2011, Youssef’s show, renamed Al Bernameg (The Program), moved to the Egyptian channel ONTV, and a year later, for season two, was picked up by the CBC. Combined with Youssef’s YouTube channel, the “Egyptian Daily Show” brought in hundreds of millions of viewers, allowing prominent critics of president Mohammad Morsi and his government as well as artists a platform for dissent. The show also attracted complaints and lawsuits, and as a result it has bounced around between networks. In 2013, the same year Youssef was named one of Time’s most influential people, Youssef turned himself in after an arrest warrant was filed against him for insulting the president and Islam. Youssef was released the next day and continued making the show until June 2014, when he was forced to leave Egypt. Youssef has since kept busy, landing speaking gigs and guest spots on other political satire shows.  In 2016, a documentary about Youssef called Tickling Giants premiered, and Youssef’s newest project, The Democracy Handbook, began airing on Fusion. His memoir, Revolution For Dummies: Laughing Through The Arab Spring, was released in March 2017. He visits here as part of the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Distinguished Lecture Series. —Caleb Oakley

Spotlight Cinema: The Square. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 p.m.

For the second straight year, MMoCA’s Spotlight Cinema is featuring a Palme d’Or winner (the series’ premiere last September was Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan). At Cannes this May, Ruben Östlund’s The Square claimed the award and a subsequent deal with Magnolia Pictures for its irreverent satire of contemporary mores. With his first feature, Force Majeure (which screened as part of Spotlight in 2014), Östlund transparently demonstrated a willingness to tackle the pettiness of human behavior with a twist of upper-class condemnation in the aftermath of a father’s act of cowardice. This attitude carries the Swedish director into broader and more ambitious territory in The Square, which is set in a prospective Sweden where Stockholm Palace has been transformed into an art museum after the dissolution of the monarchy. With underachieving museum curator Christian (Claes Bang) at the forefront of a burgeoning and bourgeois modern art movement, the ingratiating narcissist repeatedly emphasizes how the most relevant art is always pushing boundaries (a seeming reference to the title of the film). Of course the works of his curiosities cleverly toy with the suppressed notion that modern art is arbitrary, absurd, and plainly incendiary, zestily lampooned in everything from Ghost World to Louie. Christian’s momentary focus on the rollout of the titular outdoor exhibition by Argentinian sociologist Lola Arias (simple pavement markers that re-envision safe spaces and traffic interactions) is also diverted by his shallow pursuit of journalist Anne (Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss), whom he first encounters in a promotional interview. Their innocent tête-à-tête at the museum evolves as quickly as it deteriorates, forecasting certain farcical chaos within and, perhaps just as potently, justified public outcry. This screening as part of Madison’s oldest cultural organization should also provide an amusing context to the experience. —Grant Phipps

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