Flip Wilson

Monday's multi-artist Hotel Cafe Tour starring Ingrid Michaelson turned into the Dan Wilson Show. The hometown hero did several tunes from his 2007 solo debut, a John Denver cover and Semisonic's "DND" and "Closing Time" (written about the birth of his child, he quipped). He made fun of the chatty crowd at the sold-out Fine Line ("We can hear your discussion of stock trading") and invited folks to sing along, joking how Minnesota has transformed from a state of repressed Lutherans into a rainbow of passive/aggressive folks.


Poet's commitment

Scalpers may not have gotten $100 a ticket for Mary Oliver's State Theatre appearance Sunday, as they did in Seattle a few weeks ago, but the Pulitzer-winning poet still had an electric aura. She spoke with reverence of blue herons -- the perfect poem, she said -- and her Bhagavad- Gita-eating dog, Percy. She discussed her 19th-century models (Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson) but also confessed to being a big booster for her 21st-century New England sports teams. "After the Patriots lost, I was really down," she said. But she takes heart in the Red Sox. Her poem, "The Poet Goes to Fenway," begins:

In the language of baseball

I am 3 and 2,

and not so nimble

as I was once

and the game, at the moment,

is indecisive.


Turkey roast

The online news site MinnPost gathered 450 of its best friends at the Graves Hotel on Tuesday to toast and roast local pols and pundits. Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau -- actually, actor Tom Winner in a fetching blond wig -- got some whacks, as did Rep. Michele Bachmann (played with convincing giddiness by Michelle Hutchinson). St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's soulful monologue about St. Paul's breakup with Minneapolis topped rival Mayor R.T. Rybak's turn as "Jeopardy" host. St. Paul had to dump Minneapolis, Coleman said, because "You eat sushi off naked people." Yuck. And former ad exec Lee Lynch delivered the night's saddest truism: "What's the difference between a journalism degree and a box of pizza? With a box of pizza you can feed a family of four."


A true grandstander

In a heated election year when the State Fair is likely to feature politicians-on-a-stick, who did the fair schedule for Sept. 1 --opening day of the Republican National Convention? None other than Toby Keith. He may be Mr. Red White and Blue, an I'll-rock-in-Iraq kind of star, but, truth be told, he is a registered Democrat. Plus, what's he doing working on Labor Day?


In the dark with Parks

Suzan-Lori Parks literally closed the house down last week at Ted Mann Concert Hall. After a witty speech underscored by gurgly sound effects, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright ("Topdog/Underdog") continued signing copies of her books even after stagehands had turned off the lights in the lobby. "This is my job, bringing my little light to people," she said as she signed a poster for 9-year-old Yanna Jordan (above). I.W. arrived at Ted Mann at 7:15 p.m., and when we left, nearly five hours later, the Energizer Honey was still going strong.


Too much caffeine

"Triple Espresso" can't get to bed. The little comedy that was supposed to close April 12 has extended to the end of the month. "The final performance will be April 27," said executive producer Dennis Babcock. However, if you want to see the three creators -- Michael Pearce Donley, Bill Arnold and Bob Stromberg -- onstage together, you'll have to act fast. Only one or two of them will be in the show past next weekend. Babcock insists the show will be put to sleep after the 27th. "This is it," he said.