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This week in late-night

The landscape of late-night TV gets more colorful this week with the addition of two shows: The Wanda Sykes Show, which premiered Saturday night on Fox and Lopez Tonight, which begins tonight on TBS, both promise to deliver a new format of talk show.

I caught the premiere of Wanda Sykes Saturday night and I was rather impressed. Though it was not nearly as "original" as was hyped, Wanda is a great alternative to SNL if you're staying in on a Saturday night. Her monologue is a refreshing return to true standup on the late night circuit. The guests are handpicked by Wanda, which keeps the show real, as opposed to watching an hour of clips and plugs with some comedy thrown in. Her panel discussions incorporate humor into current events, reminiscent of Real Time with Bill Maher. It may be too early to tell, but after one episode I give Wanda a solid thumbs-up.

The Wanda Sykes show airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Fox.

Lopez Tonight, which pledges to "bring the party back" to late-night television, will feature Eva Longoria-Parker, Kobe Bryant and Ellen DeGeneres in its premiere. I'll make sure to check it out and report back next week.

Lopez Tonight premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on TBS.

As for the rest of the week, here's what the regulars have to offer:

Monday: The Jay Leno Show features Diablo Cody (NBC, 9pm), catch Bill Murray on the Late Show with David Letterman (CBS, 10:35pm) and flip over to the Tonight Show to watch David Gray perform (NBC, 10:35pm).

Tuesday: In what should be a hilarious interview, Maria Shriver stops by the Colbert Report (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.).

Wednesday: Letterman's got Norah Jones, and Bored to Death star Jason Schwartzman stops by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC, 11:35 p.m.).

Thursday: Speaking of Bored to Death, Al Gore is on with Conan (bad joke). And don't forget to check out the show everyone should be watching, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX.

Friday: Speaking of It's Always Sunny, you can catch Danny DeVito on Conan (probably shamelessly promoting the show).

Next week I'll review the first week of Lopez Tonight and as always, give you the lineup of guests and music acts you won't want to miss. (I promise, next week looks a lot better.)

Word

Hersh to accept Illinois journalism award in D.C.

Man, when I first saw this, I thought maybe the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh was coming to C-U, but alas: "The prize will be awarded Saturday (Nov. 7) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., following an evening reception and dinner." Oh, well. Congratulations, Mr. Hersh, on being the third recipient of the Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

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Illinois and local authors

Looking for local authors? The Urbana Free Library and the Champaign Public Library couldn't provide a full list of local authors — but we thought it might be nice to provide these links and start an on-going thread of other local authors on Smile Politely.

For a brief list of Champaign authors and Urbana authors.

Or check out the authors' work directly:

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Furloughs possible; essential hiring only through June

Outgoing President B. Joseph White and Interim President-designate Stanley O. Ikenberry e-mailed all University employees this morning regarding the state and University budgets which look bleak for the foreseeable future.

"We do not plan furlough days before the end of the calendar year and we hope they can be avoided completely. It will be necessary, however, for departments, colleges and administrative units to manage any hiring on a critical needs, by exception basis for the remainder of the 2010 fiscal year that ends next June 30," White and Ikenberry said.

It sounds like furloughs are likely in spring 2010 with a hiring freeze of all but exceptions through June 2010 at the University of Illinois Urbana campus.

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Northwestern Game Time & TV info

Nov. 14 Big Ten games:

Noon EST/11 a.m. CST
Northwestern at Illinois, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic (*)
Michigan State at Purdue, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic (*)
Indiana at Penn State, Big Ten Network
Michigan at Wisconsin, Big Ten Network
South Dakota State at Minnesota, Big Ten Network

3:30 EST/2:30 CST
Iowa at Ohio State, ABC (ESPN mirror)

(*-Network designations TBD after November 7 games)

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U of I Library Sale today!

From Heather Murphy at the Library:

We'd love to let Smile Politely visitors know about our upcoming Book Sale.  Here is the information:

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library will hold its Book Sale on Thursday, October 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Marshall Gallery within the Main Library.  Materials will include books in many subject areas, audiovisual materials, prints, and much more.  All proceeds help support the Library’s collections.  For more information, visit www.library.illinois.edu/booksale.

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Vintage Politeness: Mason Jennings interview

Mason Jennings is rolling into the Highdive tonight for a 7:30 p.m. show with Anni Rossi opening. In fact, Gillian reports that she just ran into him at Barnes & Noble. It's been just over a year since Jennings played C-U, so here's a reprint of my preview from last October:

Mason Jennings Breezes into C-U

masonjennings.jpgMason Jennings is what he is, and he seems completely at peace with that. And he should, considering how well being himself has treated him lately. After singing two well-received songs (“The Times They Are A Changin’” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”) on the soundtrack to last year’s Dylan “biopic” I’m Not There, Jennings has a new, unadorned album, In the Ever, out on his buddy Jack Johnson’s Brushfire label. The new record is relentlessly, effortlessly catchy, often hilarious and not infrequently poignant, which is an extremely difficult combination to pull off.

Tomorrow night, the Minneapolis-based Jennings will play at the Canopy Club, and I think you’d have a hard time finding something better to do on a Wednesday. The show starts at 9 p.m., tickets are $15 in advance and Zach Gill opens.

Jennings took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to us last Friday, so if that kind of thing interests you, click the handy “Continue Reading” button below.

Jennings doesn’t worry about who he’s compared to. “Everybody has their own comparison, just their way to try to make sense of the music, and I don’t take it in a heavy way,” he says.

As for the I’m Not There soundtrack, Jennings didn’t have a lot of say about which songs he sang. “They asked me to sing Christian Bale’s part, so it was already scripted,” he explained. “A lot of other people got to pick their songs, but mine were already in the movie. I pretended like it was something that I’d written. I just did it as fast as I could.”

After being born in Hawaii, Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t his final destination. He said, “I dropped out of high school in Pittsburgh and traveled around. I ended up in Minneapolis and I just felt at home there, you know like some places just feel like home.”

His first big break came when the Jayhawks became a touring act and gave up their regular gig at a local club. “It was the 400 Bar. I didn’t have much interaction with them [the Jayhawks]” Jennings noted. “I know Gary Louris, he’s sat in with my band before and he’s a great guy, and Mark Perlman. But I didn’t really cross over with them at all.”

On his new album, Jennings has a song called “I Love You and Buddha Too,” addressed to Jesus. When asked if that brought a strong reaction from fundamentalists, he said, “I’ve had people coming at me at shows, saying that they know I’m searching but that there’s only one true way, but not in unexpected ways.”

While it’s kind of tough to see their influence in his current work, when Jennings grew up “I listened to Led Zeppelin, and I got into a lot of hard rock stuff by playing guitar. At some point, I got more into acoustic stuff and banjo stuff, and people like Leadbelly.”

His touring ensemble is pretty spare, not unsurprising since most of his new album is just him and a guitar. “Right now I have a quartet,” Jennings said. “We’re trying to keep it stripped-down, so right now we have a bass, piano, and drums, and I play guitar.”

Jennings was gracious on the phone, but it was clear he didn’t have much interest in making outrageous statements.

Here’s a video of him playing “Your New Man,” a super-clever song from In The Ever. On his website, there’s a video of him playing it on Conan O’Brien, but I couldn’t embed that, so click here if you’re interested.