Dec. 24 2013 06:44 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

12-24 shortlist-1
Felipe Esparza
Photo courtesy of Frankie Leal Photography

1 Comico sin carne 

About halfway into a joke-packed interview with CityBeat that otherwise had us giggling, comedian Felipe Esparza dropped an unfunny bombshell: He's vegan. 

"That's rare for a Mexican, right?" he says.

¿En serio, dude? No carnitas? No queso

He describes a soy-and-seaweed vegan fish taco he had for dinner the other night. "If you've forgotten what fish taco tastes like—it tastes like fish taco," he laughs. He's been vegan for three years. 

"I used to weigh 310 pounds. Now I weigh 300." (He's actually lost about 50 pounds.)

Like a lot of comics of Mexican descent, Esparza—who'll be at the American Comedy Club (818 B Sixth Ave., Downtown) at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28, and at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29—pulls no punches when it comes to his race. 

"I live at home for one reason," he quips. "So someone can answer the phone in English."

Why do Latino comics tend to be so self-deprecating? "Because our parents do it," Esparza says. "It's a mom thing. She can't congratulate you without hating on you first."

On the other hand, the title for his one-hour comedy special, They're Not Going to Laugh at You, which aired on Showtime last year, was inspired by his mom's attempt at sincere support: "Miho, don't worry about it," she once told him before a performance, "nobody there is going to laugh at you."

Esparza, who grew up in Boyle Heights and went on to win Season 7 of NBC's Last Comic Standing, says he'll pull material from They're Not Going to Laugh at You, but the bulk of the show will be all-new jokes.

To help promote the show, Esparza planned to hand out flyers at the Dec. 22 Chargers-Raiders game. Which team's uniform did he say he'd wear? 

"Raiders, man." 

A Raiders fan passing out flyers to get San Diegans to his show? Now, that's funny. Tickets are $18.

2 Dance times three

Walking through Liberty Station's Dance Place San Diego (2650 Truxton Road in Point Loma) is a whirlwind tour of different styles of dance. Peeking through windows into classrooms, you can see everything from contemporary to classical. There's even dance-related artwork hanging in the hallways, giving the space an extra layer of dance education and appreciation. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26, the three companies housed inside Dance Place—Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater, San Diego Ballet and Malashock—will host their seventh annual Free Day of Dance. It's a chance for San Diegans to learn more about dance and its varied flavors by taking free classes in creative dance, yoga, ballet, tango, modern dance and more. Get details at

3 Afro-beat

After Christmas, Yule or whatever you want to call it runs its course, the annual seven-day Kwanzaa celebration begins. The weeklong holiday festival celebrates African-American culture, and for five of those days, the World Beat Center in Balboa Park (2100 Park Blvd.) will host events honoring the holiday's central themes, like unity, self-determination and purpose. Among the highlights of the festival are African drum and dance by Malika Dance Troop, a performance by Omo Ache Afro-Cuban Dance and Music Co. and a staging of the musical Sarafina! by Diva Dance Works Company, plus traditional African food and drink. The 33rd Annual Kwanzaa Celebration takes place from Thursday, Dec. 26, to Monday, Dec. 30. All events are free. 

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email Kinsee Morlan