1. Opening tonight is downtown Buffalo’s first fully dedicated mecca for mirth. It’s the 325-seat Helium Comedy Club, installed in what used to be WJ Morrissey’s Irish Pub at 30 Mississippi St. in the Cobblestone District. Drawing the first laughs as headliner will be Rachel Feinstein, whose resume includes an appearance in the 2010 season of “Last Comic Standing,” a Comedy Central special, and stints as a writer for the Onion and a voice for characters on the Adult Swim show “Venture Brothers.” Performances are at 8 p.m. today and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Opening will be a parade of local comics, two per show. Tickets are $10 to $15, and there’s a two-item minimum. January bookings include Rob Schneider and D.L. Hughley.
2. Curious about what Kwanzaa is all about? Well, that’s the topic of a talk that will be given by Evan Doyle, a local chronicler of African-American history, at noon in the Central Library on Lafayette Square. Kwanzaa, which starts next Wednesday, is a weeklong cultural celebration of seven principles to live by, culminating in gift-giving that includes a book to emphasize the value placed on learning and a heritage symbol to reinforce the commitment to history and tradition.
3. A lot of people think it’s time to get tougher on animal abuse, and Assemblyman Sean Ryan is one of them. Today, he will announce he’s sponsoring “Phoenix’s Law,” for the Jack Russell Terrier puppy who was set on fire last month and is currently recovering. The legislation would double penalties for felony aggravated animal cruelty from two years in prison to four, and fines from $5,000 to $10,000.
4. Haunting and history are part of this weekend’s holiday programs in the Iron Island Museum, 998 Lovejoy St. In the Railroad/Children’s Room, historians will recount the origins of the neighborhood’s names, explore its industrial past and tell tales of the children’s spirits that sometimes inhabit the room. The Military Room will feature stories of local men and women who went to war and of the veteran whose cremated remains were found in the building’s basement. In the Chapel Room, the Iron Island churches will be celebrated, along with their ghosts. Programs will be given at 7 tonight and 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $5. Reservations are recommended. Call 892-3084.
5. The Erie County Republican Committee celebrates its successes in the November elections at its annual holiday reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Sonoma Grille, 5010 Main St., Snyder. Among those honored will be Stefan Mychajliw, who won election to become the next Erie County comptroller. Tickets are $99, $175 per couple. For reservations, call 856-8700.
6. An old-fashioned community carol sing is on tap at 7 p.m. at the gazebo in Centennial Park in the center of the Village of Angola. Barry Dietsch, the retired Lake Shore Central School choral director, will lead the program, and a brass ensemble from the high school will provide the music. Song sheets will be handed out to all who come to the park. Afterward, there will be free hot chocolate and cookies in Updyke Hall of First Congregational United Church of Christ on Main Street. If the weather is bad, the entire program will be held in the church.
7. The Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel has spent $8.5 million to renovate its restaurant, and at noon it will be unveiling the brand-new Thunder Falls Buffet, which opens to the public this weekend. It will feature more than 100 food items across six food stations, with a focus on healthy and ethnic dishes as well as Western New York comfort food. The restaurant will be directly connected to the gaming floor and offer a series of interactive cooking stations, high-tech video screens and lighting displays.