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This Weekend, a Trio of Comedic Greats

I've come up with a trio of stand-up options for this weekend: Jerry Seinfeld, Donnell Rawlings and four locals at Joey's Hartstown Tavern.

As a stand-up comic, I find myself at a lot of comedy shows. Sometimes performing, sometimes watching, sometimes trying in vain to figure out why some jokes don’t work. It’s a tough thing, comedy; you’re out there alone, relying entirely on the strength of jokes you wrote and your ability to entertain. Fortunately, the uniting factor in most stand-up comics—and all of the good ones—is the love they have for what they do.

A couple of the best things about stand-up are the ease in finding it and how relatively consistent it can be. Sure, seeing a legend is probably going to be more memorable than checking out an up-and-comer at a bar, but you’re going to laugh either way. And I’ve laughed just as hard in smoky little rooms with a dozen people as I have at arenas packed to the rafters.

With that in mind, here’s a trio of stand-up options for this weekend—one for every price point, and all of them are guaranteed to give you a good night.

For those with some cash to spend, you’ve got to spend it on seeing one of the all-time greats this weekend. Jerry Seinfeld is at the Benedum Center on Saturday for two shows. Comedy may lose a bit of raucousness in a large, refined hall like the Benedum, but the big-show atmosphere (and collective power of 2,000 laughing Pittsburghers) more than makes up for it.

Get dinner beforehand at Six Penn or Bravo Franco, then head over to the Benedum in time to experience the venue’s bizarre, new fan-friendly beer service: served in a Kennywood-style souvenir cup that you can take into the show. Thoughtful—but who drinks beer through a straw?

And, of course, nothing needs to be said to entice you to check out Seinfeld in person; he may go down as the greatest comic of the last several generations. In the years since "Seinfeld" has gone off the air, he’s written all-new material, so don’t expect to get this stuff on TBS reruns. Jerry Seinfeld at the Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., downtown. Sat., 7 and 9:30 p.m. $49.75-$79.75. Info: 412/456-6666, pgharts.org.

DONNELL RAWLINGS AT THE PITTSBURGH IMPROV, WATERFRONT: You can usually have a more casual experience at the Pittsburgh Improv. The lineup of touring comics is reliable and crowd-pleasing, and the classic comedy-club setup makes for an intimate, enjoyable experience. Normally I’d advise against eating during comedy shows—you don’t want a joke to hit you just as you’ve shoved a mouthful of sandwich past your teeth, thus creating the opportunity for a spitting guffaw—but the appetizers here are more than worth it, especially the loaded nachos.

This weekend belongs to Donnell Rawlings, best known for his time as a featured performer on "Chappelle’s Show." Even with a long weekend full of shows, a number of these are likely to sell out, so get your tickets while you still can. Donnell Rawlings at the Pittsburgh Improv, 166 E. Bridge St., Waterfront. Thurs., 8 p.m.; Friday, 8 and 10 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 9 p.m. $20. Info: 412/462-5233, improv.com.

Finally, one of the strongest local lineups around will take the stage this weekend, but it’s a bit of a drive. Improv regular Aaron Kleiber hosts a show also featuring DVE Morning Show regular Mike Wysocki and seasoned 'Burghers Danny Palumbo and Mitch Mekulsia at Joey’s in Hartsville, Pa., a little less than two hours from downtown in the direction of Meadville.

Kleiber, who you’ve seen in commercials for the likes of Highmark and the Pittsburgh Power as of late, is one of the most likable acts on the local scene, with a loud, energetic style that’s irresistibly funny. If you’re anywhere to the north of town or you feel like a quick road trip, this is a great opportunity to see the best these four have to offer for a song. Aaron Kleiber, Mike Wysocki, Danny Palumbo and Mitch Mekulsia at Joey’s Hartstown Tavern, 7396 Liberty St., Hartstown, Pa. $10. Tickets: 814/382-6966.

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