Feel like you’re translating Swahili while scrolling through a bar’s ginormous draft list? Join the ranks of Gotham’s beer cognoscenti during Tuesday Tastings at Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 E 7th St between Second and Third Aves; 212-982-3006, jimmysno43.com; Tue 7:30pm; $10). Suds specialists from local breweries will walk you through six thematically chosen pours—recent focuses have ranged from fancy Dutch beers to dark ciders—and permanently eliminate “Um, a Miller Lite” from your nightlife vocabulary. Wanna-be oenophiles can stop by happy hour at Corkbuzz Wine Studio (13 E 13th St between Fifth Ave and University Pl; 646-873-6071, corkbuzz.com; Mon, Fri 5–6pm; $15). Test your palate with a flight of three wines, which comes with a handy tasting grid for identifying a vino’s variety, year and region.
Ranting about Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t exactly count as a literary discussion. Trade ideas with erudite bibliophiles during WORD’s Classics Book Group (126 Franklin St at Milton St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 718-383-0096, wordbrooklyn.com; second Saturday of the month at noon; free), which will tackle novellas this year. (Bonus: Members often bring beer and snacks.) Across the river, McNally Jackson Books’ International Literature gathering (52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts; 212-274-1160, mcnallyjackson.com; first Monday of the month at 7pm; free) covers a specific region’s tomes for several sessions.
Everyone thinks they’re funny (we know—we’re inarguably hilarious), but those looking to really put their comedic chops to the test should sign up for Improv 101 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center (145 W 30th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 212-929-8107, ucbtrainingcenter.com; times vary; eight three-hour classes $400–$475), which culminates in a live show, typically held at the UCB Theatre or UCBeast. Be warned, though: These classes often sell out faster than you can say “Amy Poehler”—so keep an eye on the UCBTC’s message board on Sunday and Tuesday nights for course announcements. If that sounds like too much of a commitment (or you’re cheap), try Magnet Theater’s Free Intro to Improv class (254 W 29th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-244-2400, magnettheater.com; times vary; free), a gratis 90-minute workshop that familiarizes newbies with partner and group scenes.
Stay in the loop
Make a splash at your next shindig by showing off the brainy talking points you picked up at The Big Story (newyorker.com/magazine/bigstory; locations and times vary; free), a monthly chat with New Yorker scribes and experts, often pegged to a recent piece in the mag. (Think Occupy Wall Street, NYC’s hurricane preparation or Republican election strategies.) The next event will be announced on January 14 online; nab free tix starting at noon on January 16. Pepper your conversation with some pop-culture factoids (and I-was-there bragging rights) by checking out TimesTalks at the TimesCenter (242 W 41st St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-556-4300, thetimescenter.com; times and prices vary), where entertainers such as Portlandia’s Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (Jan 28 at 6:30pm; $35) engage in sparkling conversation with Times reporters.
Become a cineaste
Eradicate your big-screen bafflement by nabbing an Auteur membership at IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave at 3rd St; 212-924-7771, ifccenter.com; $175). In addition to $5 off tickets and complimentary popcorn, benefit from gratis admission to the Weekend Classics series, which programs essentials by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa, midnight movies and previews. With tickets reduced to seven bones, BAM Cinema Club’s Movie Buff I membership (30 Lafayette Ave between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-636-4100, bam.org; $70) pays for itself if you catch 14 flicks per year. But that’s not the only perk—you’ll also get early-ticket access to Q&As with filmmakers (past guests have included Noah Baumbach and Jim Jarmusch ) and exclusive screenings.