ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Regular cable grazers see so much comedy up and down the channels it sometimes seems to blur together -- and that's true even in Baltimore, where the all-laughs Comedy Channel has yet to be carried by any local cable system.
It's worth noting, therefore, when something is fresh and funny, such as the latest edition of HBO's "One Night Stand" series tomorrow (at 10 p.m., with multiple repeats in April). Media Monitor laughed so hard viewing the preview tape that the dog started barking.
The featured act is The Higgins Boys & Gruber (who really are brothers Dave and Steve Higgins and partner Dave Allen). And their comedy is less a stand-up act than a series of Vaudeville-style blackout sketches, some of which are of a decidedly adult nature, such as a laboratory survey of sexual habits.
Media Monitor's favorite is a coffee house bit with a beatnik singer (Allen) whose favorite poets are "T.S. Eliot, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera." And he performs his personal opus, "The Love Song of J. Fred Flintstone."
The trio has a regular show on The Comedy Channel, which is at least one reason to wish local cable operators would add the service soon.
* CNN reporter Peter Arnett, whose Baghdad reporting caused controversy during the Persian Gulf war, got a pretty warm reception yesterday from the audience on "Donahue." And he said most people he has met since his return to the United States have expressed support for his work.
Arnett also showed class in not responding too directly to the slams against him from Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, noting correctly that the issue worth debate is not personal. Rather, it is whether in wartime the American public wants to hear many reports of what's going on or few that are government controlled.
He also won applause for agreeing that coalition commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf deserves a fifth star because "he's a great man."
* A number of regional gospel groups are once again featured in Maryland Public Television's sixth annual production of "Joyful Gospel," airing at 10 tonight (channels 22 and 67). Included are the Male Chorus of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Cassandra Carpenter, Andrew Rowe and the D.C. Choral Ensemble, The New Generation Gospel Singers, The Bells of Joy and the Howard University Gospel Choir.
* WBAL-Channel 11 says its phones have been extraordinarily busy with viewers wanting to know when they can tape the "Welcome Home (Back From the Desert Sands)" video produced by the station, Sheffield Studios and some 50 local performers. Take note: The next time it is scheduled to air in its entirety is at the close of Sunday's 11 p.m. newscast.