ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* There is humor that is universal, and then there is humor that is apparently best appreciated from a particular point of view that others cannot share. Whoopi Goldberg manages to offer both kinds in her latest cable special, "HBO Comedy Hour: Chez Whoopi," which premieres at 10:30 p.m. tomorrow on the premium service.
The show was taped at the Comedy Act Theater in Los Angeles, which HBO identifies as the area's only all-black comedy outlet -- and the locale is important to the tone of the show.
The predominantly black audience laughs it up at a significant level of racially barbed humor, much of it self-deprecating, yet viewers who are of other races might find the material uncomfortable. (The same is true, of course, about the material of other heavily ethnic comics, such as Jackie Mason and Paul Rodriquez.)
For instance, both Goldberg and comic Jedda Jones do extended and somewhat vulgar bits on the posterior problems of black women. Jones also expands the act to weight problems, claiming she personally used voodoo to make Oprah Winfrey heavy again, telling her, "you ain't gonna be rich and skinny, too."
And Jones' funniest bit has to do with the problems of getting credit, in which she interprets, in unmistakably racial terms, what creditors really mean by their overly polite dunning or turn-down letters.
Comedian Chris Thomas is the brightest of the three stand-ups, with pretty good, more universal impersonations of Jesse Jackson, Mike Tyson, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby and Ted Koppel.
And the rhythmic singing group Rockapella contributes some nice gospel-based music, after which Goldberg offers a cute reaction to the fact that the singers are all white: "If you teach them, they can learn."
* There has been celebration in recent years that America's seven great lakes have bounced back from decades of pollution, but actor/host James Earl Jones warns "it seems we celebrated too soon," in a sobering new "World of Audubon" special Sunday on the TBS cable service.
"Great Lakes, Bitter Legacy" (at 10 p.m.) makes the case that heavy metals and other pollutants have settled into the bottoms of the lakes, affecting not only the food chain of the area's wildlife but perhaps retarding the learning abilities of human children.
* That was a cute slip of the tongue made by Stu Kerr Wednesday night during a pledge break on Maryland Public Television. At one point he asked viewers to contribute to "MTV."
Cable's rock video service, of course, does not do pledge drives. And even if it did, the donors to MPT might not be the best target audience.