Merry Critical Mass! It's holiday peak time again, that silly season between "Bah Humbug" and "Auld Lang Syne," when Will Durst and Company present a ritual of rants and raves, their annual year-end review revue. In their stand-up and sketches showing the door to 2004, they won't just sing the blue state blues lamenting this ho-ho-horrible year: they intend to exorcise election demons (how else to explain Durst's assertion that "Bush is like if Reagan and Quayle had a kid"?). Join them as they say so long to the Year of the Monkey, slated to swing down in history as the year Curious George made a monkey of 48 percent of the electorate. With luck, their monkeyshines may provide a monkey wrench to help undo some of that monkey business. Durst is walking proof that "four more years of Bush mean full employment for comedians." He's compiling his newspaper essays for a forthcoming book, Raging Moderate, and is shooting a pilot, Party Tunes, for CNN, a politically oriented comedy-variety-news hybrid that combines monologues, panel discussions, man-in-the-street segments, and editorial cartoons.
Taking pains to "mock, scoff, and taunt, but with taste" at Durst's twelfth Big Fat Year-End Kiss-Off Comedy Show will round up the usual suspects: wife Debi Durst and Michael Bossier, aka Deb and Mike, and Bob Dylan look-alike Steven Kravitz. Jim Short, winner of the 29th annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition, and featured on Comedy Central's animated series Shorties Watching Shorties, makes his Durstco debut to share his unique Australian/Texan/San Franciscan viewpoint. Look for the players to examine the Five Stages of Democratic Grief and the Top 10 news stories, selected as much for their comedy quotient as for their newsworthiness.
And if the audience is very good, there may be appearances by surprise guests. East Bay venue dates, showtimes, and ticket info lines are: Sunday, 7 p.m. at the Amador Theater, Pleasanton, 925-931-3444; Monday, 8 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley, 925-798-1300; and Thursday, December 30, 8 p.m. at the Hofmann Theatre, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469. For info on other Bay Area venues, call 415-820-9628 or visit WillDurst.com -- Pat Katzmann
Want to celebrate Christmas with a serene winter afternoon concert of Indian classical music, and then sit back and enjoy a vegetarian dinner of cuisine from India and all around the world? If so, make your reservation for the free Badarikashrama Christmas Dinner & Concert, Saturday at 3 p.m. at San Leandro's Badarikashrama Hindu spiritual and cultural center, 15602 Maubert Ave. The entertainment: a veena(seven-stringed instrument) concert by Carnatic (South Indian) musician Srikanth Chary, accompanied by Akhilesh Sista, also on veena, and Sriram Brahmanandam on mridagam(drum), followed by Illora Jha and her North Indian vocals. After that, sing-along Christmas carols and dinner. Best of all, no one is ever turned away. Reserve now by calling Mangala at 510-278-2444. Badarikashrama.org -- Kelly Vance
Oh, my. We could really go to town on the title of Opera Piccola's original, interactive African folktale opera, Stolen Aroma. But since it's honoring the first night of Kwanzaa -- and one of the seven basic principles honored during the holiday is nia, or purpose toward building and developing the national community -- we'll skip the fart jokes. The free performance, which combines African, Arabic, and jazz music, starts at 2 p.m. and will be followed by original Kwanzaa songs by Williams and McKennie at 3. Habitot Children's Museum, 2065 Kittredge Street in downtown Berkeley. For more information: Habitot.org or 510-647-1111. -- Stefanie Kalem
The weekly Word Beat reading series at the Mediterraneum Caffé bills itself as "where the rhythm & rhyme of words intertwine," but this week it may be better described as where the drop of the pins and the whispers of "sshhh!" intertwine. In addition to the usual open mic and contributions by hosts Debra Grace Khattab, David Gollub, and Jeremy Morris Siegel, this week is a Quiet Night with Allen and Ann Cohen. Not a silent night, mind you -- there's still a microphone available. 2475 Telegraph Ave. (near Dwight Way), Berkeley. The free event begins at 7 p.m.; visit Angelfire.com/poetry/wordbeat for more details. -- Stefanie Kalem