Unfair and Unbalanced 

It's ... the Big Fat Year-End Kiss-Off Comedy Show XI.

Regardless of spiritual beliefs, something all cultures share is the desire for closure as one calendar cycle winds down and another revs up. Bidding the old year goodbye calls for joyful noise, laughter, and cheer or, failing that, ridicule and jeers. 2003 was observed by much of the world as the Year of the Goat, and felt by many of the rest of us like the Year of the Scapegoat. Those who fall into the latter camp should note Will Durst's observation that just as in 1991, "Bush is president, the economy sucks, and we're at war with Iraq." Plus we're being led by "a president unable to pronounce our governor's name and a governor unable to pronounce our state's name." Durst and some funny friends will examine the state of the state of "Colliephonia" and other timely topics hitting close to home in their eleventh annual Big Fat Year-End Kiss-Off Comedy Show. Leave it to these local professionals to distill the fruits of a bitter harvest into a vintage brouhaha that'll knock you on your ass laughing.

Durst, host of PBS programs The Durst Amendment and Livelyhood, writes a syndicated political humor column and performs stand-up comedy around the world. His wife Debi and her stage partner Michael Bossier, Pacifica natives billed as Deb and Mike, are improv veterans proud to say their act has outlasted such duos as Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, and David and Liza. Pittsburg native Johnny Steele, familiar to fans of LIVE-105 and Bay TV's The Show, will lend his restless energy, quick wit, impersonations of dictators, and ingenuity with budget-conscious costumes and props. Steven Kravitz, a former Nash Bridges and Black Scorpion cast regular whose theater training bears a distinct French flavor with more than a dash of mime, rounds out this comedic dysfunctional family as its enfant terrible. This traveling troupe of jesters presents stand-up, sketches, and satirical spontaneity characterizing what made the past year memorable. Or, as Debi describes their yearly ritual: "We sprinkle our chuckle pellets from hamlet to hamlet in an effort to enlighten as well as entertain."

Durst's company of comedians enjoys the alternative of playing "comedy geared for people who read or know someone who does" in theaters, as opposed to nightclubs full of raucous holiday crowds. Dispensing with the need to dumb down material, Bossier agrees with the Express staff that "Gary Coleman was just as qualified as Arnold Schwarzenegger" to be the Golden State governor. But he was holding out for Emmanuel "Webster" Lewis. No irony will be lost when Steele claims it's not true that we haven't accomplished anything in Iraq, because "nearly all of Bush's major campaign contributors have been awarded contracts." And Will can go after certain "self-righteous conservative demagogues who empathize with the horrors of drug addiction after they're busted."

Shows are subject to the unpredictable X-factor, ranging from reactions to late-breaking news (expect a Saddam Hussein aside) to appearances by surprise guests. East Bay venues, dates, and ticket info lines are: Friday at the Amador Theatre, Pleasanton, 925-931-3444; Saturday at the Hofmann Theatre, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469; and Sunday at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley, 925-798-1300.

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