Comic Curve High school may not be amusing while you're in it, but it gets funnier the further away from it you get. Nervous Laughter, a band of comedians from the late experimental club Holy City Zoo, pounce on the wealth of material within that great American institution, the high school assembly, in their new show Assembly North Gym. As Principal McElroy, Ron Lynch guides viewers through a maze of faculty members, students, and guest speakers. If that doesn't break you up, try the final round of the San Francisco International Stand-Up Comedy Competition, hosted by Will Durst. Five comedians compete for the title in 20-minute sets; they ought to be funny, since they were selected from 467 hopefuls and made it through three previous rounds in the pursuit of celebrity and a $10,000 grand prize. Assembly North Gym runs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. (through October 23) at the Marsh, 1026 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 641-0235. The Comedy Showcase final begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $20-50; call 392-4400.
New Life for the Dead Memories of the dearly departed are revived locally in anticipation of November's Day of the Dead, when the dead are treated to bouquets of marigolds and paper flowers, and pan de muerto. The Mexican Museum and Galeria de la Raza will offer holiday-related exhibits and events this month. "Desde Lejos Vienen/They Come From Afar," three altars made by community groups and focusing on ancestors, spiritual guides, and martyrs, opens at noon at the Mexican Museum, Bldg. D, Fort Mason Center, S.F. Admission is free-$3; call 441-0404. Origines/Origins, a collection of altars linked by the theme of immigration, opens Tuesday at Galeria de la Raza, 2857 24th St., S.F. Admission is free; call 826-8009.
Imagine There's a Pencil Two portfolios of handwritten lyrics are among the attractions at an exhibit of work by the late John Lennon. More than 80 serigraphs, signed lithographs, and original drawings by the former Beatle, including the "Bag One" lithographs from the permanent collection at the New York MOMA, will also be displayed at this weekend-only show. The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. at Hotel Monaco, 501 Geary, S.F. Admission is free; call 292-0100.
Care Bear Fed up with psychics, nutritionists, doctors, and an Elvis-impersonating acupuncturist, a woman with a debilitating illness turns to history and mythology for healing in Like a Mother Bear. Out on the Alaskan tundra, the woman meets a grizzly bear mother who offers advice on survival. In this one-woman show, writer/performer Helen Stoltzfus draws on Sioux, Siberian, and Greek cultural traditions that present bears as symbols of renewal and transformation, and weaves in the modern practice of giving teddy bears to disaster victims. The show opens with a preview at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 17) at a Traveling Jewish Theater, 2800 Mariposa, S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 399-1809.
Dance Dance Dance Everyone's doing it this week, starting with the Dancer's Group/Footwork festival Dedication Project, which opens with "Thinking of You," a dance-video homage to noted Bay Area dancers artists whose deaths from AIDS have left a void in the community, and which continues with a tribute to the late teacher Ed Mock, and the Visceral Video Festival, a collection of performances from around the world. The first fall season of the Bay Area Dance Series also opens this week, with flamenco artist La Tania. Enrico Labayen and the LAB., Projekt Group offer a multimedia piece set to Gaelic mouth music and a dance-theater piece inspired by Hermann Hesse on the progression of human life. And the Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival showcases work by Dance Brigade, Fat Chance Belly Dance, the Bongo Brothers, and several solo performers in two separate programs. The Dedication Project begins at 6 and 8 p.m. at Dancer's Group/Footwork, 3221 22nd St., S.F. Admission is free; call 824-5044. The Bay Area Dance Series opens 7:30 p.m. (and continues through Oct. 26) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, S.F. Admission is $14-23; call 392-4400. Mouth to Mouth begins at 8 p.m. (and continues through Oct. 13) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Admission is $18.50-25; call 621-7797. The Gay and Lesbian Dance Festival begins at 8:30 p.m. Friday (and continues through Oct. 19) at Brady Street Dance Center, 60 Brady, S.F. Admission is $13.50-15; call 558-9355.
Can You Dig It? Bay Area service agencies like Project Open Hand and the San Francisco Food Bank have found an ally in another nonprofit: Amphion (named for the figure from Greek myth whose music charmed stones into forming themselves into the walls of Thebes) raises money by enlisting bands for benefit concerts, CDs, and special events. Now Amphion tends to its own finances with "Boogie on the Bay," a cruise around the San Francisco Bay with live music by acid-jazz combo Dig. Proceeds will help cover Amphion's operating costs. The cruise begins at 9 p.m. at Pier 39, S.F. Admission is $25; call 885-5982.
Feeling Like Natural Women Barriers between nature and culture break down at "Refiguring Nature: Women in the Landscape," a women's group photography show. Through digitally altered panoramic landscapes and platinum palladium prints, each of the 14 artists expands on earlier work (like Anne Brigman's nude self-portraits in the wilderness), offering a personal interpretation of human connection to the landscape. The exhibit opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m. at SF Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F. Admission is free; call 764-1001.
Sankai Juku Knows Butoh The payoff is longer in coming than many Americans are used to, but with Japanese butoh troupe Sankai Juku, it does come. Butoh, a precise and uncluttered kind of theatrical dance that seems to inhabit a realm beyond both genres, evolved as a post-war cultural reaction against Western movement and Kabuki excess. Sankai Juku offers a visually rich new work, Yuragi (In a Space of Perpetual Motion), which explores movement in nature and the body's duet with gravity. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also on Saturday) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft and Telegraph, Berkeley. Admission is $20-36; call (510) 642-9988.
Climb Every Mountain The Greenbelt Alliance wants ambulatory types, from weekend walkers to hard-core climbing enthusiasts, to take a hike for "Peak Experience," a fund-raiser for the Greenbelt Alliance's drive to protect open spaces. Experienced naturalists will lead hikes of varying degrees of difficulty at various Bay Area locations, from the easy four-mile trek on Brushy Peak to the spirit-crushing ascent up Mt. Diablo. Climbs begin at various times, and hikers are asked to contribute at least $20; call (800) 543-GREE to register.
Point of Many Returns The Potrero Hill Festival may have an old-fashioned appeal, but the view from that section of the city usually presents something new. The festival begins with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast and continues throughout the day with entertainment by groups like the Soul Fire Band and the Girls Club Dancers. Motorized cable cars offer neighborhood tours and Shagtime Dance Instruction gives swing dance lessons. Handmade crafts and homemade food complete the picture. The breakfast runs 8:30-11 a.m. at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 De Haro, S.F. Admission is $5. Regular events begin at 11 a.m. at the Daniel Webster schoolyard, Missouri and 20th St., S.F. Admission is free; call 826-8080.
Making Sense of Chaos The deconstruction of the Central Freeway may be a pain in the chassis to most locals, but Hayes Valley dwellers are embracing it, and the tearing down of neighborhood public housing as well, with the "Demolition Days Sidewalk Sale." Residents will be holding yard sales in front of their homes, and browsers will have the chance to hear from community leaders and peruse drawings of redesigned parks, new housing developments, and plans for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center. Events begin at 9 a.m. in Hayes Valley, roughly bounded by Octavia, Buchanan, Oak, and Hermann streets, S.F. Admission is free; call 431-8102.
We Go Polo History may tell us where Marco Polo went, but what was he thinking during his travels? "I'd rather be Kolo dancing," perhaps? The Marco Polo Festival celebrates the explorer's Eastern European roots with performing arts and traditional foods from his Croatian home base, and from countries on his route. The Slavonian Traveling Band and the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Center Dancers are among the scheduled performers. The festival begins with Kolo dance workshops at 2 p.m.; performances begin at 4 p.m. at the Slavonic Cultural Center, 60 Onondaga, S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 586-0934.
Tickle a Turntable Consider this an early Christmas shopping omen: Thousands of donated used records -- mostly classical, but also including pop, rock, jazz, and folk -- will be sold for $1-2 a pop at the Giant LP Sale, a benefit for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music scholarship fund. The sale begins at 10:30 a.m. at the conservatory's Music Rack, 1201 Ortega, S.F. Admission is free; call 759-3440.
Greasy Good Times Get all your white trash needs met at Greaseball '96, a daylong rockabilly barbecue and block party. National music acts the Guanabatz, the Jitters, Chrome Addicts, and the Hooligans, among many others, will be parked alongside the hot rods and customized cars, as on-site barbers and tattooists spruce folks up. The fun begins at noon at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 263-6884.
Drink It In Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeno Band and Culture Clash join the cast of musicians, comedians, and poets slated to perform at Drink Cultura, a benefit and tribute to Jose Antonio Burciaga, an influential Chicano author/artist stricken with cancer. Proceeds will benefit the Burciaga Trust for seriously ill Latino artists. The event begins at 8 p.m. at Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St., S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 826-8009.
Legacy on Loan The rare jades, textiles, ceramics, paintings, and lacquers of "Splendors of Imperial China: Treasures From the National Palace Museum, Taipei" have finally come west, but it's not the first time these pieces have traveled. The nearly 350 items, spanning over 4,000 years of Chinese history, were passed among dynasties from the Northern Sung period (960-1127) to the last emperor from the Forbidden City in 1924, after which they were carefully smuggled across the country during wartime to avoid theft. Highlights include life-size imperial portraits and miniature treasure boxes. The exhibit opens 10 a.m. (the exhibit's only Monday showing) at the Asian Art Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$9.50; call 776-1999.
Penny Wise For a band that proudly claims to have no musical schooling save for jam sessions in a garage, the Penny Dreadfuls have landed gigs with some fairly practiced hands: Afghan Whigs, Morphine, and fellow Angelenos Redd Kross. For the record, the Dreadfuls are tired of being compared to other female foursomes like L7, with whom they share little musical ground; their eponymous Restless Records release has instead the shimmery pop sheen and sing-songy lyrics reminiscent of (Don't say it! Don't say the Bangles!) other modern-rock hit-makers. Fur opens, Three Mile Pilot headlines, at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F. Admission is $5; call 621-4455.