I hope for your sake that you were watching the Fox network in the fall of 1992, because if you were you no doubt caught a little blink-and-you've-missed-it program that was funnier than any TV sketch-comedy show before or since. Surprisingly, though it centered around a guy soon to become a hot movie star, The Ben Stiller Show came and went in months. But while it was here, the absurd series hysterically lampooned cultural landmarks from Charles Manson to COPS, and introduced a bunch of talented young comics, including a bony, awkward, frizzle-haired freakazoid named Andy Dick.
After the show's cancellation in 1993 -- we must assume that Fox execs didn't catch Dick in "Woody Allen's Bride of Frankenstein" -- Dick starred in a sitcom (the underrated NewsRadio), did voice-over work (The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, King of the Hill), and provided memorable movie cameos and characters (who could forget his turn as "Olga the Masseuse" in Zoolander?). But nothing brought Dick quite as much fame as his loopy public behavior, including the 1999 drunken driving incident that landed him in jail for possession of marijuana and cocaine.
Having recovered his mojo with the wildly popular MTV series The Andy Dick Show, a regular role on ABC's Less Than Perfect, and a brand-new reality series, The Assistant, Dick's back on the road with his off-kilter comedy stylings. His San Francisco jaunt begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday (and runs through Sunday) at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $20-25; call 928-4320 or visit www.cobbscomedyclub.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Punk and funk, together again! Not since the members of Primus (and its ilk) bounced their mohawks to the beat have pissed-off youth been allowed to dance like this. The band !!! (pronounced "pow pow pow" or "chick chick chick" or whatever you think is funny) is a conglomeration of former experimental-music types, train-hoppers, and shit-disturbers (the name is less a bratty trick to confuse people than it is an expression of sheer music-fueled hyperactivity). The septet's latest album, Louden Up Now, boasts 1970s disco spice, plenty of bass, and exhortations to take your pants off. Frausdots and Deerhoof open at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $15; call 885-0750 or visit www.musichallsf.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Diva, complete with symphony
Born Kathryn Dawn Lang, the singer now known as k.d. langcondensed and lowercased her name in honor of her favorite poet, e.e. cummings. (Any fan of cummings is probably worth your attention, regardless.) And in her upcoming concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, she pays tribute to several other U.S. poets, including Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young, by performing interpretations of their songs, as well as crooning some of her own beloved standards.
Lang propelled herself to stardom via a velvety, commanding voice, with which she can belt out country, torch, and rock; her notoriously seductive stage presence hasn't hurt, either. Catch the woman who got a shave from Cindy Crawford at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Tickets are $25-90; call 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org.
-- Brock Keeling
Smorgasbord o' theater
Feeling lazy? Or broke? We hope not, but if you are (or if you're simply a theater buff), your prayers are answered at the San Francisco Theater Festival. Described in its press materials as a "theater tasting," the free event is set up so that even if you fall off a bus near Third and Mission streets and just lie there, you'll still be entertained all day. (Please don't do that, though.)
More than 50 companies ranging from tiny to huge have prepared scenes from their current productions, snippets of past performances, and entirely new stuff, and they'll all be crammed into the downtown green space of Yerba Buena Gardens and its surrounding indoor venues. All you have to do is sit on the lawn and maybe bring a picnic, starting at 10 a.m. today (and again Aug. 1) at 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 978-2787 or visit www.sftheaterfestival.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Strip the Mall
Unstoppable intellectual Saul Landau is a filmmaker, scholar, and political commentator whose work is reliably smart. He's also a writer, and tonight he reads from his new collection of essays, The Business of America, an anti-consumerist treatise with a twist: hope. People can and do resist swapping their voter registration cards for credit cards, Landau points out. While the book acknowledges that yes, our president told us shopping was patriotism, it also reminds readers about increasingly informed protests and other responses to rampant commercialism from around the world. The reading begins at 7:30 p.m. at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser