There was a joke making the rounds that after Obama took office, comedian Johnny Steele would be out of a job. After all, he'd spent the last eight years of his life slinging mud at George Bush. How fruitful could a New Deal-style Democrat really be? But Steele takes exception to that. In fact, he says, having an African American in the White House has made the crazies come out in droves, flapping birth certificates or confusing the words "public option" with "socialist takeover." "The militia crowd is gonna come out of the woodwork," Steele insisted. Plus, he added, there's always Sarah Palin — better known to left-wing comedians as the gift who keeps on giving. "She made Bush seem like an intellectual," said Steele.
Broach the subject of Palin, and Steele could go on ad nauseam. In reality, though, he's imaginative enough to not need such easy pickings. Anyway, there are enough whack jobs in the news these days to fill a 45-minute set: governors with extramarital affairs, scions of ancient political dynasties, makers of mass-transit systems that don't work, and writers of cloying autobiographies. And that's not to mention the billionaire golfer who took a leave of absence. Next week, Johnny Steele will embark on the annual Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show with longtime friend Will Durst, fellow satirists Jim Short, Debi Durst, Michael Bossier, and Steve Kravitz, plus some young blood — in the form of a twenty-something comic named Arthur Gaus.
They'll clock about seven hundred miles over the week, going as far south as the Santa Cruz mountains and as far north as Sebastopol. But for the most part, they'll stick to venues in the Bay Area, where audience members won't scratch their heads when Steele talks about Bay Bridge S-curve or compares a Muni bus to the Tower of Terror at Disneyland. On Monday, December 28, the group will descend on Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College Ave., Berkeley), where Steele will contend with a room full of "hiss-and-boo-type liberals." From there it's on to a New Year's Eve performance at Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley (142 Throckmorton Ave.) That place generally gets the best show, since it caps off with music by Austin do Lone, Lorin Rowan, Jimmy Dillon, and Dick Bright. All performances will feature sketches, voiceovers, fake commercials, and some straight-ahead stand-up. Plus some jabs at the old rogues. East Bay shows are Saturday, December 26, 8 p.m. at Dean Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, LesherArtsCenter.org), Sunday, December 27, 7 p.m. at the Bankhead Theatre (24000 First St., Livermore, BankheadTheatre.org), and Monday, December 28, 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan (JuliaMorgan.org). $15-$22.