Laughter: The Best Medicine?

This Thursday, four comedians descend from heaven to tickle Portland's f-bone. If you're depressed because your girlfriend broke your leg with a crowbar or your new business burned to the ground, don't fret. That's just the way the season works: a lot of funny catastrophes are happening, but nobody can see the humor in the horror through their wintery haze. Everybody is having a crisis this time of year; so why not laugh it off?

Margaret Cho's State of Emergency is here. Cho is many things to many people: a crusader for the disenfranchised; the gay man's Jesus; and a dynamo in the sac...the laugh sac. God, I slay me. Cho does hilarious impressions of her trogolodytic ex-boyfriends, her uber Korean mom, and the Bush regime. She has a finesse that allows her to address serious social and political issues without being preachy. Her comedic insight has reached an inspiring level of cultural significance, and shows no signs of fizzling out any time soon. So come and be a part of it. If laughter is the best medicine, seeing Margaret Cho is like railing four valiums and guzzling a bottle of Nyquil in the foyer of the White House. I'm lovin' it! (Schnitzer 1037 SW Broadway, 274-6564, Thursday, 8 pm, $35-45)

Not feeling particularly disenfranchised? Just across town, 12 measly dollars treats you to an equally hilarious show: The Comedians of Comedy featuring Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford. Oswalt wrote for Mad TV and appeared on the unstoppably outrageous prank-call puppet show Crank Yankers, as well as the sitcom King of Queens. Posehn, the rowdy rock-n-roll uncle you never had, has appeared on Just Shoot Me, Crank Yankers, and Mr. Show. Very funny. Bamford was voted by Comedy Central viewers as one of their Top Ten Favorite Comics. She also loves pugs, and therefore will be very welcome in this city. These are some of the funniest shows on television, in case you were wondering, and all these comedians deserve infinite praise and endless, uncontrollable laughter. EVAN JAMES

Dante's, 1 SW 3rd, 226-6630, Thursday, 8:30 pm, $12

Circus & County Fair

Last week a slinky and naked young woman shackled her hands and feet and curled up on the pavement downtown like a wounded animal. A member of PETA, she was there to protest treatment of circus animals. About three years ago, when the circus passed through town, PETA held a similar protest when a voluptuous woman body- painted herself with black and orange stripes, and locked herself into a small cage. Though incredibly arousing, I'm not sure that was their intent. For me at least, PETA's protests have backfired. Sure, I'm against animal cruelty--but if the circuses stopped coming to town, then there would be no sexy sideshows from PETA!

This week, the maligned Ringling Bros. pulls into Portland. For four days, the Rose Garden will be transformed into a big top, with elephants prancing on their hind feet and tigers threatening to Siegfried and Roy their trainers!

Or you can get your "animals in cages" fix via the Multnomah County Fair. This year's fair comes complete with cows, chickens, barnyard animals, a bucking bronco ride, and the fabled "pig in a Ford" race, where competitors must crank up an old Model T Ford and chase down a greased pig. Yee-Haw! PB

Ringling Bros. Circus: Rose Garden, 224-4400, Thurs, 7:30 pm; Fri 3:30, 7:30; Sat 11 am, 3:30, 7:30; Sun 1, 5, $11-$70

Multnomah County Fair: Portland Meadows, Wed, Sept 29-Oct 3, 10 am-8 pm, Adults $3, Children $2, kids under 12 free.

Iron Artist Brings the Heat

The marvelous School and Community Reuse Action Project (SCRAP) pushes their junk creative recycling program to the limit this weekend with Iron Artist, the annual sculpture competition modeled after Iron Chef. Like that illustrious television show, Iron Artist features contestants creating on-the-spot masterpieces from pre-selected materials--only the materials here aren't veal cutlets and minced garlic, but discarded 2x4s, random pieces of plumbing, and good old-fashioned wire. This is arts and crafts... to the EXTREME! 12 teams of artists will be given three hours to create their sculptures using drills, hammers, saws, and other tools, and their magnificent creations will then be judged by the likes of Daria O'Neill, Darcelle, and the Mercury's own Phil Busse. Meanwhile, you get to watch the proceedings while also playing wacky carnival games made from reused materials and rocking out to bands like March Fourth and The Divided. And then--just to make sure your head EXPLODES with amazing fun--there will be a big ol' post-contest dance party, at which the sculptures will be auctioned off, awards will be distributed, and you will shake your groove thang amidst the gentle beauty of a junkyard paradise. Phew. JWS

Disjecta, 116 NE Russell, Saturday 3:30-10 pm, contest ends at 7 pm, $5-20 sliding scale