By Cara Jepsen

25 FRIDAY Last December local actor/improviser Kathleen Puls was typing away in a comedy chat room about the death of Madeline Kahn–“one of our beloved comedic women icons”–when she and NYC improviser Susan Santaniello hit on the idea of putting together a national women’s comedy festival. This weekend’s Funny Women Fest 2000 is a mix of classes, panel discussions, and performances that include talent from 20 states. Tonight’s panel discussion is about, of course, women in comedy. It starts at 6:15; participants include Shaun Landry of Oui Be Negroes, Susan Gaspar of the Free Associates, Mary Scruggs and Anne Libera of Second City, and others. It’s $10. It’ll be followed at 8 with performances by Cheryl King, Wymprov!, Hilary Chaplain, 3 Months to Live, ImprovAsylum, Red, and the Flying Queens. Admission is $15; $20 gets you into both the discussion and performances. Events run through the weekend at the Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western. Call 312-316-4574 for more.

26 SATURDAY The Illinois Gay Rodeo Association’s annual event is distinguished from run-of-the-mill rodeos by a trio of “camp events”–steer decorating (in which a team must tie a ribbon on a steer’s tail), goat dressing (in which a team dresses a goat in briefs) and the “wild drag race” (in which a participant dressed in drag tries to ride a bucking steer). There’s also the requisite pole bending, bull riding, chute dogging, barrel racing, and calf roping. It’s today and tomorrow from noon to 6 (with country-and-western dancing from 1 to 6) at Sundown Stables, 22230 S. Cottage Grove in Steger. The awards ceremony takes place tomorrow night from 8 to 9:30 at the Days Inn, 17356 S. Torrence in Lansing. Admission is $15, or $25 for a weekend pass, and benefits local charities (312-618-9063).

“Humanlike” puppets representing different nationalities and ethnicities form the centerpiece of Association House’s annual Puppet Parade. The figures will start the parade wearing capes, but at some point along the route, the makers–young people from West Town–will pull the garments off to reveal the whole puppet. “This symbolizes the kids’ being able to feel comfortable with themselves,” says a spokesperson. The parade starts at 12:30 at 1425 N. Damen and ends at Association House’s community center, 2150 W. North, where it’ll be followed by a community picnic at 1:45. Both events are free, but reservations are required for the picnic (773-772-7170, ext. 2505).

When David Dillon’s comedy Party debuted at the Bailiwick Repertory Theater in 1992, tickets were sold out from the start–and not just because the seven actors playing a truth-or-dare-like game onstage were stripped bare by the time the curtain came down. “It’s not sexual,” says Kevin Boyer, cochair of the Chicago 2006 Gay Games, who describes the play as “fun.” The Bailiwick’s revival includes Dillon in the cast and is directed by Kevin P. Hill, who appeared in the New York production of the show. Tonight’s preview performance benefits Chicago 2006, the organization lobbying to bring the Gay Games here that year, and begins at 7:30 with a preshow reception. Curtain is at 8:30 at the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont. Tickets are $35. Call 312-409-2983. (Friday’s preview performance benefits the Gerber/Hart Library and includes a reception with cast members after the show. Call the library at 773-381-8030 for more.)

27 SUNDAY The Chicago Academy of Sciences’s conference on “Animal Social Complexity and Intelligence,” which concluded yesterday, provided a rare opportunity for scientists from around the world to compare the ways in which large-brained animals (think whales, dolphins, ravens, and lions) communicate and interact in groups. Much of their work has been influenced by primatologist Jane Goodall, who’s observed wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania for 40 years–the longest anyone has studied a large-brained animal. Today Goodall kicks off a worldwide speaking tour for her new book, Gombe at 40: A Reason for Hope, by appearing at two informal sessions at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon (773-871-2668). The discussions are at 11 and 1 and free with museum admission, which is $6 for adults, $3 for children.

28 MONDAY The Women’s Radical Self-Help Network aims “to keep the knowledge alive” about DIY health practices such as fertility awareness (aka the rhythm method) and using ancient herbal formulas for everything from contraception to treating a yeast infection. Tonight the group holds its first benefit, which will include performances by the punk bands Sin Orden, Audience of the Dead, Skull Crusher, and Fat Day (from Boston). They’ll be joined by a fire dancer. It starts at 6 at the Autonomous Zone, 2012 W. Chicago (773-252-6019). The suggested donation is $5.

29 TUESDAY Five years ago, when a rural Arkansas woman named Sophia and her partner Vickie had a commitment ceremony, her daughter Ryan innocently told her friends at school about it. For the next two years she was assaulted and taunted with names like bitch, dog, slut, and gaywad. After Sophia complained to the school’s principal, whose response was to suggest she “think about changing your lifestyle, now that it is affecting your daughter’s life,” Sophia and Vickie decided it was safer to homeschool Ryan. Filmmaker Meema Spadola tells their story, and those of four other families, in Our House: A Very Real Documentary About Kids of Gay and Lesbian Parents, which she produced and directed. It’ll be screened tonight at 7 at an event sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; a discussion follows. It’s at the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln, and it’s free (312-409-1835).

30 WEDNESDAY The Chicago-based Polish Women’s Alliance of America was founded by an immigrant seamstress to help other women out financially and give them a sense of independence. These days the group promotes Polish identity and culture through language classes and educational programs. Today’s trip to the Majestic Star Casino in Indiana will benefit next year’s youth trip to Poland. The bus departs at 8 (and returns around 4:30) from the Polish Women’s Alliance at 205 S. Northwest Highway in Park Ridge. It’s $20, which includes lunch and gambling tokens. Reservations are required. Call 847-384-1208.

31 THURSDAY The statistics are depressing: each year, Americans work 8 weeks more than our German and French counterparts, and 11 weeks more than the Swedes. Most people in this country put in 50 hours a week, but by 2010 it’s projected that the average will jump to 58 hours. In his new book, My Job, My Self: Work and the Creation of the Modern Individual, Loyola professor Al Gini examines how and why people toil and the ways their jobs relate to other areas of their lives. He’ll discuss and sign copies of his book tonight at 7:30 at Barbara’s Bookstore, 1100 Lake in Oak Park (708-848-9140). It’s free.