Performance art used to be a serious business, full of straight-faced artists acting out tedious rituals in front of aesthetic puritans too hip to crack a smile. But ironically, as the pessimism that once mainly existed only in the art world has bubbled into the mainstream, comedy, albeit dark comedy, has become permissible in performance, making brief appearances in the work of even the hippest performers. Club Lower Links is inaugurating its “Out-of-Towners Series” with a pair of New York performance artists who are not ashamed to leaven their work with comedy. Dancer Linda Mancini puts right on her resume that she has been “greatly influenced by the teachings and direction of the late Canadian Clown Master, Richard Pochinko,” and her work shows it. Her simple but hilarious silent vignette Bone China, about a woman drinking tea, owes much to the traditions of silent-movie comedians. Even her more serious explorations of the rituals of birthdays (Cake), weddings (Bouquet), and table manners (Grace) still contain moments of high physical comedy. Satirical monologuist Todd Alcott also borrows freely from the comic past. In his work, which has appeared on PBS’s The 90’s and Alive From Off Center, Alcott plays a variety of hyperneurotic urbanites in the spirit of Albert Brooks or Woody Allen or pre-Parenthood Steve Martin, characters who manage to turn even the most mundane events into a living (and very funny) hell. In Keys, for example, Alcott tells–in his crazed, overcaffeinated, words-tumbling-over-words delivery–about trying to find the keys to his apartment. Together, Mancini and Alcott make me glad those tedious days of too-cool-to-be-funny performance artists are behind us. Club Lower Links, January 30 (954 W. Newport, 248-5238). Thursday, 8:30 PM. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dona Ann McAdams.