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One-man show puts O, C and D back in comedy

Stewart Oksenhorn
Barry Smith performs his one-person multimedia comedy, "Miscellaneous," Saturday at Steve's Guitars in Carbondale. The Barry Smith Comedy Project Experiment Thing concludes with two performances of "Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult," Saturday and Sunday at Steve's. (Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen Times)
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Barry Smith’s father was an obsessive, particularly on Saturdays, when each member of the Smith household of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., household had a choice: to tidy up something or be well into a plan to tidy up something. Alternatives were frowned on, and Mr. Smith had a mighty frown on such occasions. So when, one Saturday, when Barry was caught taking a break from mowing the lawn to sit in his room and write a poem, “Turd Lodge Syndrome,” the truth was not about to set him free from his father’s wrath. As Smith related in the premiere of his hilarious one-man show “Miscellaneous,” Saturday night at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale, “writing a poem” was one of several “incorrect” answers to the question posed by his father: “What are you doing?” Smith sidestepped the only acceptable response – “Cleaning something” – and headed back to the lawn.

The younger Smith, having split with his father in temperament, seems to have inherited dad’s obsessiveness. For the past four Saturday nights – Saturday being the day reserved for manifesting obsessions in the Smith family – Aspenite Barry Smith has performed a different multimedia show, combining video sketches, music, old photos and stand-up. Each one – “The South,” “Squatter,” “Confessions of an A/V Guy” and “Miscellaneous” – was ripped from Smith’s real-life adventures, which have included moving, as a teenager, from Greenville, Miss., to Southern California; living in abandoned flats in London; and working a day job as an audio-visual technician. “Miscellaneous” featured bits and pieces that didn’t fit into the first three shows: incidents with Aspen parking enforcement personnel; musings on old blues artists, Smith’s own compulsions; and of course, dad.Here’s where Smith’s OCD kicks in: all four shows, each in the hour to 90-minute range, have been created, essentially, over the past month, in a fit that has included little sleep or socializing. “Miscellaneous,” left me wondering just how this was possible.

I was also left, often, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, and hoping those sitting close to me were tolerant of the odd, uncontrollable noises resulting from my laughs. In particular, two videos (both filmed before the month-long spurt) had me in contortions: one, “Jam Session,” was a look at two musicians jamming on the only, two-measure riff they know. The other required some knowledge of recent Aspen history, the period dominated by “Standing Man,” a local eccentric who specialized in standing. Smith’s piece imagined a political campaign in which candidates – “Leaning Man,” “Napping Man” and, portrayed by Smith himself, “Hopping Man” – battle to succeed “Standing Man” as Aspen’s mascot. “When the going gets tough,” promises “Leaning Man,” “I’ll be leaning on things.”In one of its more rambling segments, “Miscellaneous” segued from a history of 18th-century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Smith’s own “The Rime of the Big Chocolate Duck,” a take-off on Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The bit paid off in the end, and Smith made the sequence enjoyable with stand-up lines like, “It’s a true story. But it didn’t rhyme when it happened.”

Smith concludes his so-called Comedy Project Experiment Thing on a less experimental note. “Jesus In Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult,” his sort-of true tale of finding – and playing hacky sack with – Jesus in Missoula, shows at Steve’s Saturday and Sunday, April 15-16. The show, which premiered in Aspen last year, earned a best one-man show award at the New York International Fringe Festival in September.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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