Smith launches five-part comedy project thing
Hesitantly, I picked up the phone to call Barry Smith. Hesitant because it was, as I recall from my pre-parent days, an ungodly hour for a child-free adult like Smith. On the dark side of 9 a.m., that is.But Smith was awake, notably awake in fact, picking up the phone on the first ring. The presence of strong coffee was evident, if not in the smell, then in Smith’s laser-beam intensity. No, I hadn’t awakened the humorist, A/V wiz and former vegetarian, probably didn’t even come within an hour of such sin.Smith, a self-confessed junkie, is on a 24/7 buzz from his favorite addiction: deadlines.Smith, whose one-man show “Jesus In Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult” has been a hit in Colorado and New York City, is returning to the local stage with not one more show, not two more shows, not … OK, it’s four more shows. Plus an encore performance of “Jesus In Montana.” All over the next five weeks.
In a series that has a title – The Barry Smith Comedy Project Experiment Thing – but an even better, informal subtitle – Experiments of a Deadline Junkie – Smith will perform four new one-person shows at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale on consecutive Saturday nights beginning tomorrow. (Although “show” might be a strong word, and “Comedy Experiment Project Thing” might be a better description, and I should run that by Smith sometime.)”I have an outline. I have my A/V stuff. I have points that I want to hit,” said Smith.What Smith doesn’t have is a clue how this is all going to turn out. But after spending two years bringing to the stage “Jesus In Montana,” a true-life tale of Smith’s early ’90s journey to Montana to find a man he believed to be the second coming of Christ, Smith decided he didn’t want to wait till 2007 to get onstage again. “Jesus In Montana” earned an Outstanding Solo Show at the New York International Fringe Festival last fall, but Smith is willing to trade, for the moment, award-winning polish for a chance to push the creative process.”I’m really interested in the art of performance,” said Smith, who is probably an inch or two shorter than his listed height of 6-foot-4 and turns 40 on Sunday. “So I figured I’d get started on some rough drafts of new stuff right away. Perfection is the enemy of success.”Tomorrow’s installment of the Thing is untitled, but revolves around Smith’s story of being transplanted from his native Mississippi Delta to Southern California. (He doesn’t say so, but Smith was kicked out of Mississippi when it was learned, via ancient Delta soothsaying methods, that he would become a vegetarian, a habit he has kicked.)
That’s my theory anyway, but here’s what Smith has to say about the move: “I may as well have moved to the moon. Although, on the moon I would have found it easier to fit in. Because my straw hat produced its own oxygen.”Episode 2 (March 25) has a title, “Squatter,” and a focus, on Barry’s “story of squatting in England.” In 1988 Smith took the typical post-collegiate, three-week Eurail tour of England that turned into the typical story of an exceedingly tall and skinny American squatting in abandoned London flats for half a year. Smith will tell of his two nights in a big, haunted hotel (Smith has a bit of dialogue written for the experience: “That sucked”); six weeks in a nice flat (presumably he has already come up with the line, “That didn’t suck”); and a “nice, little s–thole with no electricity for six months.”Installment 3 (April 1) is “Confessions of an A/V Guy,” an exploration of his day job, as an audio/visual technician. Those A/V escapades have been endlessly documented in his Aspen Times column, Irrelativity, but Smith is certain that the scintillating world of big-screen projection is worth a live presentation.”It’s a look into the exciting world of boredom,” said Smith. “No matter how boring it is, everyone thinks their job is interesting. That’s my premise.”
Chapter 4 (April 8) is “Miscellaneous,” which Smith says is “a collection of everything that didn’t fit into the other three shows.” Smith describes it as being “more like pure comedy.”The series concludes April 15 with “Jesus In Montana,” the one-hour version that took the prize in New York. For Aspenites who don’t care to travel to Carbondale to see “Jesus In Montana,” Smith will be performing the show at festivals across Canada over the next several months: at the Uno Festival in Victoria, B.C., in late May; at the Montreal Fringe Festival in early June; and at the Vancouver Fringe Festival in September. He is also scheduled to bring the show to the Aspen Art Museum in late September.Smith is confident that out of one of these experiments will emerge his next full-blown one-person show. In the meantime, he’s sticking to the idea that the process is half the fun, and the thrill of the deadline will carry him the rest of the way.”It’s too early for me to know this stuff, but around Thursday it should all come together,” said Smith. “It’s not going to be polished, but I know it’s going to be interesting.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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