Barry Smith: Irrelativity
December 7, 2008
Years ago I managed to talk my brother, Bryan, into going to see one of Spalding Gray’s performances at the Wheeler Opera House.
The late Spalding Gray was best known for his autobiographical monologues, where he’d sit behind a desk and, well … talk.
I remember the conversation with my brother, who had never heard of Gray, going something like this:
ME: Hey, let’s go see this guy at the Wheeler. He’s great.
BRYAN: What’s he play?
ME: He doesn’t play anything. He just talks.
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BRYAN: About what?
ME: Himself. For like an hour. Oh, and he sits behind a desk and sometimes drinks water. Isn’t that cool!?
BRYAN: Uh …
He eventually relented and actually enjoyed the show.
Now, more than 10 years later, I get to stand on the stage of the Wheeler Opera House and perform my show, “Barry Smith’s Baby Book: A Grownup Comedy About My Stuff.” My show is a multimedia, autobiographical comedy about, well … me.
Specifically why someone (me) would hang on to objects, mementos and memorabilia from their past as a way of trying to define themselves in the present. With pictures!
So basically I get to be on stage, talk about myself and occasionally drink water! Isn’t that cool!?
Answer: Uh …
People often ask me, “How do you prepare for a show where you just talk about yourself? I mean, all you do is talk about yourself, all the time ” what more preparation could you need?”
Well, that’s a good question. True, my whole life has led up to this upcoming show (Thursday night at 8, Wheeler Opera House, Aspen, $10 tickets), and I am nothing if not OVER qualified to talk about myself, but I am by no means going into this gig lightly.
About six weeks ago I began training for my Wheeler show as if it were a prize fight. I sat down with a personal trainer (OK … therapist) and put together a grueling regimen that has taken me to the next level of talking about myself.
Here’s a glimpse at my rigorous training schedule:
6 a.m. – Out of bed. Bathroom. Back to bed. Fall back asleep thinking about self.
9 a.m. – Breakfast. Eggs. Toast cut out in a profile of my head.
9 a.m. – Scan Internet for any new mention of me. Write blog entry about results.
10 a.m. – “Sparring” – Have coffee with friends who’ve recently had traumatic events in their lives, ones that they’re bound to want to “share.” Constantly bring the conversation back around to me. Me. Me.
Noon – Lunch. Alphabet soup. Remove all letters that aren’t “M” or “E.”
1 p.m – “Heavy Bag Training” – Walk around town hanging up posters of … yes … me. When people refuse to let me hang a poster in their place of business; take it personally. Plunge quickly into the depths of self-doubt and despair. Pull myself out of it by reminding myself things about myself that I like ” like how much I like hanging up posters of myself. Repeat. Feel the burn.
2 p.m. – “Speed Bag Training” – Dial random phone numbers and see how long I can talk about myself before the person hangs up on me. Current record is 47 seconds.
3 p.m – Meditation. Sit calmly in front of a candle and a mirror. Candle optional.
3:30 p.m. – Research. There may still be things unknown to me about me. Sift through old pictures, letters, videos, high school yearbooks, etc. … keep careful notes about new discoveries. Videotape myself while doing so.
5 p.m – High-protein meal. Self-reference uses mega calories, and protein is needed for proper ego “recovery.” Ketchup, too.
The rest of the day is spent relaxing, journaling, reviewing videos from the day’s training and mentally preparing for the following day.
So when you see me step on that stage on Thursday night, you can bet you’re seeing someone in the best self-referential shape of his life. I’m like Muhammad Ali in 1974, stepping into the ring to fight George Foreman. Only instead of punching someone in the head, I’m going to, you know, talk about stuff. Seriously, I’m gonna bring it, people.
I’m gonna, as Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a me.”
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