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Jesus in Montana

Su Lum

I just got back from seeing Barry Smith’s show, “Jesus in Montana,” which was altogether marvelous and should be featured at the Wheeler Opera House during the upcoming comedy fest.This is a rave coming from a person who has to be dragged to live performances of any kind and is usually twitching and ready to flee after 10 minutes – five minutes if hard plastic sciatica chairs are involved, as they were this evening.But I love Barry Smith’s work and there was no twitching tonight.Six years ago, I thought that Flicker Noise, Barry and his troupe’s short-lived comedy sketch show that was bounced off KAJX and onto KDNK, was the most brilliant original radio show ever produced in the valley. Monty Python, move over: There’s a new kid on the scene. I followed his quirky humor in his award-winning column in The Aspen Times and caught his very funny homemade films on Grassroots.Sadly, I missed Barry’s version of “The Santaland Diaries,” a monologue written by David Sedaris about the trials of being a Christmas elf at Macy’s department store, probably a steppingstone to realizing that he could do this using his own material, which begat “Jesus in Montana.”When I heard the premise, that the show was about Barry’s trip to Montana to visit an 80-year-old ex-chiropractor pedophile who claimed to be Jesus, I couldn’t imagine how he could carry it off. This was supposed to be a true story, but how would anyone believe that Barry believed that?It turned out, it didn’t matter whether he believed it or not – the story was the trip: the physical trip that took him across the country and the soul trip we’ve all taken in the spiritual quest to find something we can live with. With visual aids including old photographs, home movies and clever graphics, Barry took us on a detailed and often hilarious journey that began when he cracked his head showing off his diving abilities by diving into dirt, followed his travels from a fundamentalist home in Mississippi to a wilder life in California and Colorado, detoured to the hoax-meister in Montana and ended in Aspen, neatly wrapping it up, when a jostled brain brought him back to his senses.His tale of hitchhiking to Missoula and the wing nuts who gave him rides was alone well worth the price of admission.The death of Spaulding Grey left a big hole for this kind of epic storytelling that both makes you laugh and makes you think, and it seems a void that Barry Smith: writer, humorist, raconteur and A/V guy, was born to fill. He was perfectly in his element and has found his niche.Now all he needs to do is get HBO to pick it up.Su Lum is a longtime local who gives it five stars. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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