Mastering the art of being incorrect |

Mastering the art of being incorrect

Barry Smith
Aspen, CO Colorado

There’s nothing quite like being really, really wrong.

I’ve been wrong on such a level so many times that you’d think I’d be used to it by now. For instance, back in 1999, I was a full believer in the Y2K scare. I had cases of tuna, buckets of beans, water filters, grain grinders (like I was going to become some post-apocalyptic wheat farmer or something). I might have even had a gas mask, but I’d prefer not to admit to such things. My friends who though Y2K was a paranoid delusion perpetuated by internet nut-cases received my scorn, and I secretly marked them down on the “don’t share tuna with” list.

As we know, Y2K came and went without any nuclear meltdowns, jets plummeting from the sky or worldwide martial law. The only lasting change is that Prince’s “1999” can never listened to in the same way again.

Luckily, I like tuna.

But I was so very, very sure that the end was nigh. Everything that I use for finding my way ” my intellect, my intuition, my keen sense of smell ” they all told me that the doodie was about to hit the fan, and that I’d better have my duck jerky in a row for when it all goes down.

And I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Don’t get me wrong ” I’m glad I was wrong. But man, the wrongness really made me wonder what other things I’m totally convinced of and an equally wrong about.

I know that Y2K may be an obscure example, because chance are you were among the majority of right people all those years ago. And sure, I’m a bit paranoid and gullible, but that doesn’t make me any less right. Or wrong.

So now, years later, here I am in Montreal, embarking on a summer of performing autobiographical solo comedy shows. Standing on stage for an hour talking about your life (in what you hope is a funny and entertaining way) leaves you a bit, well…exposed. The exposure at the moment is intense enough ” tell a joke, nobody laughs, ouch, move on ” but what really gets me are reviews.

I got a great review of my new show in the Montreal Gazette early last week. Exciting and positive ” it said I was a “masterful storyteller.” Cool. But then the Montreal Mirror came out. The review said that my style has evolved (this is my third consecutive year in Montreal) into something slick, resembling a Michael Moore film, and that I could just record my voice, play it over my slide show thingie and not even bother to show up. The final line was the one that stuck with me ” “It may not be theatre ” but it’s good.”

Whaddya mean, slick? Not show up? You mean my performance was so bad that I didn’t even need to be there? Not theatre? Why not? What makes something theatre? What, because I wasn’t prancing around pretending to be lots of other people ” acting, I think they call it ” I’m not theatre? “It was good” is nice enough, but why just “good?” Why not great? Or even awesome? Why not “It may not be theatre, but it f**kin rocked!”

I walked around the whole day thinking I’d been ruined. A bad review. My show is slick (slick is bad, right? I don’t want slick, I want punk rock!), my performance could have been phoned in, and my show isn’t theatre. I know my show isn’t really theatre, but why point that out?

I’m doomed. It’s the end for me.

Later that day I turn up to do my show and my stage manager, Nicole, says, “Hey, you got a good review in the Mirror today!”


“The critic picked you as one of the top four of the festival. Did you see it?” she continued.

Were we talking about the same thing?

She pulled the paper from her bag and showed it to me ” the exact same review I’d read that morning ” and sure enough, at the top of the page, the introduction to the four reviews, it said, basically, “Of the 70 shows in the festival, here are four that you can count on to be worth seeing.”

How did I miss that? Why had I defaulted to my own emotional Y2K?

Probably because I was aboard the Wrong Express. Next stop, Whiner-ville.