Review From Uno…

Back home now from the Uno Festival. Good shows, loads of friendly people, lots of food, friends visiting from Washington. All in all an amazing trip, the only downside being that I posed for this photo in the lobby of the Maritime Musuem…

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Now I'm resting up, as I leave for Montreal in less than a week.

Here's the review from the Victoria Times Colonist. I honestly don't think I look like R. Crumb, but maybe the reviewer had a bad seat, one with a light in his eyes or something…

Playwright survives cult years with humour intact
Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist
Friday, May 26, 2006
JESUS IN MONTANA — ADVENTURES IN A DOOMSDAY CULT
Rating 4

For someone who spent three years in a religious cult, Barry Smith has an awfully good sense of humour about it.

In this entertaining multimedia romp, Smith — who bears a passing resemblance to cartoonist R. Crumb — tells how he became ensnared in a bizarro tribe led by an 80-year-old chiropractor who thought he was Jesus. After attending an introductory class, the pot-smoking Grateful Dead fan became fully hooked for three years. When the brainwashed 20-something met anyone new, he merely looked for a conversational opening to deliver his religious spiel. We have all been on the receiving end of this sort of thing, so it's fascinating to see the view from the other side.

Smith admits his sermonizing didn't work particularly well on the drunk driver who picked him up hitchhiking and kept vomiting into a paper bag — just one of many amusing slice-of-life vignettes in a fine piece that recalls David Sedaris and other left-field humorists. Another highlight is the hilarious Jesus rap he and his cult friends hatched at the time.

A seemingly minor accident was enough to shift Smith's perspective and yank him off the cult-go-round. (It also helped that none of the cult leader's prophesies came true.) We're left not quite sure why he got involved in the first place. There are references to his discomfort at the Gulf War and an aimless youthful existence, still, the narrator might have delved deeper into his motives. Nonetheless, this well-directed piece — augmented with cunningly choreographed slides, sound clips and film footage — works amazingly well. We may wonder why Smith's sly humour didn't provide the intellectual armour against the man he dubs "Jesus in Montana," but we are certainly thankful for it.

Still More Uno…

Last night was my second of three shows at the Uno Festival.

On opening night I had some sort of low-grade fever going, which really kicked in when I hit the stage. I had what must be an anxiety attack right there under the spotlight, like a deer in the headlights, but luckily I kept doing my lines until it passed and I think it went unnoticed by the audience. Yikes. That was really unpleasant, and unexpected, and if it never happens again that would be just fine. But last night was the opposite – felt good, did good, no near-suck experiences to report.

Here's the Metro Theatre, along with a pic of Holly, theatre tech extraordinaire.

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We've been in Victoria for about 5 days now, and it really is a beautiful city, but it has been a bit drizzly and dreary. I'm used to high altitude Rocky Mountain dry climates, where, even when freezing-ass cold, it's a dry cold. So, to cope with the dampness, here's what I've been doing a lot of…

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I like taking pictures, but despite the astounding scenery surrounding me, it's things like this that inspire me to pull my little Cannon PowerShot S400 out of my pocket…

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I'm such a bad tourist. I'll not come home with a single picture of me or my wife standing in front of one of the many grizzly bear statues adorning the town, but instead I have shots like this one:

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That one may warrant a bit of explanation, though I'm not sure it will help. As we were waiting in the airport in Seattle, an Air Canada plane landed and a group of what I must assume are Canadians deplaned. I overheard a conversation between one of them and the airline employee.

Employee (somewhat curt): That's why we have baggage service agents, ma'am.

Canadian Woman (after walking 10 paces, and saying this while facing away from the rude employee): You could use a nicer tone!!

And I thought, hmmm…that's Canadian for "fuck you!"

I've experienced nothing but hardcore friendliness while here, including a lost luggage episode (my own) that was as pleasant an experience as I've ever had anywhere. So when I saw this harsh graffiti on the side of a bus, I just had to capture it. The bus took off before I could get my camera out, so I had to run a block and a half to catch it at the next stop sign. This is in no way representative of anything else I've encountered here, which is why I was so fascinated. Please don't refer to this as a tourist guide. The Empress Hotel is really lovely, I swear. It's just that there's something wrong with me. I'm the worst tourist ever.

Opening Night at Uno – Bible Verse Revealed

Last night was my opening night at the Uno Festival. It was a great crowd and, I think, a great show – people laughed where they were supposed to, and even at the places where laughter was optional. Since my show is a comedy, I think this is a good way to measure success. Everyone at the theatre is really cool, and it was quite a strange moment for me to stand by while the crew set up the screen and projector – I’m so used to doing this stuff for myself (or others) that it was nearly uncomfortable. At first, anyway. I’m easily spoiled, it turns out.

Really, though, the hardest part was to keep myself from offering tips and suggestions on the art of screen assembly, even though they clearly didn’t need my help. I hate to think that I’m one of these control freak micro-managers, but not as much as I hate for others to know this about me. I guess I’m less concerned with being a phony than a control freak micro-manager.

The bible verse on the guy’s foot below is, I’m pretty sure, Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

OK, so I guess that kinda makes sense to have that tattooed on your foot. I have to wonder, though, what bible verse his wife had tattooed on her, and where?

Bored at the Airport(s)

It was a 16 hour day of traveling, 4 layovers – half an hour of flying followed by 4 hours in the airport, then another bit of flying, etc…Still, since we are going to Victoria, B.C., it’s hard to complain. Especially when you consider the many others one could be going.

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During one of our layovers I looked up from my computer and noticed that the guy in front of me had a bible verse tattooed on his foot. This may shock you, but I don’t travel with a bible, and I didn’t have internet access (and I am paying by the minute right now), so I don’t know what this verse says, but I’m eager to find out what someone would have tattooed on their foot. I’ll keep you posted.

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After we made it through customs in Vancouver, we had one of those major layovers. I decided to move into my new wallet. I got a new one at home and brought it with me. Sitting at a little café table, I emptied out the contents of my old wallet only to find, to my equal horror and excitement, that there was a little pot bud in the bottom.

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Horror, because I’d just gone through customs thinking I had “nothing to declare.” Excitement for obvious reasons – I HAVE POT! HURRAY!
But then I had a dilemma – will there be another checkpoint at Victoria? Might I still be searched. I was cool during my initial customs encounter, but that was before I knew I was holding. Surely they’d see it on my face now that I know. I’d be sweating and stammering. But the thought of having a little hit of ganga when I landed was awful compelling. I pondered this as I removed the pot from my wallet, only to find…

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Yes, it was a piece of lint, bringing relief and disappointment, for reasons you now understand.

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After I cleared out my wallet, I put a little note in it and left it in the bathroom for someone to find.

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Like I said, we had a lot of time to kill in the airport…

Off to Uno Tomorrow Morning…

We have a 7 a.m. flight tomorrow morning. That means being at the airport at 6. Luckily, the airport is only 10 minutes away. Still…that's essentially 5 o'clock.

Plenty to do today, making final changes to the "Jesus…" tech script, burning show cue CDs, rehearsing, cutting my yard, producing two radio spots as I'll be away for a full week. And I'll need to get a nap in there somewhere, of course…

I thought – in fact, I have been telling people, as well as writing about it – that someone from the Uno Festival would be meeting me at the airport with a little sign that says "SMITH." This was significant to me, as you can understand, and I had big plans to take about 20 pictures of the event – the person standing alone with the sign with something dramatic in the background, a close-up of the sign, me with the person and the sign, me alone with the sign, another close-up in different light, just so I have options later, my wife and I with the sign, her holding the sign pretending to be picking me up from the airport, etc…But, as it turns out, tomorrow is Victoria Day in Canada, which is some sort of holiday, so nobody will be at work, much less picking my ass up from the airport.

They did give me their taxi number, though, so I still get a free ride from the airport, but that's hardly worth a photo.

But don't fret…I'm sure I'll find something equally mundane to over-document. I mean, I have to eat dinner once I get there, right?

Word Choice…

Today, in a conversation with someone I'd only known for a few minutes, I managed to use the word "stopcock."

I didn't just blurt it out, I used it properly and in context, in reference to an actual stopcock -

stop-cock – n : faucet consisting of a rotating device for regulating flow of a liquid [syn: cock, turncock]

It was a good day.

Jesus In Montana – Montreal Fringe Poster

My friend Patty finished the poster for my Montreal Fringe shows. I just realized last night that I only have one week at home between the Uno Festival and the Montreal Fringe Festival, and I still need to find a place to stay in Montreal, send out press kits, find a screen to rent/borrow, and just basically get my shit together. Actually, when I put it that way, a week seems like plenty of time…

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I Love The Dentist…

After nitrous oxide was first discovered, or isolated, or however it is they managed to first get it into a container so that it could be readily inhaled back in the late 1700s, some poets got their observant hands and lungs on it. Samuel Coleridge, famous British poet, was an early fan, and he apparently wrote extensively about how much it rocked, though he probably worded it a bit differently.

Anyone who's ever done a whippet at a concert knows how Sammy was right, which is why I love my dentist – he lets me have nitrous for my bi-annual cleaning. Seriously. I mark it on my calendar and am excited for weeks before my visit, taking steps to clear my sinuses, cutting down on dairy and pasta and such.

Yesterday was Dentist Day. I am blessed with good teeth, so I never get bad news, just a bit of scraping and a whole lot of deep breathing.

The best part is that I'm unable to record or share my numerous and intense revelations and insights I get while on nitrous, because I'm not in a position to take notes, and speaking is a bit difficult with a dental technician's fingers in your mouth. So I just have to keep quiet for an hour, which is a real treat for everyone involved.

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Here I am, pre-scraping, feeling groovy…and counting the days 'til my next visit.


Suddenly Ducks Aren’t So Strange…

Last week I was at my parent's house in Southern California. My Grandmother had just passed away, and I was scanning a bunch of her old pictures, because that's what I do. Not only is it good to have these pictures for sentimental value, but I will someday use them in future performances. There were lots of cool old black and whites of relatives long dead that I've never even heard of, but this picture really caught my attention…

Unknown Ducks - 1948

The date on the back, stamped by the Fox Photo developing lab, says 1948. And this is exactly how the photo looks – I haven't added any fancy border or anything in Photoshop.

Pictures were not cheap in 1948, and my grandparents were far from wealthy, but something about these post-war ducks in their unknown pond was interesting enough to sacrifice a frame of film. It isn't like there were a lot of duck pictures, either. At least not from 1948. As film got more affordable, and they had more grandchildren, there were certainly plenty of unnecessary shutter openings.

My parents brew decaf coffee each morning, which I see as more proof to my "I'm adopted" theory. My brother got us some coffee one morning from a local bakery. As I sat outside savoring his gift, I noticed that the sip cup lid was very intricate and impressive, unlike any sip lid I had ever seen. I did what any obsessive documenter of his own life would do – I got my digital camera and took about 10 pictures of it, in its various stages of opening/closing, from different angles, etc…

And suddenly the idea of my grandparents taking a picture of ducks wasn't so strange..

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And, for that matter, neither is taking thousands of pictures of my neighbor's cat…

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Politics, the Airport and People I Don’t Know…

A friend called me today to see if I would be in a video he's making about a local political issue. I'm familiar with the issue, but I'm hardly political, so I declined. I told him when he's making a video about people who tell poopie jokes that he should definitely call me.

In one week I'll be performing at the Uno Festival in Victoria, BC. In the festival promo they say "a gifted storyteller and humourist in the vein of David Sedaris or Stuart McLean." This is cool, except that I don't know who Stuart McLean is. Since I'm obviously online at the moment there is no excuse to not find out, right? Hang on…

…OK, got it. He is, among other things, Canadian. As I suspected.

Someone from the Uno Festival will be picking me up from the airport – I really hope they have a sign that says "SMITH" on it. Or, better yet, "JESUS." For some reason this seems like a real step forward in my career – being met at the airport. Same with being compared with someone I've never heard of, though that just makes me feel a bit uninformed, so I won't be talking about that too much.