Best medicine

Charley Macorn, host of the “Spooky Spooky Spooky Spooky Movie Show,” is part of an increasingly diverse group of local standup comedians.

On the podcast Best Films Never Seen, three Montana comedians gather to spiritedly review "forgotten gems" of cinema. In one episode, hosts Charley Macorn and John Howard discuss the Prince Thanksgiving Special, a holiday movie starring the legendary recording artist responsible for "Purple Rain."

"It's kinda like a somehow more straight but also more gay Rocky Horror Picture Show," Macorn says.

"Prince is a rather sexual person, and he turns to the camera and he goes, 'The turkey's expanding inside of me,'" adds Howard. "I literally lost my shit."

Sadly, the Prince Thanksgiving Special is not a real film, nor are any of the titles (Clive Barker's A Christmas Carol and Ravage of the Pet Squirrels) discussed in Best Films Never Seen. The comedians make up the plot of each movie as they go along, riffing on each other's ideas and often digressing into nerdy topics like whether Michael Keaton or Christian Bale was more authentic as Batman.

While sipping a scotch and soda at the Golden Rose on a quiet evening, Macorn explains the inspiration behind the podcast. "There's so many bad movie podcasts out there and there's so many improv shows," Macorn says. "We're gently ribbing things that inspired us."

The podcast is part of "Macorn Industries," which is how Macorn, 29, jokingly refers to a hodgepodge of jobs and hobbies. That mishmash includes working as a freelance writer, teaching computer classes and hosting a late-night horror program on YouTube called "The Spooky Spooky Spooky Spooky Movie Show."

Just last summer, Macorn started performing standup comedy. Whether onstage or in casual conversation, Macorn comes across as easygoing and amiable, sharing outlandish yet relatable bits about life, love and what it's like to be dumped by your boyfriend while eating dinner at China Buffet.

Much of Macorn's comedy derives from some "hairy times" in the past. Macorn grew up in Deer Lodge as a repressed queer kid (Macorn doesn't identify as male or female and prefers the pronoun "they"). In the pre-"It Gets Better" era of the early 2000s, Macorn didn't have the language or tools to understand queer sexuality or non-binary gender presentation. After graduating high school in 2004, Macorn moved to Missoula, married a woman and tried, unsuccessfully, to live as a straight man.

"I pushed a lot of stuff down and was a real shitty person as result of that," Macorn says. The marriage ended, and Macorn floundered for months. In a dark, depressed period in 2007, Macorn attempted suicide.

"It didn't work, as far as I know," Macorn cracks. But Macorn emerged from that time with an epiphany.

"I had this weird moment where I was looking in the mirror and I went, 'Oh shit, I see you for the first time,'" Macorn says, pointing to an imaginary mirror. "And so I freaked out, rightly so, 'cause I didn't know what to do, and took time to find myself. And it's great. I love it. I'm not a terrible person anymore, which helps."

Macorn has found a welcoming group of like-minded nerds in the local comedy scene, as well as a small but devoted following online. Transsexual porn star Bailey Jae follows Macorn on Twitter and is a fan of the Spooky Movie Show. "She'll retweet me sometimes, and then my phone explodes," Macorn says.

Macorn believes it helps that the comedy scene is growing increasingly diverse, though there's still a long ways to go when it comes to dealing with cruel or mean-spirited humor. As an example, Macorn attended a recent local comedy night where white comedians used the N-word.

"I'm a big believer that people can say whatever they want," Macorn says. "But come on. If you can make something funny—legitimately funny, not funny at someone else's expense—go for it. Find a way. I think it's the healing process. But yeah, there's people who are like, 'Here's a dirty joke I know.' It just doesn't work."

Macorn is planning to host an all-queer comedy night in April, with the details yet to be ironed out. But they're optimistic that if a diverse group of people continue to perform and watch local comedy, things will get better.

"It's really good to have more representation," Macorn says. "There are people out there who don't have a word for their lives ... I always try, in my own stuff, to talk about things I care about, and things I care about happen to be, like, the world around us, and inequality. And also goofy stuff, like dogs in bandanas."

Charley Macorn and other comedians perform at the Curry Comedy Night Thu., Feb. 11., at the Silver Theatre, 2023 S. Higgins Ave., at 6:30 PM. $25, includes performances and curry dinner provided by Masala.

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