Hi, My Name Is Ryan

The clown prince of Phoenix's downtown art scene is sacrificing madcap antics for a Mormon mission

Because of his high-pitched voice, soft features, and a small case of "man boobs" (a side effect of the Humatrope), Avery's occasionally been mistaken for a girl. He's avoided such awkwardly androgynous instances by keeping his sandy brown hair slicked back into a formal-looking hairdo (always parted on the right) and wearing a fake pair of ultra-nerdy men's glasses.

Although Ryan hasn't acted out any anxiety from these It's Pat-style moments, Matt Avery says his brother once enthusiastically outlined each of the other issues plaguing him, including feelings about their parents, and how certain projects of his would help overcome them.

"I think it's such an impressively healthy way to deal with his emotional stuff as opposed to just being angry, beating people up, or all those other fun teenage things that guys do sometimes," Matt says.

Ryan spoons with a pregnant bisexual woman named MeCca onstage at Soul Invictus in June.
Kevin Patterson
Ryan spoons with a pregnant bisexual woman named MeCca onstage at Soul Invictus in June.
Ryan wrapped both himself and the Trunk Space in crime-scene tape during an over-the-top solo performance gig in July.
Kevin Patterson
Ryan wrapped both himself and the Trunk Space in crime-scene tape during an over-the-top solo performance gig in July.

The Trunk Space's JRC says Avery's daring to openly discuss his shortcomings makes his shows appealing.

"He really owns his faults like nobody I've ever met," JRC says. "When he's talking about all these extremely personal things . . . I feel like it's an endurance test [to see] how much of himself can he expose until he has to stop."

As much as he's known for making a loud racket, Avery also has his quiet moments. Pete Petrisko, who plays the titular character in Uncle Sku's Clubhouse, says Avery also enraptures audiences' attentions with more low-key material, such as monologues about his personal life.

"I think he has a sort of innocence with an underlying sadness to some of his performances," Petrisko says. "He might not be the most technically proficient artist working, but he strikes a universal chord with people."

Ryan believes Fathers Day is "better therapy than therapy" for dealing with his parents, allowing him to enjoy spending what little time he can with his pop, which is mostly phone calls or the occasional visit. (Because of commitments to his new wife and children, Douglas says it's "harder" to have a closer relationship with his other kids.)

He didn't always intend for the group to become a quasi-counseling session. Ryan and Emily Spetrino-Murtagh (who plays "Classy Dad," but rarely dresses in costume) formed the band in October 2004 because "it would be funny seeing a bunch of un-hip dads playing thrash." They recruited brothers Andrew ("Golf Dad") and Tristan Jemsek ("Drunk Dad"), who star in the polka-punk band Haunted Cologne and have daddy issues of their own (their dad left when they were toddlers).

While Ryan's character Douglas Patton is named after his dad, he swears most of the band's shtick comes from "watching bad fathers with their kids or stories that I hear and I just exaggerate them."

Only "This Really Happened," a song about a father haranguing his geeky brat's obsession with role-playing games, came from Douglas teasing Matt and Scott about their Dungeons & Dragons habit.

Family bonds aren't the only matters of the heart Ryan tackles, as he airs his angst about love and romance during Hi My Name Is Ryan shows. He's had three girlfriends, but the relationships didn't last because either he didn't like his paramours or they "weren't into him."

Truthfully, he's "scared of sex" because of its unfamiliarity, as well as some embarrassing childhood moments (like getting an erection while watching a Star Trek movie), and depressing stories he's heard from friends.

When asked if he's a virgin, he says, "Duh," before deadpanning, "I don't think anyone gets the 'Ryan-really-knows-how-to-work-the-ladies' vibe from me."

Not all of the methods to Avery's madness are about purging his emotions. He enjoys slamming around during Fathers Day because "that's how punk bands should be: extremely fierce, loud and obnoxious, and in your face." After most shows, he's covered with bruises as a result. He gets a bizarre satisfaction from making people uncomfortable, he says.

His humor, while sophomoric, is quite playful without being prurient. When performing in Fathers Day or Night Wolf, Avery and Andrew routinely take swipes at other bands, like claiming indie groups Reindeer/Tiger Team and Bikeula are cokeheads.

Like many folks, Andrew first encountered Avery haunting First Fridays and downtown venues like Modified Arts, and the pair bonded over a mutual love of thrift-store fashion, ska, and bands like They Might Be Giants.

"He and I are like two halves of the same person. We both have similar senses of humor, we both like trying to piss people off without actually trying to piss someone off," Andrew says. "We're goofballs and we're not afraid to admit it."

Amy Carpenter, 28, an art teacher at Valley Academy charter school in Phoenix and a member of Catorce, says it's hard not to like Avery, especially with his cherubic appearance, even when he's "doing the craziest things."

"It sorta brings about this biological reaction, you know, to love him," says Carpenter. "Like he's your kid brother or something."

His look also allows him to get away with a lot sometimes, Avery admits.

"Lots of the things I do, if I was like some big hairy man, it would seem weird in a 'this-guy's-creepy' sort of way," Avery says.

Like last month when he made out with a pregnant bisexual woman named MeCca at Soul Invictus Gallery & Cabaret during its weekly "7 Minutes in Heaven" talent exhibition held in June. Avery had been showcasing his "favorite things to do," including enjoying milk and cookies or watching movies, and wanted to snuggle with an audience member onstage. A Sapphic siren volunteered, and their gentle spooning turned into a flurry of deep-mouth kisses, shocking those in attendance.

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