Hi, My Name Is Ryan

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

"I don't think they'll mind, because I'm not going to dress like a Nazi or anything," he says. "I hope the mission president will think it's cool."

But even if these communiqués get through, his friends fear that when Avery returns to the Valley in 2008 he'll "be some Stepford-like Mormon robot" (as JRC puts it) who won't be interested in any of his previous artistic endeavors.

Some, like Amy Carpenter, have joked about "sabotaging his mission" in order to keep Avery in the Valley.

Ryan Avery
Luke Holwerda
Ryan Avery
Ryan Avery
Luke Holwerda
Ryan Avery

"We thought about planting porn at his house, or whatever," Carpenter says. "I don't know if that would work. It's a selfish thing, totally."

Avery feels he'll be "different, but not a completely different person," citing superstar Latter-day Saints like the MC Bat Commander (né Christian Richard Jacobs, the 34-year-old lead singer of The Aquabats) as a Mormon who's gone on a mission but still remained hip.

Jacobs says he, like Avery, "wasn't the typical Mormon" growing up, having been heavily involved with the SoCal skate punk scene prior to his mission to Japan in 1991. Upon returning home in 1993, however, he didn't swear off his former habits, but rather embraced them, and started The Aquabats a year later.

"My mission didn't make me get rid of those things that I liked," Jacobs says. "But it made me realize to take certain things a lot more seriously than I did before, like my church and family."

Just like Jacobs, Avery expects when he returns home from his mission he'll pick up right where he left off.

"Performing and art are the only things that I know I'm good at," Avery says. "And it's so insanely hard for me to imagine myself doing anything else."

While some of his characters will be written out from their respective projects — such as Douglas Patton going to prison, and Caspar the Kid being hauled off to reform school — Avery will continue performing until he leaves.

"When I'm on my mission, I'm gonna be living for the Lord," Avery says. "But right now I live for performing."

Ryan Avery will make his final Grand Avenue Tonight! appearance at 8 p.m. Thursday, August 3, at the Trunk Space, 1506 Grand Avenue, 602-256-6006, www.thetrunkspace.com. See www.myspace.com/himynameisryan2 for any additional upcoming appearances.

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