Flashback: “Stages (The Montana Run)” features Northwest comedy, Jeff Probst’s screen debut?

Going back to the Pacific Northwest recently for the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland made me very nostalgic for my years living in the Seattle area (and even my two years in Idaho!). Ron Reid was all over the place at Bridgetown, and his Comedy Underground in Seattle was my very first home club as an improviser (my group performed there on Wednesdays in the mid-1990s) and stand-up.

Before I get into a full recap of Bridgetown 2010, indulge me as I take you back to the Pacific Northwest comedy scene of the 1990s, courtesy of a 1992 film starring Randy Thompson, and co-starring Reid, Dan Lishner and Mayme Paul Thompson, with cameos from comedians such as Rodney Sherwood, Kermet Apio, Darryl Lenox, Carl Banks, an appearance by Laura Crocker, and perhaps the very first onscreen role for Survivor host Jeff Probst!

Here's Probst's big scene, in which he hits on the female stand-up after a one-nighter:

The Montana Run – Jeff Probst

And here's the original trailer:

You can get the DVD at Film Baby.

It reminded me of "The Tribble Runs" that my friends in comedy would go on in the late 90s and early 00s, but Reid told me that this movie isn't based on Tribble but some of the bookers who preceded him.

He explained to me:

"My character is roughly based on a guy named Mick Akin who would drive around in a Ford Torino that was patched together from other Ford Torinos, stopping in bars in Eastern WA, Idaho and Montana and convincing them to have comedy nights.
The script was written anecdotally. . .each of us drew on our separate own experiences and those of our friends. For example, the “headliner always gets a door” line was really said to a friend of mine named Michelle Beaudry, now a hypno-therapist in Orlando. The stuff I wrote I mostly referenced a long tour I did called the “Dakota run” Рstarted in Montana, went through North and South Dakota, ended in Rapid City Iowa. In a baby-poop-yellow 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco, radiator blew out on the way back, had to stop every 50 miles and hose down the engine block.
We filmed it at the end of 1989 and into 1990, which accounts for the copyright date. Played festivals, then had its theatrical release in 1992 (handful of theaters, opened in LA right after the Rodney King riots and then around the country the week the first Gulf War started. Timing is everything).
Distributor (Greycat Films) went out of business shortly afterward, vanished, taking with them one of 2 existing 35 mm prints. This was documented in a cover story in “Movie Maker” magazine entitles “Welcome to Distribution Hell.”
The remaining print, with the “Stages” titles on it rather than “The Montana Run,” was shown on the Sundance Channel in 1998."

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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2 thoughts on “Flashback: “Stages (The Montana Run)” features Northwest comedy, Jeff Probst’s screen debut?

  1. Then I hope and trust you came back to the site again today when I posted my video interview with Dave Tribble himself!

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