lip sync

KOTO’s hilarious and often-bawdy annual Lip Sync contest goes live at noon Friday through noon Jan. 29. For its pandemic edition, viewers, rather than a panel of judges, will decide the top three acts. (Photo courtesy of KOTO)

In a town known for its seemingly never-ending string of remarkable events, KOTO’s Lip Sync contest might be considered one of the most anticipated. In a normal year, performers and rowdy fans pack the Sheridan Opera House for a night of often-bawdy fun and outrageous creativity. But, as we are all painfully aware, this is not a normal year. Leave it to the nonprofit community radio station’s devoted staff and board to stage a Lip Sync contest like no other. The show goes live beginning Friday at noon and will be available to view — and to vote on  — through noon Jan. 29. Reinventing the show in the midst of a pandemic was imperative, said KOTO Executive Director Cara Pallone.

“We all need a good laugh right now,” she said. “We wanted to give the community the gift of laughter.”

Instead of staging live acts, entrants this year submitted videos. KOTO staff threw down the gauntlet with their spirited rendition of a mash-up of two different versions of “Dancing in the Streets.” The Facebook post elicited 10 entries. By the submission deadline Monday, they had a show.

“The ideas flowed. The creativity is amazing,” Pallone said. “It’s unbelievable how people got so into it.”

Intrepid lip syncers filmed on the streets, in apartments, and even submitted videos from beyond Telluride — Lip Sync veteran Charlotte Hacke now lives in Connecticut, but could not resist the urge to participate, Pallone said.

“It’s heartwarming … anyone from anywhere in the world can participate,” she said. “You can see everyone had so much fun.”

Lip Sync acts in a normal year (there’s that phrase, again) would be rated by a panel of volunteer judges, but the 2021 iteration of the show will instead be judged by its viewers. KOTO board member Laura Shaunette is also involved with Original Thinkers Festival and offered that festival’s streaming platform for the event. For a community starved for social interaction and bursting with creativity, shifting how Lip Sync is presented will benefit not only the radio station, but also the community.

“It’s super important to keep coming up with ways to connect,” Shaunette said. “Using this platform makes it feel more like an event.”

For a nominal fee of $5 — which covers streaming costs — viewers can access the show. It is possible to donate more. While you can view it as often as you like between Friday and Jan. 29, you can only vote once.

“There’s a one to five rating system, with five being the best,” Shaunette explained. “You could technically vote for all the acts or just the top three.”

Only the three top-rated acts will collect prize money, which was donated by Teddy Errico. Third place will win $50; second $100; and numero uno will snag $150, plus coveted bragging rights. The winners will be announced on KOTO at 4:45 p.m. Jan. 29.

Tying the whole thing together will be the return of emcees Ashley Boling and Suzanne Cheavens (this reporter). The pair, who host the show as characters that are traditionally kept secret until curtain, will be filmed tonight (Wednesday) as Shaunette records their completely ad-libbed, live reactions to the videos in their running order. Then, after Shaunette works her editing magic, the show will be ready to air, beginning at noon Friday.

“I’m super excited,” Boling said. “It’s great to be doing Lip Sync even if it’s really different.”

The duo have hosted all but a handful of Lip Syncs since their first show in 1986. They’ve portrayed the likes of Cheech and Chong, Archie and Edith Bunker, Barbie and Ken, Seigfried and Roy, Ozzie and Sharon, Mick and Keith, and a host of others.

The show, always full of unexpected performances, promises to help relieve the doldroms brought on by short days, pandemic-induced social distancing and a paucity of snow.

“This is something special in the middle of January,” Pallone said.

Tickets are on sale now at koto.org. Shaunette said that if potential issues or any questions can’t be resolved in the help section of the viewing platform, email kotolipsync@gmail.com for assistance.