Marc Smith as Dr. Spray

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Text on Button MARC SMITH as DR. SPRAY
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Black text on a white background with a black and white illustration of a man contorting his face.

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Marc Smith, born in Chicago in 1940, is a poet, creator of the poetry slam, and founder of the International Poetry Slam Movement. Smith devised the plan to put on poetry performances as a way to make poetry more interesting. He believed that schools did not do poetry justice and was the reason poetry repelled people. He began the movement as an “Up Yours” to establishment poets as he considered them snooty and boring. Smith hosted his first poetry slam at the Get Me High Lounge in 1986. In 1987, Smith found a permanent home for his poetry slam events at the Green Mill Tavern. Since then, Smith has performed in nightclubs, concert halls, libraries, universities, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institute, and many other venues around the world.

In one of his shows, Smith put on a performance dressed as Dr. John C. Spray. In this one-man show, Smith dressed as the eccentric turn-of the century coroner, “alienist”, and, at one time, an asylum superintendent. In the show, Smith performed monologues which focused on Dr. Spray’s macabre side. Smith’s monologues told the stories of Dr. Spray’s time as the Cook County Coroner. This show was performed in the 1990s.

An interesting fact about Dr. Spray is that he belonged to the Whitechapel Club. The Whitechapel Club was formed in 1889 by newspapermen who named Jack the Ripper the club president. Inside the club, one would find many macabre items including skulls, weapons, bloodied clothes, and debris from the Chicago fire. Dr. Spray supplied the skulls, which were turned into gas lamps and goblets. 



Helbig, J. (2021, August 20). Doctor death. Chicago Reader. 

Mason, J. (n.d.). Whitechapel club Torches Corpse. Steampunk Chicago RSS.…;

Multiple, Inc. (n.d.). Marc Smith: Poetry slam movement. Cusp Conference. 



Catalog ID EV0967