Todd Barry: The Comedian You Wish You Knew

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 2, 2011

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a guy with a more acerbic, creative wit than comedian Todd Barry. His humor is so dry it could start a fire. His Medium Energy is arguably one of the greatest comedy albums of all time, putting on full display Barry’s remarkable ability to pull gut laughs out of jokes about two strangers having a conversation about an answering machine or house cut French fries—he quietly, astutely cuts through the mundanities of everyday life with a surgeon’s precision. It’s a wonder to behold, and it’s earned him A-List headliner status. This week he brings his pile-driving deadpan to veritable Italian Market dive Connie’s Ric Rac, which is pretty goddamn rad. We caught up with Barry briefly to talk about the unique choice of venue, being a “comedy warrior” and what he has against fruit.

When did you start doing standup?

I started in 1987, at a comedy club open mic night in North Miami Beach, Fla. This was during the big “comedy boom” of the late ‘80s. There was comedy everywhere, and so you could decide to try comedy on Saturday, then get on stage on Sunday.

What compelled you to go up on stage?

I used to go see comedy, and was always a fan. One day it just hit me to try it, so I signed up for an open mic slot at comedy club, and just didn’t stop.

Have you been to Connie’s Ric Rac? It’s a shit hole! It’s great, but truly a dump. Why/how did you choose this venue?

I’ve never been to Connie’s. I was approached by Corey Cohen, the promoter, about doing a show there. He made me a good offer, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. The early show sold out, so we added an 11 p.m. show. My friend Hannibal Buress was just there, and said the show was great. I don’t necessarily care what the place looks like as long as the audience is nice, the microphone works, and I’m treated well.

You’re often grouped with other so called “indie” or “alternative” comedians like David Cross, Eugene Mirman, Patton Oswalt, Aziz Ansari. I’m curious what you think of the label? Does it mean anything?

It means nothing to me. I would never call myself an  “indie comic” or an “alternative comic,” and I’m not happy when someone calls me that. I’m just a comic. Or a comedian.

You tweeted recently about getting the script for an upcoming episode of Louie. You’ve been on tons of TV shows and stole a couple scenes in The Wrestler. What creative satisfaction do you get out of acting that comedy doesn’t fulfill, and vice versa?

I do so much standup, so getting the occasional acting job just mixes things up a bit. I don’t always love acting while I’m doing it, but it’s nice to see the end result.

Speaking of acting, you starred in the Mitch Hedberg directed Los Enchiladas, which is damn near impossible to find anymore. Any ideas about where hardcore Barry/Hedberg completeists could find a copy?

People have been asking me about this for years, and I keep hearing that it will be released on DVD, but that’s all the information I have. I don’t even have a copy of the movie.

On Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Episode 11, you talk about walking off stage at a show at Edinburgh Comedy Festival when you walked out to find only two people seated in the front row of a 150-seat theater. You’d never done it before and, you say, before it happened you considered yourself a “comedy warrior.” Then, in a 2008 interview with Carrie Brownstein, you mention you were once asked to open for the Beach Boys at an amusement park in Jersey on 4th of July. You say the “warrior” part of you would’ve liked to have said yes, but the (larger) part of you that didn’t want to be eaten alive said “no.” I’m curious about this notion of being a “comedy warrior.” What does it mean? Is playing a Connie’s an example of something a “comedy warrior” would do? Is that why it appeals to you?

Well, I guess using “warrior” is bit strong, but basically, I’d like to think I’d be able to perform in any situation, or at least try to.  So that’s why I was a bit torn when I was offered the Beach Boys gig. But at the same time, I knew there was a 99% chance it would be a disaster. I knew the guy who ended up doing it, and he told me he go booed off the stage. I’m guessing things wouldn’t have gone any better for me. The Connie’s gig is different because it’s a group of people who have paid to see me, not a rock band doing a July 4th show at an amusement park.

Finally, what the fuck is wrong with fruit?
It sucks. Except for raspberries. Apples are pretty good, too.

Fri., Feb. 4, 8pm (sold out) and 11pm. $20. With Doogie Horner. Connie’s Ric Rac, 1132 South 9th St. 215 279 7587.

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